When is a Techno-Fix Legitimate? The Case of Viticultural Climate Resilience

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 36 (1):1-17 (2023)
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Climate change is an existential risk reinforced by ordinary actions in afuent societies—often silently present in comfortable and enjoyable habits. This silence is sometimes broken, presenting itself as a nagging reminder of how our habits fuel a catastrophe. As a case in point, global warming has created a state of urgency among wine makers in Spain, as the alcohol level has risen to a point where it jeopardises wine quality and thereby Spanish viticulture. Eforts are currently being made to solve this problem technologically by developing (non-GMO) strains of yeast that produce less alcohol. If successful, this could help save Spanish viticulture. This kind of technological solution is routinely criticised for ofering simplistic “techno-fx” solutions to solve complex societal problems. However, it is not clear what features are criticised by the notion of techno-fx and hence how to avoid this criticism. In our interpretation, the techno-fx notion is not exclusively used as a dismissive term. The notion points to a general virtue of engineering: to create technological solutions that work silently in the background. This asset of technological solutions might sometimes be problematic and sometimes not. Hence, it needs to be analysed case-by-case by paying attention to the moral relevance of the hidden implications of the technology and of the unrefective actions and habits that they facilitate. Such moral analysis will in turn inform strategies for foregrounding this technology to counteract silencing. We discuss what this means in the case of modifying yeast as a viticultural climate resilience strategy.

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Giovanni De Grandis
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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References found in this work

Technology and the Virtues: a Response to My Critics.Shannon Vallor - 2018 - Philosophy and Technology 31 (2):305-316.
The Technological Fix Criticisms and the Agricultural Biotechnology Debate.Dane Scott - 2011 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 24 (3):207-226.
Genome Editing in Livestock, Complicity, and the Technological Fix Objection.Katrien Devolder - 2021 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 34 (3):1-17.

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