In Waartoe Wetenschap? onderzoekt Frans W. Saris de wetenschap in evolutionair perspectief en hij bepleit een radical enlightenment in een dertiental essays en een toneeltekst waarin zulke uiteenlopende wetenschappers verschijnen als ...
The use of biotechnology in food productiongives rise to consumer concerns. The term ``consumerconcern'' is often used as a container notion. Itincludes concerns about food safety, environmental andanimal welfare consequences of food productionsystems, and intrinsic moral objections againstgenetic modification. In order to create clarity adistinction between three different kinds of consumerconcern is proposed. Consumer concerns can be seen assigns of loss of trust. Maintaining consumer trustasks for governmental action. Towards consumerconcerns, governments seem to have limitedpossibilities for public policy. Under current (...) WTOregulations designed to prevent trade disputes,governments can only limit their policies to 1) safetyregulation based upon sound scientific evidence and 2)the stimulation of a system of product labeling. Ananalysis of trust, however, can show that ifgovernments limit their efforts in this way, they willnot do enough to avoid the types of consumer concernsthat diminish trust. The establishment of a technicalbody for food safety – although perhaps necessary –is in itself not enough, because concerns that relatedirectly to food safety cannot be solved by ``pure''science alone. And labeling can only be a good way totake consumer concerns seriously if these concerns arerelated to consumer autonomy. For consumer concernsthat are linked to ideas about a good society,labeling can only provide a solution if it is seen asan addition to political action rather than as itssubstitution. Labeling can help consumers take uptheir political responsibility. As citizens, consumershave certain reasonable concerns that can justifiableinfluence the market. In a free-market society, theyare, as buyers, co-creators of the market, andsocietal steering is partly done by the market.Therefore, they need the information to co-create thatmarket. The basis of labeling in these cases, however,is not the good life of the individual but thepolitical responsibility people have in their role asparticipants in a free-market. Then, public concernsare taken seriously. Labeling in that case does nottake away the possibilities of reaching politicalgoals, but it adds a possibility. (shrink)
The colors we perceive are the outcome of an attempt to meaningfully order the spectral information from the environment. These colors are not the result of a straightforward mapping of a physical property to a sensation, but arise from an interaction between our environment and our visual system. Thus, although one may infer from a surface’ reflectance characteristics that it will be perceived as “colored,” true colors only arise by virtue of the interaction of the reflected light with the eye (...) (and brain) of an observer. (shrink)
Food trade is of economic importance for both developed and developing countries. Food, however, is a special commodity. Firstly, the lack of food -- hunger, under-nourishment, and starvation -- is one of the world's pressing moral problems. But food is not only special because it is necessary for our survival; food is also special because it is strongly related to our social and cultural identity. Two recent transatlantic trade conflicts over food -- over the use of artificial growth hormones in (...) beef production and over the use of biotechnology in food production -- show that food is a specific commodity. In these trade-conflicts, the obligations flowing from free-trade treaties collide with the cultural and social meanings of food. Current international trade agreements neglect this point and force countries to fight their case in the field of food safety science. This causes a bias in the discussion. Europe's resistance towards artificial growth hormones and GM-food is not strictly science based; it is also culture based. For a fair resolution of trade-conflicts, this needs to be accommodated in international trade legislation. With the help of the notion of public reason I defend that precaution with regard to scientific uncertainty, and the possibility for compulsory labelling with regard to sensitive non-nutritional properties of foodstuffs, need to be incorporated in international food trade regulations. (shrink)
The notion of Dignity of Creatures has been voted into the Swiss Federal Constitution by a plebiscite. Philipp Balzer, Klaus-Peter Rippe, and Peter Schaber have given an expert opinion for the Swiss government to clarify the notion of Dignity of Creatures. According to them, by voting this notion into the Swiss constitution, the Swiss have chosen for a limited biocentric approach towards biotechnology. In such an approach genetic engineering of non-human beings is only allowed insofar that their own good is (...) not impaired. It is, however, not clear when the good of a non-human being is impaired. I defend the position that – even if we confine ourselves to animals – their good goes beyond their well being. (shrink)
