Biotechnology and Public Engagement in Europe by J. Hansen

By J. Hansen

Providing a comparability crucial circumstances of public engagement with biotechnology in Europe in recent times, this book provides a theoretically mirrored and empirically grounded study of the opportunities and stumbling blocks for an intensive democratization of technological improvement via approaches of public engagement.

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Sample text

Historically, it was the communication of hypothetical risks that initiated the regulatory concern with biotechnology and contributed to its controversial trajectory. The controversies actually initiated in the scientific community, and from there they gradually spread out to other domains of society, as shall be briefly recounted in the remainder of this chapter. After the first in vitro transfer of a gene across species was undertaken in 1973, concerns emerged that such work could produce risks that were not well understood.

Functional approaches are more concerned with the effects of PTAs on society’s ability to function without creating ecological or social externalities, including their ability to prevent or mitigate technological controversies and maintain public trust. In the functional perspective participatory procedures are thus primarily evaluated according to their ability to achieve desired effects, typically acceptance of policies adapted and new technologies put on the market. The distinction is analytical, as the requirements inevitably will overlap in practice.

GMOs are seen as one more (deplorable) step in the industrialisation of food production. This does not mean that all previous steps are seen as desirable or ‘natural’. 7 It’s the fault of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis: since then, citizens no longer trust regulatory institutions BSE is often used as anchor point, but is seen as something ‘normal’ or an inevitable outcome of agricultural practice and regulatory behaviour, not as something exceptional. 8 The public demands ‘zero risk’ – and this is not reasonable People are well aware that modern life entails risk.

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