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Biotechnology and Food. Personal Choices & Public Policies Thomas M. Zinnen Biotechnology Policy & Outreach Specialist University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension. Science Outreach. Sharing Science with Wisconsin Transforming How People View & Do Science Tours & Workshops on Campus

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Biotechnology and Food

Personal Choices & Public Policies

Thomas M. Zinnen

Biotechnology Policy & Outreach Specialist

University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension


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Science Outreach

  • Sharing Science with Wisconsin

  • Transforming How People View & Do Science

  • Tours & Workshops on Campus

  • Workshops Anywhere in Wisconsin


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Science Outreach in Public Policy

  • SEE Biotechnology: USDA Grant for Research and Extension in Social, Economic & Ethical Issues of Ag Biotech

  • 2000-2001 AAAS & Institute Of Food Technologists Congressional Science Fellow with House Committee on Ag


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Science Outreach

Biotechnology and food is a profound issue because it affects so many basic parts of life: our bodies, our families, our environment, our view of what is right.


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Communicating with the public

A key part of ensuring that consumers can enjoy the benefits of new tools while minimizing risks and offering consumer choice.


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Distinctions

  • Public Education vs Public Relations

  • The Difference is in Keeping Score

  • Understanding vs Acceptance

  • Developing Science Savvy: Transforming How People View, Do & Use Science


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Cream Into Butter

  • Hands on

  • Kinetic

  • Interactive

  • Concrete

  • Experiment

  • Proof



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What is Science?

  • Is it something that only takes place in the Ivory Tower?

  • What are its roles in personal choices and public policies?



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Some Other Ways of Knowing

  • Reason

  • Logic

  • Math

  • Intuition

  • Instinct

  • Tradition

  • Authority


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More Ways of Knowing

  • Empiricism

  • Experiment

  • Inference

  • History

  • Literature

  • Revelation

  • Prophecy

  • Mysticism


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Still More Ways of Knowing

  • Mythology

  • Experience

  • Superstition

  • Imagination

  • Naïve Theories


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The powers & limits of science

  • Is science about what we know?

  • Or is science more about figuring out what we don’t know yet?

  • Going to see the solar eclipse in Cornwall


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What is Food?

  • Name three foods that come from things that have not been alive.


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The Biology and Nature of Food

  • Nearly all our food comes from living things.

  • Plants, Animals, Microbes

  • From these, humans select or develop crops, livestock and cultures.

  • Traits such as taste, color, ease of preparing, yield, vigor, nutrition


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Traits = Genotype x Environment

  • Manipulate the Genes

  • Manipulate the Environment

  • Manipulate both the Genes and The Environment

  • This is Becoming a Fundamental Fork in the Road


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Breeders Need Sources of Genetic Variation

  • Gene Pool

  • Methods for Selecting Desirable Traits


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Gene Flow and Recombination in Nature

  • Within a species

  • Between species

  • Transformation, Transduction, Conjugation, Cell Fusion, Viral Infection

  • DNA: The Carrier of Genes


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From Recombining DNA to Recombinant DNA Technology

  • 1973 Cohen & Boyer

  • The Gene Pool Becomes a Gene Ocean

  • Any Organism on Earth is a Source for Genes for Use by Breeders

  • Recombinant DNA Technology is one of the most powerful tools ever invented.


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Human Perceptions and Understanding about Genes

  • Our understanding about how genes change and flow affects how humans convert knowledge into technology.

  • For example, the concept of “species” and of “species barrier”

  • For example, the developing idea of “genes in context”


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Hearing and Speaking the Difference

  • Science as Statements about Nature

  • Vs.

  • Science as Statements about Our Understanding of Nature



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  • Selection Organisms?

  • Breeding

  • Cloning

  • Grafting

  • Hybridization

  • Mutagenesis


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  • Tissue Culture Organisms?

  • Somaclonal Variation

  • Embryogenesis

  • Anther Culture

  • Cell Fusion

  • Transposons

  • Viral Infection


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What Is Biotechnology? Organisms?

  • Definitions Back to 1917

  • Can include selection, breeding, fermentation, tissue culture, genetic analysis, gene splicing, and DNA analysis (genomics)


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What is Biotechnology? Organisms?

  • Gene Splicing or Recombinant DNA Technology

  • The Controversial Technology

  • Recombinant DNA Technology: From Gene Pool to Genetic Ocean


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What is Genomics? Organisms?

