Frankenstein or Benign?

By Falkner, Robert | The World Today, July 1999 | Go to article overview

Frankenstein or Benign?

Falkner, Robert, The World Today

Genetic engineering and its application in agriculture are at the centre of fierce public controversy in Britain and in continental Europe. Demands for stricter regulation of biotechnology are growing rapidly in the European Union. Meanwhile, recent efforts to reach international agreement on the safety of trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have failed, largely because of American intransigence.

A TRANSATLANTIC GULF is emerging over the risks and benefits of biotechnology - there is even talk of a potential future trade conflict between the United States and Europe. Considerable commercial interests as well as environmental concerns are at stake. The international biosafety controversy provides further indication that environmental and human health values are increasingly interfering with the international politics of trade liberalisation.

The debate on genetic engineering in Britain has recently erupted into an emotionally charged dispute over the environmental and health aspects of the new transgenic products: genetically modified organisms and food containing genetically-modified ingredients. National newspapers have run front-page reports about the dangers of socalled `Frankenstein Foods', and widespread consumer concern has caused a large number of food producers and retailers to drop GM ingredients from their menu. Not only environmental pressure groups, but also prestigious institutions such as the British Medical Association have called for a moratorium on commercial releases into the environment.

While the British government is adamant in reassuring the public of the safety of GM products, large parts of society appear to have lost confidence in the scientific community and regulatory authorities. Scepticism reflects a wider crisis of confidence in the industrial production of food, and the role of biotechnology in particular. This can be traced back to previous food scares revolving around Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - mad cow disease or salmonella-infected eggs. But the situation in Britain is not unique; growing unease about the potential dangers of biotechnology can also be found in the rest of Europe.

This is in sharp contrast to the situation in the United States, the leading centre of biotechnological research and production. Unlike Europe, the biotechnology industry there has experienced little public resistance to the introduction of new transgenic products. US consumers can choose from a variety of foods containing genetically modified potatoes, tomatoes, soya beans, maize and canola. And opinion polls suggest that the majority welcomes the benefits, while a large number are simply unaware of the widespread use of genetic engineering in food.

There are many reasons for this trans-Atlantic gulf in societal perceptions of biotechnology, and they do not simply reflect differing levels of environmental concern. For one, food and certain aspects of food production play a bigger role in European society than in the United States.

Furthermore, a number of food-related scandals such as mad cow disease have undermined consumers' confidence in regulatory bodies in Europe. And environmentalists' campaigns and labelling requirements have made European consumers better informed about the presence of genetically modified food ingredients.


These transatlantic cultural and political differences are mirrored in the approaches to biotechnology regulation. The European Union issued two directives in 1990 which concern the contained use of GMOs and their release into the environment. They require environmental evaluation and step-by-step approval for the dissemination of GMOs. Food with GM ingredients has to be labelled as such. The regulations give extensive rights to member states to participate in the evaluation process but leave the final decision on, for example, the market introduction of such products, with the European Commission. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Frankenstein or Benign?


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.