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Exploring the Roots of the Old GMO Narrative and Why Young People Have Started to Ask Critical Questions


Ricroch, Agnes; Aerni, Philipp; Chopra, Surinder; Kuntz, Marcel (2021). Exploring the Roots of the Old GMO Narrative and Why Young People Have Started to Ask Critical Questions. In: Ricroch, Agnes; Chopra, Surinder; Kuntz, Marcel. Plant Biotechnology : Experience and Future Prospects. Cham: Springer, 277-304.

Abstract

The history of modern plant breeding is implicitly present in everything we cultivate and eat today. Therefore, the strategy in retail marketing to advertise premium organic products as ‘natural’ and therefore ‘safe’, as opposed to products from ‘agro-industry’ and its ‘genetically modified’ (GM) products, is highly misleading. After all, almost all food products are a product of culture, not nature, and the organic industry constitutes an important part of agro-industry as well. Yet, it is the radical simplification of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ agriculture that makes the narrative so popular, no matter if it is fiction or fact. It provides a normative orientation without the need to delve deeper into the subject. The consequences of this rather shallow debate on sustainable agriculture has led to real consequences in the form of incoherent and burdensome regulation designed to prevent the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in agriculture. The same narrative is now being extended to the latest breeding techniques associated with CRISPR Cas9 and other gene-editing tools. They tend to be labelled as GMO 2.0 by stakeholders who oppose agricultural biotechnology in general. This label was also implicitly embraced by the High Court of New Zealand as well as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in their decisions to subject the latest gene-editing techniques to GMO regulation, no matter whether the end product is transgenic or not. Especially for New Zealand, the decision runs against the country’s success story as a global powerhouse of agricultural innovation. This chapter argues that a different regulatory environment is only possible if the old GMO narrative loses its credibility with the next generation of concerned citizens. In view of the current global crises related to climate change and COVID-19, many of them find it increasingly irresponsible to discard an important platform technology such as gene-editing just because it is ‘new’. If they do not receive convincing answers to their critical questions, they may start to sort out fiction from fact on their own and integrate it into a counter-narrative that is not just more meaningful for their generation but also more effective in enabling sustainable change.

Abstract

The history of modern plant breeding is implicitly present in everything we cultivate and eat today. Therefore, the strategy in retail marketing to advertise premium organic products as ‘natural’ and therefore ‘safe’, as opposed to products from ‘agro-industry’ and its ‘genetically modified’ (GM) products, is highly misleading. After all, almost all food products are a product of culture, not nature, and the organic industry constitutes an important part of agro-industry as well. Yet, it is the radical simplification of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ agriculture that makes the narrative so popular, no matter if it is fiction or fact. It provides a normative orientation without the need to delve deeper into the subject. The consequences of this rather shallow debate on sustainable agriculture has led to real consequences in the form of incoherent and burdensome regulation designed to prevent the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in agriculture. The same narrative is now being extended to the latest breeding techniques associated with CRISPR Cas9 and other gene-editing tools. They tend to be labelled as GMO 2.0 by stakeholders who oppose agricultural biotechnology in general. This label was also implicitly embraced by the High Court of New Zealand as well as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in their decisions to subject the latest gene-editing techniques to GMO regulation, no matter whether the end product is transgenic or not. Especially for New Zealand, the decision runs against the country’s success story as a global powerhouse of agricultural innovation. This chapter argues that a different regulatory environment is only possible if the old GMO narrative loses its credibility with the next generation of concerned citizens. In view of the current global crises related to climate change and COVID-19, many of them find it increasingly irresponsible to discard an important platform technology such as gene-editing just because it is ‘new’. If they do not receive convincing answers to their critical questions, they may start to sort out fiction from fact on their own and integrate it into a counter-narrative that is not just more meaningful for their generation but also more effective in enabling sustainable change.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability
07 Faculty of Science > Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
07 Faculty of Science > Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:31 August 2021
Deposited On:17 Sep 2021 05:32
Last Modified:18 Mar 2024 04:38
Publisher:Springer
ISBN:978-3-030-68344-3
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-68345-0_19
Related URLs:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-68345-0 (Publisher)