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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Ethics and Transgenesis: Toward a Policy Framework Incorporating Intrinsic Objections and Societal Perceptions

Miranda Gott and Vaughan Monamy

Concerns about the use of transgenic animals can be broadly separated into extrinsic factors, such as risks to human and non-human health, environment, economy and society, and intrinsic factors, such as spiritual, cultural, moral or otherwise personal beliefs about humans, animals and Nature. We examine the bases for making ethical decisions about the use of transgenic animals and the intrinsic beliefs that underpin common objections to their use. We explore the need for a policy framework based on a utilitarian approach to ethical decision-making, which balances costs with benefits, but which also acknowledges the intrinsic beliefs that lie at the core of much opposition to genetic modification of animals. In particular circumstances, intrinsic objections may lead to a society refusing to condone transgenesis regardless of the weight of benefit promised from proposed uses. In sensitive subject areas such as regulating the use of transgenic animals, public policy is hard-pressed to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change. We advocate the use of dynamic processes that are capable of reflecting shifting public attitudes.