The Social and Ethical Dimensions of Biosensors: A Case Study from Animal Production

Whyte, K.P., P.B. Thompson, J.V. Stone, L. Busch, and M. List

Presented at the All Scientist Meeting (2011-04-15 to 2011-04-15 )

The case explored in this paper involves the development of nano-enabled biosensors for real-time tracking of the identity, location, and properties of livestock in the U.S. agrifood system. Biosensors promise many dramatic real-time applications, from monitoring of blood parameters to watch for the presence of metabolic diseases, to cortisol levels in cattle as one potential measure of animal welfare. The primary method for research on this case was an expert forum. Developers of biosensors see the tracking capabilities idealistically as empowering users to control some aspects of a situation that they face, improving public health, security, and preventing wrongs like counterfeiting. However, the ways in which social and ethical frameworks are built into standards for the privacy/access, organization, adaptability, and transferability of data are crucial in determining whether the diverse actors in the supply chain will embrace sensing technologies and advance the ideals of the developers.

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