The GMO Debate: Science and Society

GOVT 4303/CSS 4303/BIOPL 4303/BSOC 4303/STS 4303/IARD4303/PLBR4303

'GMO' is the political framing of some aspects of biotechnology, the broad term for tools used to alter living organisms for human purposes. Genetic engineering (recombinant DNA technology) is one class of methods now in use. Social movements have arisen to block both the testing and commercializing of rDNA products, positing a spectrum of negative consequences. Objections center on the issues of food sovereignty, ownership of transgenic traits and the genetic background in which they are placed (intellectual property), environmental uncertainties/risks, control of the food supply by multinational corporations and human health. Students will evaluate prominent arguments and political positions in relation to scientific findings and cultural norms. We seek to understand precisely the dimensions and dynamics of contention: what is at stake? Why does the controversy reach global dimensions? What are the concrete interests involved? Who wins and why? Students will learn how biotech crops are developed, and how regulatory systems assess their human and environmental safety, before diving into the controversy.


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