  • Finding the Sequence & Function of All the Genes of an Organism

  • Challenging How We View the Nature of Life and the Life of Nature.

  • Evolution

  • Vitalism: Essence vs Substance

  • A Shared Genetic Heritage


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Biotechnology is Controversial Organisms?

  • It touches on so many fundamentals

  • Our Bodies

  • Our Families

  • Our Land

  • Our Sense of Right and Wrong


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Genesis, Genie, Ingenuity Organisms?

  • Understanding Concerns about Genetic Manipulation

  • The Joys of Etymology: Genie Genetique


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  • Genesis Organisms?

  • Genes

  • Genie

  • Genius


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  • Genesis Organisms?

  • Genes

  • Genie

  • Genius

  • Ingenious


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Biotechnology is Controversial Organisms?

  • Differences in Values

  • Versus

  • Differences in Conceptions and Misconceptions


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A Spectrum of Values About Food Organisms?

  • Wholesome

  • Holistic

  • Holy


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Wholesome vs. Loathsome Organisms?

  • A wholesome food can be loathsome, based on tradition, habit, taste or religion.


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Ethics vs Squeamics Organisms?

  • Ethics--from ancient Greek ethos, meaning “character” or “custom”

  • Distinguishing between that which is unacceptable behavior and that which makes us uncomfortable



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Perception is Reality Organisms?

  • Except, Often It is Not

  • Whose job is it to point this out?

  • Ask Galileo if it’s easy.


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The Challenge of Perception is the Potential for The Feeling of Deception

  • How Consumers Think New Foods Are Developed, Tested and Regulated

  • How New Foods Are Actually Developed, Tested and Regulated


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Learning vs UnLearning of Deception

  • “It’s not that people don’t know.

  • It’s that so much of what people know just isn’t so.”


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Criticisms of Recombinant DNA Technology from Prophets, Princes, Priests and People

  • Perversion

  • Poison

  • Promiscuity

  • Profit

  • Power


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And Proof Princes, Priests and People


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Perversion Princes, Priests and People

  • Transfer of genes from one species to another is an abomination

  • ‘The realm of God and of God alone’


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Poison Princes, Priests and People

  • The introduced gene itself may be a poison

  • Introducing new genes may turn on dangerous genes or turn off beneficial genes


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Promiscuity Princes, Priests and People

  • The introduced gene may make the crop a superweed

  • The introduced gene may flow to wild relatives, polluting their gene pool

  • The introduced gene may flow to related weeds, making them superweeds.


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Profit Princes, Priests and People

  • Companies are concerned primarily with making a profit

  • “Food for people, not for profit”


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Profiteering vs Propheteering Princes, Priests and People


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Power Princes, Priests and People

  • Biotechnology by its need for infrastructure concentrates power in countries rich in infrastructure

  • Biotechnology companies by their drive for profits seek patents, preclude the free use of the technology, purchase competitors, prevent farmers from saving seed


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Power, continued Princes, Priests and People

  • Biotechnology sucks resources away from research and economic development based on sustainable agriculture, including especially organic methods.



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Fairness in Proof and in Proving Princes, Priests and People

  • Comparable Scrutiny

  • What Every 6 Year Old Knows: What’s Fair, and What’s Unfair

  • What is a Fair Compare?


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Is Biotechnology Safe? Princes, Priests and People

  • Yes or No

  • Black and White

  • Cut and Dried

  • Guaranteed

  • And Certain


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Is Biotechnology Safe? Princes, Priests and People

  • Distinguishing between

  • The Process and its inherent risks

  • &

  • The Specific Gene and its inherent risks


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Is Biotechnology Safe? Princes, Priests and People

  • The Possibilities: Risks of rDNA are

  • Greater Than,

  • Equal To,

  • Less Than,

  • Or Different From Risks from other genetic modifications?



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Genetic Modifications of Crops methods of genetic modification?

  • In how many ways are crops genetically modified today?


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Genetic Modifications of Crops methods of genetic modification?

  • Selection Tissue Culture

  • Breeding Somaclonal Variation

  • Cloning Embryogenesis

  • Grafting Cell Fusion

  • Hybridization Transposons

  • Mutagenesis Viral Infection


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Genetic Modifications methods of genetic modification?

  • Which of these are “natural”?

  • Which of these occur in Nature in the absence of The Hand of Humanity?

  • Does it matter, as a point of risk?

