View from the fence

Social, environmental and economic issues surrounding GM foods, and the latest news

The Rational Parliament

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Next week, genetic modification will be discussed in an innovative event: the Rational Parliament, an experimental debating society in London. Its first sitting considers the motion ‘This house agrees that GM is a rational approach to meeting food demand’.

Debates start with relevant researchers and are then opened to the floor of ‘Members’ who all have an equal standing. You can book for free, and I will be tweeting from the event (@RebeccaNesbit).

I love the idea of a ‘rational, sensible and realistic approach’, using evidence and respecting everyone’s moral and social views. But I was also interested in a discussion about this on a mailing list, suggesting that we mis-understand the way that people make up their minds about evidence. It stemmed from a blog post with insights into human behaviour and decision making.

When information is complex, people are more likely to make decisions based on their values and beliefs, rather than on facts and logic (eg aligning anti-GM sentiment with the value of ‘naturalness’).

People who are shown information proving their beliefs to be wrong often become more entrenched in their original beliefs, and this is truer of highly-intelligent people.

So I will be taking part with an interest in GM and in how people are making their decisions. When I ran discussions about GM with sixth form students it was interesting that the whole class tended to agree (this matched the argument against trial by jury – put people together and their views are not independent).

I will also be interested to see how I make decisions. Will I shy away from evidence which I wish was untrue? More blogs to follow, and I have started my investivations with a poll – please take it!

Anyone interested in non-GM ways to feed more people may be interested in an event I’m helping to organise which is discussing who is responsible for reducing food waste.

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Author: Rebecca Nesbit

I am author of a popular science book 'Is that Fish in your Tomato?' exploring the fact and fiction of GM crops. In my work and leisure so far, I have trained bees to detect explosives, used a radar to study butterflies for my PhD, written a novel, taken the train from London to China, organised Biology Week, sold science jewellery on Etsy, and traveled to four continents with Nobel Laureates. Best off all, I've made lots of friends whose support I very much appreciate. Thank you! Please visit my website: http://rebeccanesbit.com/

2 thoughts on “The Rational Parliament

  1. Pingback: Are you equally concerned by health, social and environmental issues for GM? | View from the fence

  2. Pingback: Storify from the Rational Parliament | View from the fence

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