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NANOTECHNOLOGY IN THE FOOD CHAIN - Favv

NANOTECHNOLOGY IN THE FOOD CHAIN - Favv

82 for example the idea

82 for example the idea of respect for nature and an urge to conquer or master it (Rozin et al., 2004). Cultures of risk The tension between different ways of thinking about the world brings into focus the two cultures of risk - the gap between scientific and societal thinking about the issues of risk and uncertainty. Essentially, confronted by the same putative hazard, the approach adopted in science is, on occasions, strikingly different to the approach taken by intuitive logicians. The scientific perspective A simple definition of risk is the probability of an unacceptable loss. The expert view of risk assessment inclines towards probabilistic models that determine the likelihood of positive and negative outcomes multiplied by the potential impacts of these outcomes. Risk assessment is under-pinned by the scientific method. The scientific method assumes that there are ‘facts’ about the world to be discovered and that knowledge progresses through empirical research, leading over time to a closer approximation to the truth (Jaeger et al., 2001). Research that follows the canons of the scientific method is objective and unbiased by human motivations and agency. Thus, scientific risk assessment is the only recognised approach, all claims about potential risks to human health and safety must be subjected to the same criteria regarding methodology and evidence. In this way risk, supported by the ‘methodology of risk assessment’ is almost a universal currency – it transcends place and time. A risk is a risk is a risk, whether one is in Britain, Belgium or Burundi. Of course, there may be different levels of risk acceptability, but this is a risk management issue and a political decision. The public perspective An alternative definition of risk is that it is a complex, socially narrated concept based on a variety of non-cognitive factors. In the public sphere risks may take on political, ethical and emotional dimensions. For the public, the essence of perceptions of risk are not cold calculating cognitive decisions but rather fears, hopes, pleasure and anger drawing on the intuitive logic of the politician and

ethicist. In different cultures and social milieus within cultures what constitutes risk may be very different. Culture, stereotypes, trust in experts and social values (amongst other things) all play a part in the identification of risks and in the amplification or attenuation of risk perceptions. The implication of this is that purely science based claims about risk, and in particular the absence of risk, may not be very convincing to the public. Such claims are likely to be least convincing when dealing with a ‘sensitive technology’ and in situations where benefits from the innovation are in question and the existence and distribution of down side risks uncertain. The presentation Having set the scene, the presentation will combine a review of some recent social survey research on public perceptions of nanotechnology and draw out the lessons from agricultural biotechnologies for nano-materials in food packaging and in food ingredients. References _______________________________________________ Jaeger C.C., Renn O., Rosa E.A. & Webler T. 2001. Risk, Uncertainty, and Rational Action. Earthscan Publications Ltd., London, UK. Rozin P., Spranca M., Krieger Z., Neuhaus R., Surillo D., Swerdlin A. & Wood K. 2004. Preference for natural: instrumental and ideational/moral motivations, and the contrast between foods and medicines. Appetite 43, 147-154. 83

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