Precaution and Ethics - Handling risks, uncertainties and knowledge gaps in the regulation of new biotechnologies

Contributions to Ethics and Biotechnology, Volume 12 (2017)

This volume outlines and analyses ethical issues actualized by applying a precautionary approach to the regulation of new biotechnologies. It presents a novel way of categorizing and comparing biotechnologies from a precautionary standpoint. Based on this, it addresses underlying philosophical problems regarding the ethical assessment of decision-making under uncertainty and ignorance, and discusses how risks and possible benefits of such technologies should be balanced from an ethical standpoint. It argues on conceptual and ethical grounds for a technology neutral regulation as well as for a regulation that not only checks new technologies but also requires old, inferior ones to be phased out. It demonstrates how difficult ethical issues regarding the extent and ambition of precautionary policies need to be handled by such a regulation, and presents an overarching framwork for doing so.

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Last edition: 02.11.2018


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Christian Munthe is Professor of practical philosophy at the Department of philosophy, linguistics and theory of science at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden). His research focuses on ethics and value issues in the intersection of health, science and technology, the environment and society. He has published the book The Price o Precaution and the Ethics of Risk (2011).