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Symposium on Public Health Implications of Genetic Engineering: Applying the Precautionary Principle.

10 JUNE 1999, Amherst, Massachusetts

Sponsored by the Association for Science in the Public Interest*

Cosponsored by the Science and Environmental Health Network , The Loka Institute, Council for Responsible Genetics, and the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production

At this symposium, the public and experts from public health, ecological and agricultural disciplines will discuss genetically engineered organisms and examine the question of how the precautionary principle should apply to genetic engineering technologies and organisms that have public health implications. What are the uncertainties? What are the threats? Is it appropriate to take precautionary actions? And if so, what should those actions be?

Proponents of genetic engineering argue that this technology will provide a boon to public health through new medicines and increased food supplies. Critics, however, claim that we are destablizing natural systems and creating organisms that have not co-evolved with humans and thus, provide threats to human health. Potential threats include antibiotic resistance, immune system dysfunction, increased exposure to herbicide, among other things. The uncertainties inherent in the technology of genetic engineering raise interesting public policy questions, especially how we decide about the potential harms and the benefits.

The precautionary principle has been defined as "When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established." As expressed, the principle has three components: 1) scientific uncertainty, 2) threats of environmental or public health harm, and 3) precautionary action.

The Precautionary Principle has been invoked in recent treaty negotiations regarding genetic engineering. But those debates have not clearly spelled out the implications of the principle as applied to public health problems posed by genetic engineering. This symposium will systematically address those questions.

*The Association for Scientists in the Public Interest, ASIPI, is an organization of individuals dedicated to fostering the participation of scientists in public processes, the conduct of community research and the promotion of scientific work that supports the public good.

June 10, 1999 9:00- 4:00 PM (with a poster session and reception following) Amherst, Massachusetts

For symposium information contact: Lisa Foersom -------


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