IntroductionProf Paul Thompson was the key speaker at an 'Ethical issues in agriculture' workshop.
Some 60 people from a variety of academic disciplines as well as local businesses attended an Egenis-organised workshop on 'Ethical Issues in Agriculture: Genetically Modified Crops and the Organic Movement'.
The key speaker was Professor Paul Thompson, Professor of Philosophy and of Zoolo.gy at the University of Toronto. Prof Thompson has published extensively on evolutionary theory, population genetics, mathematical modelling and theory strucutre in biology, philosophy of medicine, and ethics. He is a past president, and a director, of the Green Door Alliance Inc. (a registered charity, dedicated to preserving agricultural land), and has worked for many years on agricultural capacity and poverty relief in Kenya.
"There has been considerable public debate about food during the past two decades,” said Prof Thompson. “Advocates for organic agriculture, eating locally grown food and rejecting genetic modification abound. Although many of the claims made in support of positions on these topics allude to health, environmental and economic issues, the core of the debates is ethical and philosophical.”
Prof Thompson’s talk focused on the costs and benefits of genetically modified crops and organic agricultural systems. Drawing from a wide range of sources he made a compelling case for the need to use genetically modified crops if we are to address the challenges of population growth and nutrition transition.
There were responses from Michel Morange (École Normale Supérieure), Jean Gayon (IHPST), Michael Winter (University of Exeter Centre for Rural Policy Research), and Berris Charnley (Egenis), as well as a lively discussion involving the workshop audience.Respondent Berris Charnley said, “The diversity of views represented by the participants and audience meant that everyone could take something new from the discussion. Events like this are a great testament to the intellectual diversity on campus and the strong links between the University and its local community.”
Local organic farmer John Watson, of Riverford Farm, said, “I found [the] presentation so effective that it lead me to reconsider my own views … As is the way of life I don’t suppose we will alter our positions but I believe dialogue is the best route to arriving at the truth.”