History & Philosophy of Science
Discuss genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as an issue of public policy in which ethical issues are involved, in which scientific information is relevant and in which such scientific information is publicly claimed to be accurate but might be of disputed quality. Provide references to and evaluate the quality of information that you have personally encountered to date concerning the safety of GMOs. Explain your methodology of analyzing the information you have encountered. In doing so, detail how one can know whether the information is relevant. What is the proper method of analysis for safety? Is there reliable and responsible public discourse concerning proper methods of analysis and the relevant information to conduct such analysis. Please cite sources and explain.
Explain how you would sort through the issues of scientific uncertainty, ethical uncertainty and economic forecasting uncertainty about the use of GMOs. One irresponsible approach might be to advocate ignoring the scientific uncertainty and treating the scientific results as certain for purposes of policy. Another irresponsible extreme one might require that all uncertainties be resolved and that absolute safety be established before allowing the use of GMOs. The aim would be extreme cautiousness, but can you justify such an approach as ethical, given that there are certain to be negative impacts on the lives of people? Such caution might result in the near certainty of harm. What would be a responsible approach?
Comment on whether there can be general guidelines concerning how to treat possibly uncertain scientific results, that may be important in policy decisions. Consider how one might address the quality of the scientific results, the reliability of the reporting of those results by government agencies and public media, the reliability of government, politicians and the press in advocating for particular scientific claims, and the potential existence of deliberately misleading claims?
Golden rice is a genetically modified, Vitamin A enhanced rice. Please review the websites listed below and the documents in the “GOLDEN RICE” section of the Documents Section of this course that are also available below.
Summarize each of these documents explaining what each one claims and how each one established its claims to be valid.
Please search through the publicly available literature on Golden Rice on scholar.google.com and elsewhere. Identify at least two documents that provide significant information concerning public decision making policy concerns about Golden Rice that is not reported in the collection of documents provided to you here.
For all of the Document/GOLDEN RICE articles and the ones that you identify, evaluate the detailed argument presented concerning the safety and efficacy of Golden Rice.
Among these documents and websites are claims that further research is needed to establish the safety of GMOs. Discuss to what degree these claims are specific. Are they reasonable? Do these claims, when made, specify what information is lacking and designate a methodology for obtaining the claimed required information?
Discuss the specific claims in the documents concerning mortality and morbidity among children due to Vitamin A deficiencies. Is this information accurate? How do you discern the accuracy of these specific claims? Could Golden Rice prevent avoidable death and blindness, and, if so, how many?
In documents that contain claims of uncertainty, discuss the document’s quantitative explanation of what degree of uncertainty is claimed to exist and what specific research must be done to address the specific sources of uncertainty that is indicated. If you encounter a document that claims uncertainty in safety but does not provide a quantitative analysis of the claimed uncertainty, explain why a quantitative assessment is not presented.
Is Golden Rice safe for human consumption? Is it effective? Could lives be saved using it? Cite specific sources and data and explain in detail how you justify your position.
What has prevented the introduction of Golden Rice to populations where Vitamin A Deficiency is prevalent and a significant cause of child mortality?
Climate change has, at least prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, been presented by many influential sources as a longterm danger meriting decisive and immediate action. Golden Rice has not received such public attention and insistence. Compare the scientific uncertainties in the risks of climate change mediation and of Golden Rice cultivation.
Greenpeace is opposed to the introduction of golden rice: