Tag: gmos

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – June 2017, part two by Aaron Seaman

The first part of the In the Journals post for June 2017 can be found here. And now, for part two…

 

Medical Humanities

SPECIAL ISSUE: Communicating Mental Health

Introduction: historical contexts to communicating mental health

Rebecca Wynter and Leonard Smith

Contemporary discussions around language, stigma and care in mental health, the messages these elements transmit, and the means through which they have been conveyed, have a long and deep lineage. Recognition and exploration of this lineage can inform how we communicate about mental health going forward, as reflected by the 9 papers which make up this special issue. Our introduction provides some framework for the history of communicating mental health over the past 300 years. We will show that there have been diverse ways and means of describing, disseminating and discussing mental health, in relation both to therapeutic practices and between practitioners, patients and the public. Communicating about mental health, we argue, has been informed by the desire for positive change, as much as by developments in reporting, legislation and technology. However, while the modes of communication have developed, the issues involved remain essentially the same. Most practitioners have sought to understand and to innovate, though not always with positive results. Some lost sight of patients as people; patients have felt and have been ignored or silenced by doctors and carers. Money has always talked, for without adequate investment services and care have suffered, contributing to the stigma surrounding mental illness. While it is certainly ‘time to talk’ to improve experiences, it is also time to change the language that underpins cultural attitudes towards mental illness, time to listen to people with mental health issues and, crucially, time to hear.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Nudges in a post-truth world.

Guest Post: Neil Levy

Full Article: Nudges in  a Post-Truth World

Human beings are motivated reasoners. We find ways to believe what we want to believe, sometimes even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. This fact helps to explain why so many political issues are intractable, and why so many of us reject the scientific consensus on urgent issues like GMOs, vaccination and climate change. Given the importance of these issues, any means of increasing our responsiveness to evidence deserves exploration.

Nudges – proposals, stemming from the behavioural sciences, for changing the way people act by changing their environments – may be one way of increasing responsiveness to evidence. In my paper, I briefly review evidence that suggests that people resist messages for (apparently) irrelevant reasons, and that by focusing on these reasons, we can make them more responsive to these messages. For instance, people tend to dismiss testimony that comes from those who do not share their political ideology, even when the issue is an empirical one (like climate change). There is evidence that ensuring that the ideology of the source matches the ideology of the audience makes the audience more receptive to the message.

But nudges are ethically controversial. There are a number of reasons why they are controversial, but the central reason is that many people see them as threatening the autonomy of the nudged. It is one thing to address people are reasoning beings, by giving them arguments. It is another to address them as mechanisms, bypassing their reasoning.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Research is not a magical practice

Why does hearing about research sometimes scare us in a vertiginous way? I mean the feeling that researchers sometimes dig too deeply, that they see through what should not be seen through, that they manipulate the fundamental conditions of life.

It does not have to concern GMOs or embryonic stem cell research. During a period, I wrote about studies of human conversation. When I told people that I was working on conversation analysis, I could get the reaction: “Oh no, now I dare not talk to you, because you’ll probably see through everything I say and judge how well I’m actually talking.”

Why do we react in such a way? As if researchers saw through the surface of life, as through a thin veil, and gained power over life by mastering its hidden mechanisms.

My impression is that we, in these reactions, interpret research as a form of magic. Magic is a cross-border activity. The magician is in contact with “the other side”: with the powers that control life. By communicating with these hidden powers, the magician can achieve power over life. That is at least often the attitude in magical practices.

Is this how we view research when it scares us in a dizzying way? We think in terms of a boundary between life and its hidden conditions; a boundary that researchers transgress to gain power over life. Research then appears transgressive in a vertiginous way. We interpret it as a magical practice, as a digging into the most basic conditions of life.

The farmer who wants to control the water level in the field by digging ditches, however, is not a magician who communicates with hidden forces.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Case for In Vitro Meat

by James Ninia

Long gone are the days of hunting and gathering food or raising our own livestock.  The first time American consumers see their food is usually on a supermarket shelf or a restaurant plate. It’s easy to not consider what goes into the preparation of milk, eggs, or pork chops. For meat in particular, the path from the source is not only bloody and unsanitary, but also terrible for the environment.

