New Genetics, Food and Agriculture: Scientific Discoveries – Societal Dilemmas (2003)


Science is a creative enterprise. It combines the exploration of the natural world with the generation of knowledge and its use in human endeavours. This combination of creativity with purpose is exemplified in the field of biotechnology. But the power of the new discoveries in genetics also raises concerns in many societies as to the ethics and safety of their use, and the risks they may pose to human health, biodiversity and the environment. This overview, commissioned by the International Council for Science (ICSU) analyses the findings of a selection of approximately 50 science-based reviews, published in years 2000-2003, on modern genetics and its applications in food and agriculture and the environment. These reviews, which have been commissioned by national academies of science, governments, international organizations and private agencies on various aspects of modern genetics have mobilized considerable scientific expertise worldwide to examine the issues in both breadth and depth. However, a comparative assessment of their conclusions has not, until now, been performed. The purpose of this analysis is to consider what are the issues that concern various societies, and, on the basis of the science underpinning the discoveries in modern genetics, what are the areas of commonality, what are the areas of divergence and differing perspectives, and where are the gaps in knowledge that may be able to be addressed through additional research. The ways in which scientific knowledge is communicated and influences public perceptions and policy choices about new technologies are also considered.

The complete documentation for the study is available . This includes the Executive Summary, a synthesis report, summary tables, and for each of the 50 reviews considered in this analysis, an abstract, executive summary and, where available, the full text of each report. This documentation is also available on a CD for those who do not have ready access to the Internet.

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