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Date:

March 13, 2000

Subject:

DEBATE NOTES

 

AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Two points and a suggestion:

I am a newcomer to this area of contention.
I just went to a debate on the topic at the
State University of New York at Stony Brook.

I was surprised that such a "hot"
topic was discussed in a very reasoned way.

POINT 1: RISK BENEFIT FOR JOE PUBLIC.

The public seems to do a cost benefit analysis
of GMO's. I think what the public really wants
is to see how GMO's benefit them personally.
Scientists seem to want to endlessly
debate risk quantification. The idea being that if
there can be no proven risk that "you should accept
whatever is presented to you" Arguments of low risk
versus some potential global gain do not play
well.

Joe public wants to know: if a breakfast cereal has
GM corn in it, what is the consumer gaining for taking a the
perceived possible risk. However low the risk is, if there
is no perceived benefit why use the product?

If it is farmers and chemical companies
that are gaining and the it is the public taking the risk
I can't see any reason for it to gain public acceptance.
I should add that I believe reducing the cost by 5c per box
will not be an acceptable answer in our current booming economy.
I did speak to a colleague who felt that such a cost reduction
would probably be sufficient incentive.

POINT 2. ANTI GM ACTIVISTS SAY RESISTANCE TO LABELING KEEPS
THE DEBATE FIRED UP.

Labeling, the anti-GM speaker said something that seemed to
ring true. People don't like to be surprised. For instance,
to find that they have been eating something someone else
says is potentially bad without their consent.
If the products are labeled GM, this surprise goes away.
People seem to believe in free choice above all
(e.g. cigarettes). Anyhow, the speaker actually voiced the
opinion that if products are labeled that much of the fuss
on the USA side of the Atlantic would dissipate.


SUGGESTION FOR SUMMARIES OF GM RELATED ISSUES:

Would it be possible to have a pro- and con- GM argument
summary page with widely expressed concerns and very brief
reasoned response summaries in the form of bullet lists?
Perhaps with links from each bullet to supporting facts.

Items might include the Monarch Butterfly
issue, or the food allergens issues. I would find this
EXTREMELY useful and suspect others might also. It could
also be a good source for the press or any interested
parties to issues without the inflammatory rhetoric.

Thanks

John
John Shanklin
Biochemist

Biology, Bldg 463
Brookhaven National Laboratory
50 Bell Ave.
Upton, New York, 11973

*** PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF 516 area code to 631 ****

Phone: 631 344 3414
Fax: 631 344 3407
e-mail: shanklin@bnl.gov
web: http://bnlstb.bio.bnl.gov/biodocs/plantbio/shanklin.htmlx