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Abstract
Scientific risk evaluations are constructed by specific evidence, value judgements and biological background assumptions. The latter are the framework-setting suppositions we apply in order to understand some new phenomenon. That background assumptions co-determine choice of methodology, data interpretation, and choice of relevant evidence is an uncontroversial claim in modern basic science. Furthermore, it is commonly accepted that, unless explicated, disagreements in background assumptions can lead to misunderstanding as well as miscommunication. Here, we extend the discussion on background assumptions from basic science to the debate over genetically modified (GM) plants risk assessment. In this realm, while the different political, social and economic values are often mentioned, the identity and role of background assumptions at play are rarely examined. We use an example from the debate over risk assessment of stacked genetically modified plants (GM stacks), obtained by applying conventional breeding techniques to GM plants. There are two main regulatory practices of GM stacks: (i) regulate as conventional hybrids and (ii) regulate as new GM plants. We analyzed eight papers representative of these positions and found that, in all cases, additional premises are needed to reach the stated conclusions. We suggest that these premises play the role of biological background assumptions and argue that the most effective way toward a unified framework for risk analysis and regulation of GM stacks is by explicating and examining the biological background assumptions of each position. Once explicated, it is possible to either evaluate which background assumptions best reflect contemporary biological knowledge, or to apply Douglas' 'inductive risk' argument.
Keywords biology  GMO  background assumptions
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DOI 10.1186/s40504-017-0057-7
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References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
Inductive Risk and Values in Science.Heather Douglas - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (4):559-579.

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The Judgements That Evidence-Based Medicine Adopts.Elena Rocca - 2018 - Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 24 (5):1184-1190.

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