  • Manipulate, Maneuver, Manufacture


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How are the risks of these genetic modifications managed and reviewed?

  • Should the threshold of safety for crops developed using these methods serve as the threshold of safety for crops developed using recombinant DNA technology?


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Is Biotechnology As Safe As Other Methods of Genetic Modification?

  • Key principle based on 1987 report from the National Academy of Sciences

  • Safety assessments “should be based on the nature of the organism and the environment into which it will be introduced, not on the method by which it was modified.”


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Is Biotechnology As Safe As Other Methods of Genetic Modification?

  • 1987 National Academy of Science: “no conceptual distinction exists between genetic modification of plants and microorganisms by classical methods or by molecular methods that modify DNA and transfer genes.”


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Is Biotechnology As Safe As Other Methods of Genetic Modification?

  • 1989 National Research Council report

  • “Crops modified by molecular and cellular methods should pose risks no different from those modified by classical genetic methods for similar traits.”


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Revisiting the Issue of Relative Risk Modification?

  • A Committee of the National Research Council has again reviewed the issue of relative risks of recombinant DNA technology

  • The committee’s report in April 2000 reaffirmed that there is no evidence that the risks of recombinant DNA technology are different from those of other methods of genetic modification.


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"Is It Safe?" vs. Modification?"Is It Safe Enough?”

  • Science can assess the risk

  • Politics draws the threshold of acceptance

  • For example, what are the roles of science and of politics in setting speed limits?


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What is the Benchmark of Safety? Modification?

  • How safe is safe enough?

  • Should transgenic crops be less safe, as safe, or safer than other genetically modified crops?

  • If safer, how much safer? How measured? How long?


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What is the Benchmark of Safety? Modification?

  • The Method of Heft vs.

  • The Double Scales of Justice

  • We may not know how risky two approaches are, but we can consider which weighs more

  • Conventional Methods as the Standard of Acceptable Risk


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Product vs. Process Modification?

  • Where lie the risks?

  • Where do people perceive the risks lie?


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Two Types of Regulations Modification?

  • Regulations to protect the public from the risks of biotechnology

  • Regulations to protect biotechnology from the fears of the public

  • What are the benefits and pitfalls of such ‘reassurance regulations’?


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In Labeling, what should be: Modification?

  • Compulsory?

  • Permitted?

  • Prohibited?


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Labeling in US: The Product Modification?

  • Composition

  • Adulteration


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Labeling in US: The Claims Modification?

  • Truthful

  • And Not Misleading


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Defensive Labeling Modification?

  • "May Contain”

  • Tolerances of Content


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The Consumer Sovereignty Argument: Modification?

  • The consumer has a right to know what goes in the consumer’s body.

  • WWW2NO: Whatever We Want to Know

  • Rights vs Remedies

  • The strength of the right is really in the power of the remedy


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The Consumer Sovereignty Argument Modification?

  • Right to Know vs Demand to Know

  • Right to Know vs. Obligation to Divulge

  • Compare to other rights: to free press, to free education, to bear & keep arms, to free conscience

  • If the consumer right to know is absolute, then how far does it go?


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Are There Limits on Consumer Sovereignty? Modification?

  • For example, what if a majority of consumers demand to know the religion of the producer?


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Is the power of a right in the remedy? Modification?

  • Do you have the right to know whatever you want to know about the food you are buying?

  • At a market? At a store? At a restaurant?

  • Remedy: choose not to use if the seller cannot or will not provide the information.


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The Economic Justice Argument: Modification?

  • Labeling as an Economic “Good or Service”

  • Beyond information on composition and safety, extra labeling information should be treated as economic goods or services


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The Economic Justice Argument Modification?

  • Those that value the good should pay for it

  • Those that don’t value it should not have to pay for it



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StarLink Organic Food

  • Cry9c protein and gene

  • Potential for Allergenicity

  • Confusing A posteriori & A priori?

  • The Split Approval:

    • Standards of Practice of Hybrid Seed Corn

    • Standards of Performance

      Contaminant vs Adulterant


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The Precautionary Principle and the “Questions Remain” Argument

  • What are the powers and limits of science as a way of probing the unknown?

  • Is science omniscience?

  • Since omniscience is never possible, how do we decide in the face of uncertainty?


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The “Questions Remain” Argument Argument

  • Questions remain about gene splicing.

  • However, this is true for even the most familiar methods of genetic modification.

  • Is familiarity a function of risk or a factor in acceptance?

