BURDEN OF PROOF: The obligation to prove one’s assertions (OXFORD DICTIONARY)
BURDEN OF PROOF: The duty of proving a disputed assertion or charge (MERRIAM-WEBSTER)
If there is one debate that is not going anywhere anytime soon it is whether or not Genetically Modified Organism (GMOs) are ‘safe.’ While both sides of the argument continue to make their claims and counter-claims, today’s post tries to examine where the burden of proof actually lies. In other words, is it up to the innovators or society to prove the safety (or otherwise) of GMOs?
Defined as the absence of risk or harm, Safety is a relative term. In other words, it has to be evaluated in relation to other options. That is why scientists, governments, industries and researchers invest a lot of time, energy and other resources to examine evidence and perform experiments to determine the impact of products and substances on health and the environment so as to finally obtain data that can be assessed to determine if the products and substances cause harm. Scientifically, nothing is really 100% safe. Basically, every research just adds data to the existing body of evidence.
So, the question is:
Does the burden of proof lie with the innovators in the field of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering in the introduction and promotion of GMOs?
Unless and until that is done, there will continue to be a lot of suspicion, claims and anti-GMO rhetoric.
Perhaps equally important is the need for society to ask the right questions about GMOs. While some may be scientific others may be moral questions but important nevertheless. Some even argue that GMOs is more about food-control than food-security. What impact will GMOs have on poor local farmers? Are we ready for seeds that cannot be replanted? How will GMO crops affect other non-GMOs on farmlands?