In this paper, we present and defend the theoretical framework of an empirical model to describe people’s fundamental moral attitudes (FMAs) to animals, the stratification of FMAs in society and the role of FMAs in judgment on the culling of healthy animals in an animal disease epidemic. We used philosophical animal ethics theories to understand the moral basis of FMA convictions. Moreover, these theories provide us with a moral language for communication between animal ethics, FMAs, and public debates. We defend (...) that FMA is a two-layered concept. The first layer consists of deeply felt convictions about animals. The second layer consists of convictions derived from the first layer to serve as arguments in a debate on animal issues. In a debate, the latter convictions are variable, depending on the animal issue in a specific context, time, and place. This variability facilitates finding common ground in an animal issue between actors with opposing convictions. (shrink)
This special issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics presents so-called ethical tools that are developed to support systematic public deliberations about the ethical aspects of agricultural biotechnologies. This paper firstly clarifies the intended connotations of the term “ethical tools” and argues that such tools can support liberal democracies to cope with the issues that are raised by the application of genetic modification and other modern biotechnologies in agriculture and food production. The paper secondly characterizes the societal discussion (...) on agricultural biotechnology and defends the thesis that normative perspectives fuel this discussion, so one cannot come to grips with this discussion if one neglects these perspectives. The paper thirdly agrues that no such thing exists as “one” societal debate in which these issues should be discussed. There are several interwined debates, and different actors participate in different discourses. Some practical instruments are necessary in order to include the right issues in these debates. These instruments will be coined as “ethical tools,” since they are practical instruments that can be used (tools) in order to support debates and deliberative structures for a systematic engagement with ethical issues (hence, ethical tools). Finally, the paper clarifies the ethics of these ethical tools and presents the tools as discussed in the remainder of this special issue: 1) tools to include ethical issues in public consulation and involvement; 2) tools to support systematic reflection upon ethical issues in decision-making; and 3) tools to support explicit communication about values in the food chain. (shrink)
Suppose “chicken” eggs could be produced by quasi‐chickens—genetically engineered humps of living chicken‐flesh that do nothing but lay eggs. Would there be anything amiss with that? Animal ethicists invoke the notion of animal integrity in order to give intellectual content to the intuition that there would be. On inspection, ‘integrity’ isn't everything its proponents want it to be. Yet there's enough in it to make reasoned argument possible.
Three types of concern for animal welfare are widelyheld: Animals should feel well, they should function well, andthey should lead natural lives. The paper deals with a well-knownanswer to the question of why such concerns are morallyappropriate: Human beings have direct duties towards animals,because animals are beings that can flourish, the flourishing ofanimals is intrinsically or inherently valuable, and that whichis conducive to their flourishing is a legitimate object of moralconcern. Looking for a tenable conception of direct dutiestowards animals, the (...) following questions are discussed: Whatshould we take it to mean that ``animal flourishing isintrinsically or inherently valuable?'''' Under what conditions doesa living being''s ability to flourish create direct duties towardsthis being? Is awareness or sentience required for there to bedirect duties towards a living being? Does such a requirementimply that moral concerns for animals would be limited to theirfeeling well, or does it also give way to having moral concernsfor their functioning well and leading natural lives? Can onetake into account considered judgements that claim that towardsdifferent animals we have moral duties that differ in kind and/orstrength? If environmental ethics cannot be based on theconception of direct duties here discussed, should one draw adistinction between duties towards ourselves, our fellow humanbeings, or animals, and duties regarding plants, or collectiveentities such as populations, species, and ecosystems? (shrink)
Results of studies that cast doubt on the safety of genetically modified crops have been published since the first GM crop approval for commercial release. These ‘alarming studies’ challenge the dominant view about the adequacy of current risk assessment practice for genetically modified organisms. Subsequent debates follow a similar and recurring pattern, in which those involved cannot agree on the significance of the results and the attached consequences. The standard response from the government—a reassessment by scientific advisory bodies—seems insufficient to (...) bring the debate to a satisfactory closure. The recurrence of the same debate every time an alarming study is published shows that science alone cannot solve the problem. We believe that further analysis is needed to investigate if and how we can prevent this repetitive cycle that creates frustration amongst all stakeholders. In this paper, we analyse the dynamics behind discussions which occur following alarming studies. We will use a selection of representative alarming GMO case studies to underpin our claim that it is likely that there will be a permanent difference in view of opinion that cannot be solved with more data or new facts. The current strategy of more research is a pitfall that is unlikely to solve this issue. Instead, the focus of the GM crop discussion should shift towards managing permanent different viewpoints and providing a platform for a broader conversation on agriculture and food production. (shrink)