  • Should we care about the distinction?


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Philosophies of Proof Argument

  • European

  • vs

  • North American


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Why? vs. Why Not? Argument

  • Continental Europe: Unless it is permitted, it is prohibited

  • English and North American: Unless it is prohibited, it is permitted


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The Nature of Proof Argument

  • Whom do we trust? vs.

  • What do we trust?

  • The difference between assuaging the fear and assaying the risk


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The Burden of Proof: Argument

  • Caution

  • Precaution

  • Pretense & Paralysis


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The Jane Austen Analysis of Science as a Way of Dealing with Uncertainty

  • Sense and Sensibility

  • Pride and Prejudice

  • The Roles of Science in Choosing to Use or Choosing to Refuse

  • The Roles of Science in Negotiation, Mediation and Arbitration


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Jerry Caulder: A Crisis of Epistemology Uncertainty

  • Be aware of how society has changed historically in assessing truth.

  • "We had an Authoritative System : the pope, the king, the prince decided what was right."

  • "Then we moved into the Scientific Method: reason and experience and experiment tested our ideas."


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  • "But in the last few years we've moved into the faith. That's what scientists do--they test, and retest. The problem is you're wrong alot. But the ultimate defense that you're moving toward the truth. Can anybody else make that claim?"Egalitarian Method: let's just vote on what the truth is.”

  • "We vote on what the truth is rather than trying to figure out what it is.”


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Science as a Source of Freedom and Fairness faith. That's what scientists do--they test, and retest. The problem is you're wrong alot. But the ultimate defense that you're moving toward the truth. Can anybody else make that claim?"

  • The Uses of Science in Accommodating Profound Concerns Unfounded by the Data

  • The Roles of Science and of Public Opinion in Shaping Public Policy as to What will be Compulsory, Permitted and Prohibited


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Agricultural Puritanism faith. That's what scientists do--they test, and retest. The problem is you're wrong alot. But the ultimate defense that you're moving toward the truth. Can anybody else make that claim?"

  • Certainty, Zeal -- and Intolerance

  • Bombing buildings (late 1980’s), wrecking field trials, and breaking windows-- anonymously and at night (Oct. 1999 in Wisconsin)

  • Is Propheteering any better than Profiteering?


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Wholesome Holistic & Holy faith. That's what scientists do--they test, and retest. The problem is you're wrong alot. But the ultimate defense that you're moving toward the truth. Can anybody else make that claim?"

  • Understanding Perspectives of Food

  • Discerning between Loathsome and Unwholesome

  • The Powers and Limits of Science


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In Labeling, what should be: faith. That's what scientists do--they test, and retest. The problem is you're wrong alot. But the ultimate defense that you're moving toward the truth. Can anybody else make that claim?"

  • Compulsory?

  • Permitted?

  • Prohibited?


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Labeling in US: The Product faith. That's what scientists do--they test, and retest. The problem is you're wrong alot. But the ultimate defense that you're moving toward the truth. Can anybody else make that claim?"

  • Composition

  • Adulteration


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Labeling in US: The Claims faith. That's what scientists do--they test, and retest. The problem is you're wrong alot. But the ultimate defense that you're moving toward the truth. Can anybody else make that claim?"

  • Truthful

  • And Not Misleading


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Defensive Labeling faith. That's what scientists do--they test, and retest. The problem is you're wrong alot. But the ultimate defense that you're moving toward the truth. Can anybody else make that claim?"

  • "May Contain”

  • Tolerances of Content


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The Economic Justice Argument: faith. That's what scientists do--they test, and retest. The problem is you're wrong alot. But the ultimate defense that you're moving toward the truth. Can anybody else make that claim?"

  • Labeling as an Economic “Good or Service”

  • Beyond information on composition and safety, extra labeling information should be treated as economic goods or services



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The Economic Justice Argument Organic Food

  • Those that value the good should pay for it

  • Those that don’t value it should not have to pay for it


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The Consumer Sovereignty Argument: Organic Food

  • WWW: Whatever We Want

  • Rights vs Remedies

  • The strength of the right is really in the power of the remedy


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Are There Limits on Consumer Sovereignty? Organic Food

  • For example, what if a majority of consumers demand to know the religion of the producer?


