Humans have been modifying plants and animals for millennia. The dawn of molecular genetics, however, has kindled intense public scrutiny and controversy. Crops, and the food products which include them, have dominated molecular modification in agriculture. Organisations have made unsubstantiated claims and scare mongering is common. In Agro-Technology: A Philosophical Introduction Paul Thompson presents a clear account of the significant issues – identifying harms and benefits, analysing and managing risk – which lie beneath the cacophony of public controversy. His comprehensive analysis looks especially at genetically modified organisms, and includes an explanation of the scientific background, an analysis of ideological objections, a discussion of legal and ethical concerns, a suggested alternative – organic agriculture – and an examination of the controversy's impact on sub-Saharan African countries. His book will be of interest to students and other readers in philosophy, biology, biotechnology and public policy.
"Thompson brings his considerable knowledge of biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, and his prowess at keen philosophical analysis, to bear on a biological process and system essential to human life – agriculture."
"[...] examines in detail the scientific background of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and makes an analysis of ideological objections, legal, and ethical concerns. The scientific explanation and clear style make this accessible to readers from any disciplinary background [...] This book will be of interest to researchers investigating these issues, as well as students and other readers in philosophy, biology, biotechnology, and public policy."
– The Quarterly Review of Biology
1. Scientific background
2. Application of genetics in agriculture
3. Philosophical and conceptual background
4. The controversy: ideological and theological objections
5. The controversy: purported benefits
6. The controversy: purported harms
7. The organic alternative
8. Impact on low and middle income countries: poverty, farming and colonial legacies
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R. Paul Thompson is Professor at the Institute of the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, at the University of Toronto.