Examining the Social And Ethical Issues Raised by Possible Cultivation of Genetically Modified Potato With Late Blight Resistance in Norway

| Type artikkel: Rapport
This report presents the outcome of a stakeholder workshop that took place in Stange, Norway, June 2015.
Participants were invited to discuss ethical and social considerations in relation to the possible marketing and
cultivation of late blight resistant (LBR) cisgenic genetically modified (GM) potato in Norway.

Referanse:

Gillund, F., Millar, K., Utskarpen, A. and Myhr, A.I. (2015) Examining the Social And Ethical Issues Raised by Possible Cultivation of Genetically Modified Potato With Late Blight Resistance in Norway, GenØk Biosafety Report 2015/04, 45p, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.3548.9369

This report presents the outcome of a stakeholder workshop that took place in Stange, Norway, June 2015. Participants were invited to discuss ethical and social considerations in relation to the possible marketing and cultivation of late blight resistant (LBR) cisgenic genetically modified (GM) potato in Norway. An important aim of the workshop was to contribute to the operationalization of assessment criteria concerning “social utility” and “ethical justifiability” in the Norwegian Gene Technology Act for this specific GM crop plant. Potato late blight (LB) is the most devastating disease on potatoes globally. Current control measures in conventional potato production are largely based on chemical treatment with fungicides that is costly, both for potato producers and the environment. Hence, this GM potato is claimed to be one of the first GM plants that have the potential to solve a serious problem for Norwegian and European farmers. If successful, it may result in a reduction of fungicide applications to control the late blight disease in potato production. Moreover, these are cisgenic GM potatoes, i.e. genes are derived from naturally crossable wild potato species only, which may influence consumers’ perception and acceptance. This type of GM potato is therefore an interesting case for an ethical deliberation exercise. Eleven Norwegian stakeholders representing different actors involved in potato production (e.g. farmers, seed potato and potato retailors), agricultural advisors, representatives of environmental and agricultural interests organizations and researchers within relevant fields (i.e. social sciences and ethics) participated in the workshop. Discussions were structured through the use of the Ethical Matrix framework with participants discussing: (i) ethical and social issues raised by the possible cultivation of LBR cisgenic GM potato in Norway, (ii) which issues were considered to be most important, and (iii) alternative options for late blight control. The main purpose of the discussions were to explore the diversity of opinions held within the group, rather trying to reach any sort of consensus about the ethical justifiability of cultivating LBR cisgenic GM potato in Norway. The discussion revealed a broad range of views about opportunities and developments that this technology could bring about. It was envisioned that LBR cisgenic GM potato could potentially contribute to a more environmentally friendly potato production compared to current practices in conventional potato production. Significant concerns, however, were also raised with regard to uncertainties, both in terms of potential harms to the environment from cultivating LBR cisgenic GM potato, and whether expected benefits would actually come to fruition, particularly given the Norwegian agricultural context. As such, it was highlighted that the introduction of LBR cisgenic GM potato could potentially threaten the well-established trust relationship among consumers and farmers in Norway, which could have implications for the entire Norwegian agricultural sector. The work presented here complements previous work conducted by the project group focusing on sustainability considerations related to the cultivation of this type of GM potato. Besides contributing to the operationalization of the Norwegian Gene Technology Act, the outcome of these studies may provide valuable insights for the on-going efforts, both regionally and internationally, to incorporate socio-economic aspects into risk assessments for GMOs. We suggest the following research activities to continue this work: 1. Articulate relevant issues to include in an assessment of ethical, social and sustainability aspects of LBR cisgenic GM potato and further develop tools to support this form of integration 2. Investigate the status of the current knowledge base that is considered relevant for assessing whether these criteria will be satisfied for LBR cisgenic GM potato cultivation in Norway 3. Analyze the assumptions underlying some of the claims put forward in the workshop discussions as a means to better understand the contested visions, expectations and concerns related to the cultivation of LBR cisgenic GM potato

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