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Innovations in Biotechnology: Public Perceptions & Cultural Attitudes PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Innovations in Biotechnology: Public Perceptions & Cultural Attitudes. Drew L. Kershen Earl Sneed Centennial Prof. Univ. of Oklahoma Law School Copyright 2004, Drew L. Kershen, all rights reserved. Introduction.

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Innovations in Biotechnology:Public Perceptions & Cultural Attitudes

Drew L. Kershen

Earl Sneed Centennial Prof. Univ. of Oklahoma Law School

Copyright 2004, Drew L. Kershen, all rights reserved


  • Agricultural Biotechnology – the debate is not about facts, information, policy compromises

  • Contending paradigms about humankind, nature, food, science, trade, intellectual property

  • Galileo/Ptolemy; Darwin/Lysenko; Borlaug/Ho

  • Agricultural Biotechnology – either accepted and used or stigmatized and shunned

China – Treasure Fleets 1405-1433

Technological superiority

Voyages of exploration

Admiral Zheng He vs Confucians – power struggle

Stability, purity, precaution – Confucian virtues

Within 8 decades, China gave up its technological superiority to Portugal

1789 United States Constitution – Progress of Science and Useful Arts

1793 Patent Office

Stable legal protection for inventions & discoveries

Diamond v. Chakrabarty (1980); J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred Int’l, Inc. (2001)

Development as Freedom

Historical Examples


Different in kind

New laws, regulations and agencies – the technology itself

Technology assessment – determine the future

European Political leadership – tepid or hostile

United States

No fundamental difference – No new regulatory issues

Same laws, agencies – the products of the technology

No a priori determination – the future decides

Political leadership generally supportive – calming

The Nature of Agricultural Biotechnology

Europe, precautionary principle

Hypothetical or imagined risks

Risks govern, benefits ignored

Burden to proof – prove no risks, no harm

Risk – zero tolerance – pervasive distrust

Food purity – pollution, contamination, segregation – categorical imperative, not risk analysis

US, precautionary approach

Identifiable harms; scientific evaluation

Burden to prove safe – non-discrimination

Benefit/Risk Balance – pervasive trust

Food safety – safe, nutritious foods – culinary arts, not the essence of the food, makes the meal

Precautionary Principle or Precautionary Approach


Process-based mandatory labelling

Consumer confidence

Consumer choice

Regulation, not markets


Food scares – food ingredient avoidance

Additional burdens and costs – rent-seeking behaviour

United States

Material facts – mandatory

Freedom not to speak

Voluntary labels – not false or misleading

Niche Markets

Differentiate products

Niche consumers pay for the additional information

Consumer choice

GMO free

Organic production

Food Labels

Atlantic Separation International Fora

  • International Fora

    • Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

    • Codex Alimentarius

    • FAO/WHO

  • Public policy choices

    • Prohibition – The European reality

    • Precaution – The European paradigm

    • Permissive – The Developing World ?

    • Promotional – The United States paradigm

EU Domestic Risk

Bleak Future in a hostile climate

Industry -- Loss of competitiveness – Next wave of technology

Loss of scientific and entrepreneurial expertise

US at no risk

The paradigm does not govern American production

The NAFTA markets – dual chains of commodity trade

EU International Risk

Development as Freedom – food security, demographics, technology transfer

China & India

Technological capacity

Large domestic markets

Domestic Public policy

Europe at risk to China & India

Going ForwardRisks for Europe

The Paradigm Gambit

  • Scientific Ignorance, Ideological Motives, Moral Risk

  • Historical Choice

    • China – 1433

    • Future Risk – the outcome in several decades

    • Science, technology, trade flows equally from East to West as West to East


  • L. Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 (Oxford Univ. Press, 1994)

  • A. Sen, Development as Freedom (Oxford Univ. Press, 1999)

  • EC, Towards a Strategic Vision of Life Science and Biotechnology: A Consultation Document, COM (2001) 454 Final (04.09.2001)

  • VIB, Safety of Genetically Engineered Crops (June 5, 2000) < >.


  • Nat’l Econ. Res. Assoc., Economic Appraisal of Options for Extension of Legislation on GM Labeling (London, May 2001) < >

  • R. Paarlberg, The Politics of Precaution: Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries (John Hopkins Univ. Press, 2001)

  • UNDP Report 2001, Making New Technologies Work for Human Development (Oxford. Univ. Press, 2001)


  • Asian Development Bank, Agricultural Biotechnology, Poverty Reduction, and Food Security (May 2001)

  • D. Kershen (1999) Biotechnology: An essay on the academy, cultural attitudes and public policy, AgBioForum 2(2), 137-146 (Spring 1999)

  • D. Kershen (2000) The Concept of Natural: Implications for Biotechnology Regulation, AgBioForum 3(1), 321-326 (Winter 2000)

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