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As. Pac. J. Mol. Biol. & Biotech., June 2010 Vol. 18, 247-250

Achieving precaution through effective community engagement in research with genetically modified mosquitoes

El Zahabi-Bekdash, Lara1, Lavery, James V 2,3

1 University of Toronto, McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, MaRS Center, South Tower, 101 College Street, Suite 406, Toronto, ON, M5G1L7, Canada.
2 St. Michael’s Hospital, Centre for Research on Inner City Health & Centre for Global Health Research, Keenan Research Centre,
Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, 30 Bond Street, Toronto, ON, M5B1W8, Canada;
3 University of Toronto, Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Joint Centre for Bioethics, 155 College Street, Suite 754, Toronto, ON,M5T1P8, Canada.

*Author for Correspondence.
University of Toronto,
McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, MaRS Center,
South Tower, 101 College Street,
Suite 406, Toronto,ON, M5G1L7 Canada.
Email: lara.elzahabi@mrcglobal.org.

Abstract.
The testing and introduction of new biotechnologies are often controversial, especially because of uncertainty about their risks and potential benefits. One of the main concepts dividing proponents and opponents of GMOs is the “precautionary principle”, the idea that new technologies should not be introduced until their risks are identified and thoroughly understood. In this paper, we draw on the arguments of Welsh and Ervin to argue that early and effective community engagement can satisfy some of the fundamental aims of precaution, and promote innovation to improve safety and effective implementation, without imposing a moratorium on promising research. The precaution through experience approach implies that affected non-scientists can provide critical insights that can help scientists improve their technologies and/or help illuminate the necessary social pathways that may help ensure the effective and ethical testing and implementation of their technologies. Conducting community engagement effectively and early in the process of technology development, may represent a valuable new application of the precautionary mindset, to identify issues from a range of stakeholder perspectives and encourage innovation early enough in the process that it can actually make a difference.

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