Synthetic biology aims at designing biological systems, at building ‘living machines’. The emergence of synthetic biology has reignited the cycle of public debate. The old biotechnology debate is being reiterated and the controversies are deepened. The societal debate follows the technological hype cycle. A new technology with a high visibility and high expectations also raises high controversies. For synthetic biology, this hype is currently near its peak and the first signs of disillusionment are getting visible. In policy development, on the (...) other hand, synthetic biology is in the early stages. Governments examine the need for adaptations to existing regulatory frameworks. There is a gap between the visibility of the technological developments and policy formulation. This gap is crucial for technology assessment: while the hype in public attention is over, essential policy steps are taken. In order to close this gap, technology assessment needs to facilitate the societal–ethical debate when media attention, and thus the visibility of the technological developments, declines. (shrink)
Consumer concerns pop up. They are relatedto the safety of agrifood products for people, foranimals, and for the environment as well as the socialand ethical implications of certain agrifoodproduction methods. At first sight, the WTO agreementand the SPS and TBT agreements appear to offersufficient legal scope to deal with these concerns andresolve trade conflicts. The events of recent years,however, have shown the limitations of theseagreements in dealing with cultural differencesbetween nations and in dealing with the social andpolitical pressure on national (...) governments to lay downrestrictive, trade distorting measures. It is vitalthat we consider the dynamic relationship betweennational governments, civil society, and the market.In the United States, Canada, and Europe, thisrealization is growing. We propose that these issuesshould be studied by experts in several disciplines:technical experts, hygiene experts and veterinarians,public administration experts, lawyers, philosophers,ethicists, sociologists, and, of course, economists.To unite these disciplines and provide a platform fordiscussion in the light of international tradeliberalisation, the cultural identity of distinctcommunities, and the functioning of the democraticnation state an international network is needed. Wetherefore propose establishing a network to explorethe issues and dynamics described above. The networkshould be international and interdisciplinary withparticipants, initially, from science and government.The purpose of the network would be to present newperspectives to the negotiating parties in the nextWTO round. The first steps to development of thisnetwork have since been taken and an initial group hasbeen established. (shrink)
Ethics and Sustainability: Guest or Guide? On Sustainability as a Moral Ideal Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s10806-011-9322-6 Authors Franck L. B. Meijboom, Ethics Institute, Utrecht University, Janskerkhof 13a, 3512 BL Utrecht, The Netherlands Frans W. A. Brom, Ethics Institute, Utrecht University, Janskerkhof 13a, 3512 BL Utrecht, The Netherlands Journal Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics Online ISSN 1573-322X Print ISSN 1187-7863.
The many well-publicized food scandals in recent years have resulted in a general state of vulnerable trust. As a result, building consumer trust has become an important goal in agri-food policy. In their efforts to protect trust in the agricultural and food sector, governments and industries have tended to consider the problem of trust as merely a matter of informing consumers on risks. In this article, we argue that the food sector better addresses the problem of trust from the perspective (...) of the trustworthiness of the food sector itself. This broad idea for changing the focus of trust is the assumption that if you want to be trusted, you should be trustworthy. To provide a clear understanding of what being trustworthy means within the food sector, we elaborate on both the concept of trust and of responsibility. In this way we show that policy focused on enhancing transparency and providing information to consumers is crucial, but not sufficient for dealing with the problem of consumer trust in the current agri-food context. (shrink)
European animal disease policy seems to find its justification in a “harm to other” principle. Limiting the freedom of animal keepers—e.g., by culling their animals—is justified by the aim to prevent harm, i.e., the spreading of the disease. The picture, however, is more complicated. Both during the control of outbreaks and in the prevention of notifiable, animal diseases the government is confronted with conflicting claims of stakeholders who anticipate running a risk to be harmed by each other, and who ask (...) for government intervention. In this paper, we first argue that in a policy that aims to prevent animal diseases, the focus shifts from limiting “harm” to weighing conflicting claims with respect to “risks of harm.” Therefore, we claim that the harm principle is no longer a sufficient justification for governmental intervention in animal disease prevention. A policy that has to deal with and distribute conflicting risks of harm needs additional value assumptions that guide this process of assessment and distribution. We show that currently, policies are based on assumptions that are mainly economic considerations. In order to show the limitations of these considerations, we use the interests and position of keepers of backyard animals as an example. Based on the problems they faced during and after the recent outbreaks, we defend the thesis that in order to develop a sustainable animal disease policy other than economic assumptions need to be taken into account. (shrink)
