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Animal Biotechnology: Science-Based Concerns
drugs are in Stage 3 clinical trials and decisions must be made soon about the disposition of the livestock involved.
A second criterion is the potential impact of the technology. Some new procedures seem unlikely to raise concern (e.g., the sperm sexing discussed in the previous section) or represent relatively minor changes in practice. Other technologies might be broadly adopted, yet the possible harm they could cause and the overall benefits to society are difficult to evaluate.
A third criterion is whether there is sufficient information available about the technology to evaluate concerns properly. Indeed, the committee explicitly acknowledges that there are uncertainties associated with the application of each of the technologies discussed in this report. Unresolved scientific uncertainty interferes, not only with attempts to determine how best to apply emerging technologies to animals, but also how to predict the impacts of their application. Some hazards (see Box 1.4) remain theoretical, uninvestigated, poorly characterized, or even unknown. Such uncertainties present significant challenges to scientists and policy makers who wish to estimate the likelihood and distribution of harms and benefits resulting from application of those technologies. For example, some outcomes of applications of the technologies listed in Box 1.3, such as production of transgenic animals by gene transfer, are very difficult to predict. Uncertainties range from mere inexactness and unreliability to those that are fundamentally unknowable a priori (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1992). Clearly, technologies that pose high stakes and high uncertainties pose fundamentally different challenges than those posing low stakes and little uncertainty. For this reason, for each concern discussed in this report, the committee has attempted, where possible, to specify (1) what is known, (2) the certainty with which it is known, (3) what is not known, (4) what is suspected, and (5) the limits of the science.
The committee also recognizes that there likely are either species or categories of species of animals not discussed specifically regarding concerns associated with biotechnology. Two examples of categories include companion animals and wildlife. While there are likely to be unique concerns that emerge with both categories, the concerns identified in the report regarding applications of the technologies (Chapter 2), environmental issues (Chapter 5), and animal welfare issues (Chapter 6) are all relevant and should be included in any considerations of wildlife and companion animal species.