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International Trade Issues Organic Food

  • The Idea of Fungibility

  • Accommodating The Concept of Commodities


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  • Labeling Organic Food

  • Segregation

  • Detection of “contamination”

  • Tolerance of Crops with Transgenes


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  • Boycotts by Consumers Organic Food

  • Embargoes by Countries’ Governments

  • Non-tariff Trade Barriers

  • Sleepless in Seattle


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Responses to Intimidation Organic Food

  • Is it fair to say that neither might nor fright makes right?


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The Montreal Accord Organic Food

  • The BioDiversity Treaty vs

  • The Global Agreement on Tariffs & Trade

  • The Precautionary Principle vs

  • Substantial Scientific Evidence


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US vs EU on The Newshour 1.31.00 Organic Food

  • Frank Loy, Undersecretary of State

  • John Richardson, Deputy Ambassador of European Commission

  • EU: Consumer concern over environmental impact

  • EU: can reject a crop if there is scientific doubt, by invoking the precautionary principle


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EU Concerns Organic Food

  • EU: has been motivated by concerns of voters

  • “If our voters want us to be cautious, then our politicians need to be cautious”

  • “It’s not about our farmers, it’s about our consumers”


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US: EU position has been Organic Food

  • Not scientific

  • Political

  • Unfair

  • Damaging to farmers


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  • A final method called the Organic FoodHumanitarian Approach described by the idea that "You're a nice fellow, so we'll give credence to your ideas.”


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Is Biotechnology Safe? Organic FoodBSE & nvCJD: The Crux

  • March 1996

  • The Event That Crumbled Public Trust in Scientists and Perhaps in Science

  • Is there a difference between saying “We have no evidence that English beef is less safe than other sources of beef” and saying “It’s safe”?


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Weighing Risks: Organic FoodWhy Words Matter

  • Can we hear the difference between statements about biology and statements about biologists?


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Weighing Options: Organic FoodChurchill’s Readiness Spectrum

  • Alive

  • Awake

  • Aware

  • Arouse

  • Alert

  • Alarm


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(So why are gene-spliced crops called GMOs?) Organic Food

  • I don’t knows.

  • Confusing, isn’t it?

  • Misleading, too?


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GMO? Organic Food

  • It’s misleading and not truthful to use the term “genetically modified organism” to mean exclusively those modified using recombinant DNA technology.

  • But it’s the European convention

  • It’s the Grossly Misleading Option for describing gene-spliced crops.


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Considering Risks: Inherent to the Process of Gene Splicing Organic Food

  • Gene insertion: gene interruption to activate, inactivate, or change expression

  • Inserting a foreign gene: vitalism

  • Vitalism: The tomato with fish fins


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Considering the Risks: Organic FoodThe Process or The Gene?

  • Allergenicity

  • Superweeds

  • Transfer to ‘land races’ or special varieties of a crop that differ by color, size, hardiness, etc, that farmers have cultivated in specific places for generations


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Considering the Risks: Organic FoodAntibiotic Resistance Genes

  • Why use antibiotic resistance genes or markers?

  • Coupling a valuable but hard-to-find gene with an easy-to-find gene.

  • How to find a golden needle in a haystack: duct-tape a steel needle to it, and use a magnet.


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Considering the Risks Organic FoodAntibiotic resistance genes

  • How often is the antibiotic applied?

  • When?

  • Where?

  • Why is this different from routine use of antibiotics as a feed supplement for livestock and poultry?


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Considering the Risks: Organic FoodThe Antibiotic Resistance Genes

  • Where do the antibiotic resistance genes come from?

  • What is the worst-case scenario?

  • If the antibiotic resistance genes in crops originally come from bacteria, and the possible threat is that the genes will move from crops to bacteria, where’s the risk?


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Considering the Risks: Organic FoodIntroducing a New Protein

  • How many ways can proteins previously not in the food supply be introduced into crops?

  • What is the level of scrutiny (due diligence) for introducing new proteins by conventional genetic modifications?

  • What should be the level of scrutiny for gene splicing?


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The Idea of Substantial Equivalence Organic Food

  • A regulatory concept borrowed from the process used to review new medical devices.


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The Unanswered Ethical Organic FoodQuestion: Unintended Consequences of Boycotts

  • Opportunity Cost

  • &

  • Opportunity Lost


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Wholesome vs. Loathsome Organic Food

  • A wholesome food can be loathsome, based on tradition, habit, taste or religion.

  • Who should pay for information about the loathsomeness of food?

  • What are the limits on the consumer right to know?

  • What are the legal remedies when the right is violated?


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