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Precaution and Ethics: Handling risks, uncertainties and knowledge gaps in the regulation of new biotechnologies

Authors Christian Munthe
ISBN 978-3-906211-31-2
Publisher Swiss Federal Office for Buildings and Publications and Logistics (FOBL)
Place of publication Berne
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Language en
Keywords bioethics, environmental ethics, applied ethics, values, risk management, uncertainty, precautionary principle, agriculture, genomics, breeding, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, farming, genetic modification, GMO, CRISPRcas9, gene editing, gene driving, geoengineering, bionanotechnology
Subject categories Ethics, Practical philosophy, Functional genomics, Animal physiology, Cell and molecular biology, Other Agricultural Sciences not elsewhere specified, Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use, Genetics and Breeding, Plant Biotechnology, Agricultural Biotechnology, Other Environmental Biotechnology, Biochemical process engineering, Other bioengineering, Bioorganical synthesis, Genetic engineering including functional genomics, Bioenergy, Bio Materials, Biochemicals, Bioprocess Technology, Environmental Biotechnology, Bioethics


This volume outlines and analyses ethical issues actualized by applying a precautionary approach to the regulation of new biotechnologies. It presents a novel way of categorizing and comparing biotechnologies from a precautionary standpoint. Based on this, it addresses underlying philosophical problems regarding the ethical assessment of decision-making under uncertainty and ignorance, and discusses how risks and possible benefits of such technologies should be balanced from an ethical standpoint. It argues on conceptual and ethical grounds for a technology neutral regulation as well as for a regulation that not only checks new technologies but also requires old, inferior ones to be phased out. It demonstrates how difficult ethical issues regarding the extent and ambition of precautionary policies need to be handled by such a regulation, and presents an overarching framework for doing so.

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