Global Change and biotechnology

Research reports | 24.02.2009 | CGM 2008-06

The Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM) has commissioned a research project to explore to what extent biotechnological solutions to problems of global change are realistic and feasible. Not only technological problems but also issues of social acceptance, global justice and the relations between industrialized and developing countries are relevant in this discussion.

The subject was approached in two ways. Schuttelaar & Partners, a consultancy in the field of health and sustainability, has interviewed 16 internationally recognized experts in the fields of global change as well as in the field of biotechnology. Furthermore, Schuttelaar & Partners has set up an internet based discussion on global change and biotechnology in order to involve other stakeholders. Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) has done case studies, focusing on causes and solutions for gaps between technological and societal innovation agendas.

Based on the results of both approaches, the researchers conclude that biotechnology as a potential partial solution to global problems should be included in a robust societal agenda. Biotechnology is not a magic bullet solution but should be seen as (just) one of the tools that can have a place within a wider (political, social) framing of the problem situations. The common perspective from both sides of the study is that the use of biotechnology needs to be embedded in wider problem analyses which include social and political aspects. Such wider analyses redirect the locus of debate and may take away some of the high expectations, high hopes and high fears from biotechnology.

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