From risk assessment to in-context trajectory evaluation—GMOs and their social implications

Riccardo Guarino, Vincenzo Pavone, Joanna Goven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Over the past 20 years, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have raised enormousexpectations, passionate political controversies and an ongoing debate on how these technologiesshould be assessed. Current risk assessment procedures generally assess GMOs in terms of theirpotential risk of negatively affecting human health and the environment. Can this risk-benefitapproach deliver a robust assessment of GMOs? In this paper, we question the validity of current riskassessment from both a social and an ecological perspective, and we elaborate an alternativeapproach, namely in-context trajectory evaluation. This paper combines frame analysis, contextanalysis and ecosocial analysis to three different case studies.RESULTS: Applying frame analysis to Syngenta’s recent campaign ‘Bring plant potential to life’, wefirst de-construct the technosocial imaginaries driving GMOs innovation, showing how the latterendorses the technological fix of socioeconomic problems whilst reinforcing the neoliberalsociopolitical paradigm. Applying context analysis to biopharming in New Zealand, we then explorelocal practices and knowledge, showing that particularities of context typically omitted from riskassessment processes play a key role in determining both the risks and the potential benefits of atechnology. Finally, drawing from the Italian case, we outline through ecosocial analysis how thelack of long-term studies, further aggravated by current methodological deficiencies, prevent riskassessment from considering not only how GMOs affect the environmental context but also, andmost importantly, the way people live in, and interact with, this context.CONCLUSION: Incorporating frame analysis, context analysis and ecosocial analysis, in the form of incontexttrajectory evaluation, into the assessment of GMOs can improve the social compatibility,political accountability and ecological sustainability of its outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Sciences Europe
Volume3
Publication statusPublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution

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