Background: Primary open-angle glaucoma patients exhibit widespread white matter degeneration throughout their visual pathways. Whether this degeneration starts at the pre- or post-geniculate pathways remains unclear. In this longitudinal study, we assess the progression of WM degeneration exhibited by the pre-geniculate optic tracts and the post-geniculate optic radiations of POAG patients over time, aiming to determine the source and pattern of spread of this degeneration.Methods: Diffusion-weighted MRI scans were acquired for 12 POAG patients and 14 controls at two time-points 5.4 (...) ± 2.1 years apart. Fiber density, an estimate of WM axonal density, was computed for the OTs and ORs of all participants in an unbiased longitudinal population template space. First, FD was compared between POAG patients and the controls at time-point 1 and time-point 2 independently. Secondly, repeated measures analysis was performed for FD change in POAG patients between the two time-points. Finally, we compared the rate of FD change over time between the two groups.Results: Compared to the controls, POAG patients exhibited significantly lower FD in the left OT at TP1 and in both OTs and the left OR at TP2. POAG patients showed a significant loss of FD between the time-points in the right OT and both ORs, while the left OR showed a significantly higher rate of FD loss in POAG patients compared to the controls.Conclusions: We find longitudinal progression of neurodegenerative WM changes in both the pre- and post-geniculate visual pathways of POAG patients. The pattern of changes suggests that glaucomatous WM degeneration starts at the pre-geniculate pathways and then spreads to the post-geniculate pathways. Furthermore, we find evidence that the trans-synaptic spread of glaucomatous degeneration to the post-geniculate pathways is a prolonged process which continues in the absence of detectable pre-geniculate degenerative progression. This suggests the presence of a time window for salvaging intact post-geniculate pathways, which could prove to be a viable therapeutic target in the future. (shrink)
Thanks to developments in genomics,dietary recommendations adapted to genetic riskprofiles of individual persons are no longerscience fiction. But what are the consequencesof these diets? An examination of possibleimpacts of genetically tailor-made diets raisesmorally relevant concerns that are analogous to(medical-ethical) considerations aboutscreening and testing. These concerns oftengive rise to applying norms for informedconsent and for the weighing of burdens andbenefits. These diets also have a broaderimpact, especially because food patterns arefull of personal, social and cultural meanings.Diets will change one's food patterns (...) and one'sattitude towards food, and this may implychanges in one's identity. We argue that suchan impact does not necessarily raise moralproblems. Moral concerns are, however, relevantif collective values and shared meanings infood practices are at issue. Therefore, thedevelopment of genetically tailor-made dietsdoes not merely require emphasis on weighingpersonal benefits and burdens and on informedconsent. It also asks for attention to andmoral reflection on the collective valuesinvolved in food practices. (shrink)
The leading question of this article is whether it is acceptable, from a moral point of view, to take wild animals that are ill out of their natural habitat and temporarily bring them under human control with the purpose of curing them. To this end the so-called 'seal debate' was examined. In the Netherlands, seals that are lost or ill are rescued and taken into shelters, where they are cured and afterwards reintroduced into their natural environment. Recently, this practice has (...) been criticised because it is thought to interfere with the wildness of the animals and population. In this research, the moral assumptions behind the arguments of both the proponents and opponents of sheltering have been analysed within a morally pluralistic framework. It is concluded that sheltering on too large a scale would be contrary to the efforts of the last few decades to maintain an independent or wild seal population, which means that a certain amount of caution is called for. However, in the current situation there is no decisive reason to completely prohibit shelters either. Good arguments can even be given in favour of sheltering. It also becomes clear that the acceptability of sheltering wild animals depends on the specific circumstances in which an animal is encountered. (shrink)
