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Friday, September 18, 2015

Are Arguments about GMO Safety Really About Something Else?

By Gregory E. Kaebnick
The Hastings Center Blog
Originally published August 28, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Saletan is trying to examine the impact of GMOs in more or less this objective way. Perhaps, however, the fiercer, dyed-in-the-wool opponents of GMOs are looking beyond health and safety, strictly construed in terms of quantifiable aspects of human well-being, to something else. One possibility is that they are indeed focused on health and safety but are put off by something about the particular form of the threat. Moral psychologists such as Paul Slovic and Daniel Kahneman have noted that the perception of a risk’s severity does not cleanly track the quantifiable outcomes. Different ways of dying may be perceived as better or worse, even though death is the measurable outcome in both cases. After September 11, 2001, air travel dropped significantly and many people who might have been expected to fly in planes, and safely reach their destinations, went by car instead and died in automobile accidents. Viewed strictly in terms of the quantifiable risk of death, the decision to go by car looks silly. But maybe, the risk assessor (and scholarly critic of risk assessment) Adam Finkel has proposed, what put people off flying was not the risk of death alone but the prospect of “death preceded by agonizing minutes of chaos and the awful opportunity of being able to contact loved ones before the grisly culmination of another’s suicide mission.”

The entire article is here.