Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Why the GM crops trade conflict needs a new approach to risk

Whatever their stance, organisations like the World Trade Organisation, environmental campaign groups and government departments all claim to be examining the ‘risks’ of GM crops. But according to new research, the key to solving disputes such as the GM crops trade conflict is a new approach to understanding these issues, one that drops the use of the word ‘risk’ as a collective term.

The findings, which are the result of a 5 year study carried out at SPRU at the University of Sussex, will be presented at a conference in Brighton on Tuesday 12 September. Dr Adrian Ely, a Research Fellow at SPRU, will present his talk on ‘Typologies of incertitude as tools for policy analysis and policy making’ at SPRU’s 40th Anniversary conference on the Future of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, which takes place next week from 11 to 13 September.

“A typology is just a way of understanding that things belong to different categories, and that we should distinguish between them,” says Ely. “When people talk about risks, they are usually talking about aspects of risk, uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance. Instead, we use the word incertitude to describe this collection of things, so that we address them all.”

Ely explains that there are serious limits to using the idea of ‘risk’ to describe the potential problems associated with new developments in science and technology.

“Its all too easy to make the mistake of using quantitative risk assessment techniques to try to understand unknowns that are really uncertainties, when it is impossible for us to work out the probability that something will happen.”

The typology was developed by Prof. Andy Stirling, also of SPRU. Stirling, Ely and others are using it to explore various science and technology related issues.

"I use this typology to understand the government's decisions around GM crops and foods. Most policy problems - for example, climate change, GM crops or nanotechnology - involve a situation in which we don't have a full understanding of the science in question. It's important for us to appreciate what we know and what we don't know in order to prioritise research and/or public engagement,” says Ely. “That's where this typology can help."

The World Trade Organisation recently concluded that the EU had broken trade rules by failing to approve certain GM crops and foods produced in the USA. By considering the issues associated with risk, uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance separately, he has been able to make sense of these events in a way that could be useful to policymakers internationally.

“There are so many complicated questions at play,” says Ely, “Using a tool such as this helps us to break them down into manageable parts. “The USA and Europe have assessed the risks from GM crops in different ways. This has led to divergent policies internationally, with bitter trade disputes as a result. This research can help us to understand the sources of the trade conflict and to move towards ways of resolving them."

Dr Jenny Gristock | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Forest Management Yields Higher Productivity through Biodiversity
14.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>