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TSP-EEES
Sustainable production of transgenic strawberry plants, ethical consequences and potential effects on producers, environment and consumers

The main purpose of this project is to develop a genetically modified strawberry (GMFRS) cultivar that is more resistant to Botrytis cinerea (grey mould) for commercial production in organic agriculture. The GMFRS cultivar is expected to increase yield, reduce the use of toxic fungicides and increase strawberry quality leading to economic competitiveness.

Objectives
The major goal of the project is the production of genetically modified, fungus resistant strawberry plants which will be able to be cultivated without the use of fungicides and be used under marginal climatic conditions and extended seasons. The economic benefits and risks of commercial employment of the gene modified plant (GMP) will be mapped during plant production by analysing consumer and producer attitudes. In addition, the required ethical constraints on any release of the GMP will also be applied.

In summary, the project has three lines of research running simultaneously:
The main goal of the project is the production of genetically modified, fungus-resistant strawberry plants, which will be cultivable without using fungicides and usable in marginal climatic conditions and extended seasons. The economic benefits and risks of commercial employment in farming the gene-modified plant (GMP) will be mapped during plant production by analysing consumer and producer attitudes. In addition, the required ethical constraints on any release of the GMP will also be applied.

This multi-disciplinary project integrates three lines of research simultaneously,
which are:
1) the development of a genetically modified strawberry cultivar, resistant to Botrytis cinerea (grey mould), for commercial production in low pesticide agriculture
2) the development and use of questionnaires for completion by consumers and producers to map attitudes towards ecologically-grown transgenic strawberries. Analysis of the results will inform the commercial potential of the strawberry
3) the operation of an ethical model in which the Precautionary Principle (PP) is central to an integral evaluation framework for assessment of the ethical constraints on the commercial production of transgenic crops, in particular the strawberry.

Transgenic strawberries grown and marketed as 'no fungicide' would be in line with the trends in food marketing, which show an increased consumer interest in 'green products'. These benefits will be reduced if the consumers do not grow or buy them. This makes it extremely important to focus on the socio-economic aspects with a full analysis of potential costs, as well as potential benefits (parallel to the biotechnological development of the transgenic strawberries). The risks involved with implementing genetically engineered strawberries without having consumer acceptance will be discussed. Further analyses of the social and ethical implications of the possible release of the genetically engineered strawberries are necessary in order to reveal the potential benefits in the commercial production of this cultivar. A prediction for the commercial potential of the product, given the existing attitudes towards purchasing genetically modified food, will be made. Knowledge of the factors that might change public attitudes towards such foods will provide a basis for predicting long-term changes in attitude.

Progress to Date
The biological aspects of the project have been carried out at DNA/RNA, protein- and agriculture/plant-level. The work on the sociological aspects consisted of analysing the results from the surveys carried out in Norway, Denmark and England. An analytical model has also been worked out, based on farmers' attitudes towards GM foods and GM strawberries in three different countries, and the analysis of the possibilities for strawberry production in marginal areas.

All the partners have contributed to the promotional activities in Work Package 14 by disseminating information as planned about the project regionally and nationally, and by planning the different workshops for the presentation of the results obtained during the project.

Results
The biological part of the research project focused on the positive effects of the gene modifications. By altering the expression of genes from the strawberry species itself, this will minimise the potential negative effects of foreign DNA. Further insight may also be gained into consumer attitudes towards plants that require fewer fungicides because of modification.
The sociological work so far has shown that very few studies have been carried out on farmers' values and attitudes towards GM-food. For the first time, consumers in three countries have been asked about their attitudes concerning a particular GMO-product (strawberries), and under which conditions such a product might be accepted.
The work carried out during the reporting period has been extended to include intrinsic ethical concerns, and the ethical framework has been developed to integrate the discourse ethics and the reflective equilibrium approach. This is a contribution to the discussion on the theoretical approach to bioethics.

Additional scientific results include discussions on the moral value of plants that extend the Kantian moral theory into a field that has been largely dominated by other ethical approaches. Developing this account into a position on how non-human nature should be treated seems to answer some important concerns as regarding the present development within food production. It is equally important to point out that there is a morally significant difference between inter- and intra-species modification, a position that is shared by many without being given sufficient attention in the international debate.

Classified in ARABLE CROPS, FRUIT, GENOMICS

Scientist responsible for the project

Professor TOR-HENNING Iversen
Dragvoll
7491 Trondheim
Norway - NO

Phone: +47 73596087
Fax: +47 73590177
E-mail: tor-henning.iversen@bio.ntnu.no

References

Project ID QLRT-1999-01479
Organisation The Plant Biocentre, Department of Botany, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 February 2000
Duration (months) 48
Total cost 2 254 082 €
Total EC contribution   1 310 000 €
Status Completed

The partners

  • Department of Philosophy, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)Department of Philosophy ,, Norway - NO
    audun.oefsti@hf.ntnu.no
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