In this article, we sketch a new approach to law and ethics. The traditional paradigm, exemplified in the debate on liberal moralism, becomes increasingly inadequate. Its basic assumptions are that there are clear moral norms of positive or critical morality, and that making statutory norms is an effective method to have citizens conform to those norms. However, for many ethical issues that are on the legislative agenda, e.g. with respect to bioethics and anti-discrimination law, the moral norms are controversial, vague (...) or still evolving. Moreover, law proves not to be a very effective instrument. Therefore, we need a new paradigm, both for descriptive and for normative analysis. This interactive paradigm, as a normative position, can be summarised in two theses. The process of legislation on ethical issues should be structured as a process of interaction between the legislature and society or relevant sectors of society, so that the development of new moral norms and the development of new legal norms may reinforce each other. And legislation on ethical issues should be designed in such a way that it is an effective form of communication which, moreover, facilitates an ongoing moral debate and an ongoing reflection on such issues, because this is the best method to ensure that the practice remains oriented to the ideals and values the law tries to realise. (shrink)
The Netherlands is a small country with many people and much livestock. As a result, animals in nature reservations are often living near cattle farms. Therefore, people from the agricultural practices are afraid that wild animals will infect domestic livestock with diseases like Swine Fever and Foot and Mouth Disease. To protect agriculture (considered as an important economic practice), very strict regulations have been made for minimizing this risk. In this way, the practice of animal farming has been dominating the (...) practices of nature management completely. If, for instance, Foot and Mouth Disease strikes an agricultural area, all wild pigs and cattle living in the nearby nature reservations have to be killed, whether infected or not. This dominant position of one practice over the other has now become problematic. While the morality of the practice of nature management seems to be very different from the morality of agriculture and agriculture has become less important from an economic point of view, the public as well as those involved in nature management no longer seem to accept the dominant position of agriculture. Besides a literature study, we performed a field study with in-depth interviews with experts from both practices to analyze the dynamics of the internal moralities of both practices in the previous century, in order to clarify the contemporary situation. The conclusion was that the traditionally strong position of agriculture is not only weakening; it also appears that the internal values of agriculture are changing. The experts from both sides agreed that, in case of a disease outbreak, it is neither ethically justified nor necessary (because of the estimated low risk of disease transfer) to destroy the animals in nature reservations as a routine preventive measure. This is a major shift in morality. (shrink)
This paper investigates the state of the art with respect to sustainability reporting, its linkages with the corporations, internal measurement and monitoring systems and their combined impact on the quality of contemporary sustainability benchmarks, developed by SRI analysts and so-called rating and screening agencies. This research originated from the EU-funded research initiative to create a new generation management framework for corporate sustainability and responsibility (CS-R). The aim of it is to develop a coherent set of assessment –, measurement – and (...) monitoring tools. The sustainability benchmark tool should align the interests of corporations implementing CS-R and various organizations supporting SRI, such as fund managers, analysts and screening agencies. This paper show the essentials features of an actual sustainability benchmark which is currently under construction. This approach will have significance impact on the further development of SRI and CS-R practices, as well as support the development of sustainability reporting standards. (shrink)
It is often claimed that the exceptional severity of the Spanish flu, one of the most deadly events in recorded human history, is an unsolved mystery. However, even detailed aspects such as its W-shaped mortality curve are well explained by Paul Ewald’s theory of the evolution of virulence. Understanding the causes of the Spanish flu will help to prevent future epidemics.
This paper investigates the state of the art with respect to sustainability reporting, its linkages with the corporations, internal measurement and monitoring systems and their combined impact on the quality of contemporary sustainability benchmarks, developed by SRI analysts and so-called rating and screening agencies. This research originated from the EU-funded research initiative to create a new generation management framework for corporate sustainability and responsibility (CS-R). The aim of it is to develop a coherent set of assessment -, measurement - and (...) monitoring tools. The sustainability benchmark tool should align the interests of corporations implementing CS-R and various organizations supporting SRI, such as fund managers, analysts and screening agencies. This paper show the essentials features of an actual sustainability benchmark which is currently under construction. This approach will have significance impact on the further development of SRI and CS-R practices, as well as support the development of sustainability reporting standards. (shrink)