How is the scientific view of genetically modified plants different from the public’s?

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  • 1. How is the scientific view of genetically modified plants different from the public’s? Christina Holmes LAIOS, EHESS-CNRS, Paris [email_address]
  • 2. It was the best of times…
    • “ Biotechnology is one of the most promising tools for improving the productivity of agriculture and increasing the incomes of the rural poor… We are convinced of the benefits it offers to developing countries and small farmers”
      • US Agricultural Secretary, Ed Schafer at the June 3-5, 2008 summit on the global food crisis in Rome (Doyle 2008: para. 2-3).
  • 3. It was the worst of times…
    • “ The tools of genetic engineering are designed to steal nature’s harvest by destroying biodiversity, increasing the use of herbicides and pesticides, and spreading the risk of irreversible genetic pollution” (Shiva, 2000:95)
    gmfreeireland.org
  • 4. Research Themes
    • GMOs as ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’
      • the role of history in portraying GMOs
    • Not all GMOs are equal
      • Important differences between how, where, and why GMOs are created are not reflected in public views
    • GMOs & Globalization
      • The global context of genetic engineering research
    • Post-doctoral Research: Biotechnology & Conventional Plant Breeding
      • Conflict or integration?
  • 5. Research Methods
    • Ethnography:
      • Participant observation
      • Qualitative interviews
      • Documentary analysis
  • 6. 1. ‘Natural’ or ‘Unnatural’?
    • GMOs part of a wider history of scientific plant breeding that strives for greater control of plant characteristics
    • In this sense GMOs form a continuum with plant breeding practices
  • 7. Where Do GMOs Come From? In Field Farmer Plant Breeding 9,000 BC - present Darwinian: Population Breeding Quantitative Traits, 1800s - present Mendelian: Pedigree Breeding Qualitative Traits, 1800s - present Biotechnology – Genetic Engineering 1970s - present
  • 8. Bateson – 1902 re: Mendel
    • “ He will be able to do what he wants to do instead of merely what happens to turn up. Hitherto I think it is not too much to say that the results of hybridization had given a hopeless entanglement of contradictory results. We crossed two things; we saw the incomprehensible diversity that comes in the second generation; we did not know how to reason about it, how to appreciate it, or what it meant… The period of confusion is passing away, and we have at length a basis from which to attach that mystery such as we could scarcely have hoped two years ago would be discovered in our time . (Bateson 1902: 3,8;as quoted in Kloppenburg 1988: 69)
  • 9. Darwin versus Mendel
    • Rapid change
    • Qualitative
    • One or two genes
    • Individual selection
    • Stronger focus on genetics
    • Slow, gradual change
    • Quantitative
    • Multiple genes
    • Population selection
    • Stronger focus on environment
    Pedigree Breeding Population Breeding
  • 10. 2. Not all GMOs are Equal
    • Scientists distinguish between GMO types
      • Holmes, C. 2006. Focaal: european journal of anthropology, 48: 35-48.
  • 11. Purpose Basic Science Methodological Regulatory Production Breeding Goals Yield Nutritional Industrial Medicinal Discipline Botany Agriculture Molecular Biology Medicine Veterinary Plant Type Climate Variety Method Transformation DNA source Plant tissue GMO Differences
  • 12. Comparison of GMO creation sites
    • Ottawa, Canada
      • Government laboratory - regulatory knowledge
      • Molecular pharmaceutical compound production
      • Rice & tobacco
    • CIAT
      • Food security & agricultural development
      • Insect resistance, improved nutritional or industrial qualities
      • Tropical crops
  • 13. Purpose Basic Science Methodological Regulatory Production Breeding Goals Yield Nutritional Industrial Medicinal Discipline Botany Agriculture Molecular Biology Medicine Veterinary Plant Type Climate Variety Method Transformation DNA source Plant tissue GMO Differences
  • 14. Science & Society: Views of GMOs
    • Heterogeneous view
    • Primary concern:
      • GMOs in research pipeline
    • Homogeneous view
    • Primary concern:
      • GMOs currently released
    Scientists using genetic engineering Social science & civil society
  • 15. Global GM Acreage by Crop (Brookes & Barfoot, 2006)
  • 16. Difficulties for Transgenic Crops
    • Costly
    • Regulatory testing
    • IPR
    • Holmes, C., 2008. Sociologias 19 (Jan.-Jun.):40-61.
    • Holmes, C., & J.E. Graham, 2009. Culture & Agriculture 31:26-38.
  • 17. Regulation of GMOs
    • ‘ Case by Case’ basis to regulation of GMOs in both Canada & Colombia
      • Emphasizes risks related to the trait
      • Minimizes risks related to the process
  • 18. Conflict or integration between conventional breeding methods and biotechnology?
    • Conventional Breeding is necessary, BUT…
    • increasing difficulty of acquiring students, funding, and publications
    • who will train future conventional plant breeders?
  • 19. Harder to attract students?
    • " Do you ride a bicycle when you have a car available? Absolutely true.
    • Partly it is because traditional genetics is somewhat boring when you stack it up beside biotechnology […] it just isn't as exciting.”
  • 20. Loss of Plant Breeding Skills?
    • "My real concern is, when I retire or people of my generation retire, who is going to be training the next generation of plant breeders? Because we're coming in with people who can adequately do the job, but I don't think they're knowledgeable enough, particularly with breadth of knowledge, that they will be able to train the next generation. […] They're just as bright as anybody has ever been, but they have not had the experience.”
  • 21. Research Questions:
    • Biotech vs. Conventional? Or integration?
    • How are future plant breeders trained?
    • Are valuable plant breeding skills being lost?
    • Or simply a question of increased specialization and collaboration?