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Assessment & Impacts » Risk assessment

Title: A Systems-Based Assessment of GMOs Urgently Needed
Publication date: September 11, 2015
Posting date: September 11, 2015

THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

Dear Friends and Colleagues

A Systems-Based Assessment of GMOs Urgently Needed

Over the past 20 years, agricultural biotechnologies have generated chronically unresolved political controversies. Their governance has largely been restricted to regulation through a technical assessment of risks to human health and the environment. Resistance to the commercialisation of GMOs, however, stems from a wide spectrum of concerns, covering issues well beyond the scope of risk assessment such as socio-economic impacts.

A new paper looks at this situation from a systems perspective.

The authors cite how researchers have typically conceived and assessed genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as neutral, autonomous and individualised technological objects, ignoring the fact that they operate as socio-technical and socio-ecological systems. They argue that a systems-based approach to GMOs is required to (a) acknowledge and account for the way in which all technologies are inevitably entangled in complex networks of material and conceptual relations; and (b) to adequately capture, consider and assess the full range of concerns the public has regarding GMOs.

The authors of the paper review available work from across different disciplines and traditions and propose a set of methodological guidelines for creating comparative cartographies of "agri/cultures" for the purpose of advancing a systems-based approach to our understanding and assessment of GMOs.


With best wishes

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SEEING GMOS FROM A SYSTEMS PERSPECTIVE: THE NEED FOR COMPARATIVE CARTOGRAPHIES OF AGRI/CULTURES FOR SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT

Amaranta Herrero, Fern Wickson and Rosa Binimelis

www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability

Abstract

Over the past twenty years, agricultural biotechnologies have generated chronically unresolved political controversies. The standard tool of risk assessment has proven to be highly limited in its ability to address the panoply of concerns that exist about these hybrid techno/organisms. It has also failed to account for both the conceptual and material networks of relations agricultural biotechnologies require, create and/or perform. This paper takes as a starting point that agricultural biotechnologies cannot be usefully assessed as isolated technological entities but need to be evaluated within the context of the broader socio-ecological system that they embody and engender. The paper then explores, compares and contrasts some of the methodological tools available for advancing this systems-based perspective. The article concludes by outlining a new synthesis approach of comparative cartographies of agri/cultures generated through multi-sited ethnographic case-studies, which is proposed as a way to generate system maps and enable the comparison of genetically modified (GM) food with both conventional and alternative agri-food networks for sustainability assessment. The paper aims to make a unique theoretical and methodological contribution by advancing a systems-based approach to conceptualising and assessing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and proposing a synthesised methodology for mapping networks of relations across different agri/cultures.


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