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Assessing ethics and animal welfare in animal biotechnology for farm production

Author(s) : M. Kaiser

Summary :

This paper addresses the ethical issues involved in animal biotechnology. Considerable advances in this field have been made with transgenic fish, which may be the first real test case for regulatory bodies. Intrinsic concerns about animal biotechnology are often voiced in public debate, and the paper presents and critically discusses these issues. Even though these concerns may be hard to reconcile with standards of rational argument, they might still have practical consequences for ethical policy making. Animal welfare and environmental issues are discussed as the most salient extrinsic concerns about animal biotechnology. The most serious obstacle to a good risk assessment of animal biotechnology is the extent of scientific uncertainty. Ethical assessments need to address these uncertainties upfront, and the precautionary principle provides a good criterion for responsible policies. At the end of the paper, a practical method for the ethical assessment of animal biotechnology, the so-called ethical matrix, is briefly presented and discussed.

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