In August 2013, a historic milestone was achieved: the first public tasting of in vitro meat (IVM).[i] IVM is exactly what it sounds like: meat created by humans in laboratories. While this technology is still very much in development, this meat is created by painlessly harvesting stem or muscle cells from a living animal, and developing these tissues in a culture until edible meat is produced.  If the medium used to create IVM is not Fetal Bovine Serum, scientists could theoretically prepare meat without having to kill, or even harm, a single animal.

Continued research and development of IVM and related technologies is morally imperative for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. The reasons this emerging technology gets an ethical thumbs-up are at once obvious and nuanced. For one, producing meat in this way does not necessitate the killing of an animal, instead requiring only taking a sample of cells from them. Some might raise an eyebrow that harvesting these cells might still cause a pig or a cow pain or distress; however, that may not even be the case. It has been claimed, for example, that merely 10 pork muscle/stem cells could yield up to 50,000 metric tons of pork product.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Genome editing – the key ethical issues

Written by Dr Christopher Gyngell

This article originally appeared on the OMS website

The Nuffield Council of Bioethics released a report last Friday outlining the key ethical issues raised by genome editing technologies.

Genome editing (GE) is a powerful, and extremely rapidly developing technology. It uses engineered enzymes to make precise, controlled modification to DNA. It has the potential to radically transform many industries, including medicine, agriculture and ecology.  Despite only being developed in the past few years’, GE has already been used to create malaria-fighting mosquitoes, drought resistant wheat, hornless cows and cancer killing immune cells. The potential applications of GE in a decade are difficult to imagine. It raises a wide range of ethical issues that require careful scrutiny.

The Nuffield Council of Bioethics has formed a working group to analyse these issues. Their report titled “Genome editing: an ethical review”, is the first output of this working group.  It is a mapping project which identifies the major ethical issues arising from GE.

The report identifies several areas of GE that raise pressing ethical issues.  GE for human reproduction, and GE in livestock, are classed as requiring ‘urgent’ attention. GE for the purposes of xenotransplantation, and to alter wild populations of mosquitoes (and other disease causing animals), are classed as requiring attention ‘in the near future’.

It is unsurprising that genome editing for human reproduction is listed as requiring urgent attention. It has been at the centre of public debates about GE since scientists used the technology to alter human embryos for the first time last year.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

New Food Labeling Law

         ‘Victory wrapped inside a defeat’ ?

 

By Claire Davis

 

In his recent op-ed “G.M.O. Labeling Law Could Stir a Revolution,” published in The New York Times, Mark Bittman criticized the new amendment to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 as “the weakest labeling law imaginable,” but went on to highlight a potential upside. Calling it a “victory wrapped inside a defeat,” he argued that increased access to information about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products will spur consumer interest in other aspects of food production.

 

Mr. Bittman named a variety of potential areas of interest, from the most rudimentary questions of where the ingredients in a food product were produced to more detailed ones, such as what pesticides remain on a food product, how much water is used to produce a crop, and whether farm laborers have health insurance. In Mr. Bittman’s vision, this “transparency revolution” will be a joint undertaking of consumers and industry producers, with consumers leading the call for change and companies providing detailed information directly on their packaging.

 

At Johns Hopkins University, we are developing a comprehensive labeling system to provide consumers with information about the ethical value of their food products. As part of the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, the project, titled Consumers, Certifications and Labels: Ethically Benchmarking Food Systems, brings together scholars and experts from the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Berman Institute of Bioethics as well as several other participants from the US and Europe.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Obama Signs Bill Requiring Labeling of GMO Foods

The legislation passed by Congress two weeks ago will require most food packages to carry a text label, a symbol or an electronic code readable by smartphone that indicates whether the food contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

GMOs In Food? Vermonters Will Know

Nearly all food labels in Vermont are now required to disclose when products include genetically engineered ingredients. The requirement, passed two years ago, became effective on Friday

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Roundup Ready® Humans

Everyone is familiar with Roundup®, arguably the most well-known of any herbicide in the world and my favorite gardening tool. What may be less well known is that Monsanto has created a line of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are resistant to their famous herbicide. Called Roundup Ready®, soybeans in this product line can essentially take a bath in Roundup and still grow up to… // Read More »

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

GMOs Are Safe, But Don’t Always Deliver On Promises, Top Scientists Say

The National Academy of Sciences — probably the country’s most prestigious scientific group — has reaffirmed its judgment that GMOs are safe to eat. But the group’s new report struck a different tone from previous ones, with much more space devoted to concerns about genetically modified foods, including social and economic ones

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.