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Controversies in Science and Technology

From Maize to Menopause

Edited by Daniel Lee Kleinman, Abby J. Kinchy, and Jo Handelsman

Publication Year: 2005

Written for general readers, teachers, journalists, and policymakers, this volume explores four controversial topics in science and technology, with commentaries from experts in such fields as sociology, religion, law, ethics, and politics:

* Antibiotics and Resistance: the science, the policy debates, and perspectives from a microbiologist, a veterinarian, and an M.D.

* Genetically Modified Maize and Gene Flow: the science of genetic modification, protecting genetic diversity, agricultural biotech vesus the environment, corporate patents versus farmers' rights

* Hormone Replacement Theory and Menopause: overview of the Women's Health Initiative, history of hormone replacement therapy, the medicalization of menopause, hormone replacement therapy and clinical trials

* Smallpox: historical and medical overview of smallpox, government policies for public health, the Emergency Health Powers Act, public resistance vs. cooperation.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xii

Producing a volume with nineteen essays on four different topics is a massive undertaking, and we could not have done it alone. First and foremost, we have to thank the authors who contributed to this collection. We asked a very busy group of people to find time to write engaging pieces in a very short time frame, and all did so. In addition, we asked a number of specialists to review sections of the manuscript—again, in short order.

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Introduction: From Maize to Menopause

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pp. 3-20

It is unusual for a day to go by when science- or technology-related matters do not find their way into the news. The press has widely covered the debate about the use of human stem cells in research and medical therapy, and its discussion among policymakers, ethicists, scientists, and friends has been widespread. In the wake of the space shuttle Columbia disaster, the future of the U.S. space program has been on the policy table, ...

Part 1: Overuse of Antibiotics on the Farm

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1 Antibiotic Resistance: The Agricultural Connection

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pp. 23-36

Dairy cows with symptoms of mastitis typically receive penicillin to stop the infection. Similarly, farmers administer tetracycline to swine and poultry to suppress respiratory diseases. Bacterial infections in catfish on fish farms and in pear trees in orchards are treated with tetracyclines or other antibiotics too. And to boost their rates of growth, healthy livestock routinely consume small doses of antibiotics in manufactured animal feeds.

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2 Agricultural Antibiotics: Features of a Controversy

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pp. 37-51

Is using antibiotics in livestock and poultry problematic? Critics say that this practice is contributing to antibiotic resistance, with potential risks to human health. Defenders say the risk to humans is exaggerated and that the benefits outweigh the risks. Surely this disagreement can be sorted out in a straightforward fashion: just collect the scientific evidence and make a judgment. But, unfortunately, things are not this easy.

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3 Agricultural Uses of Antibiotics: Evaluating Possible

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pp. 52-66

In June 2003, McDonald’s made an announcement that sent shock waves through the livestock industry (McDonald’s Establishes Global Policy 2003). Previously, with the exception of businesses that bought organic foods and a few specialty food outlets, meat producers and meat sellers had been content to look the other way when it came to the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry. McDonald’s became the first large corporation to ask its meat suppliers to begin to phase out the use of antibiotics as a growth stimulant for food animals.

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4 Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture: An Ecosystem Dilemma

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pp. 67-82

The increasing rate of development of bacterial resistance to anti-microbials has been well documented (Levin et al. 1998; Levy 1997; Levy 1998; Salyers and Amabile-Cuevas 1997). The development of this resistance has resulted in human and animal bacterial pathogens that are unresponsive to many forms of treatment currently available. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics has also become a high-profile, highly politicized health concern.

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5 The Impact of Antibiotic Use in Agriculture on Human Health and the Appropriate Public Policy Response

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pp. 83-103

The discovery of antibiotics was one of the most important advances in medical treatments. However, the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant infections is increasing. Although resistance to antibiotics will develop even with appropriate use,1 the inappropriate prescribing by physicians and poor infection-control practices accelerate the problem. In addition, the growing scientific consensus is that antibiotic use in the production of food animals is an important factor.

Part 2: Genetically Modified Crops: Global Issues

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6 Genetic Modification and Gene Flow: An Overview

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pp. 107-118

Debates about genetically modified crops have intensified around the world, often leading to legal, ethical, and international trade disputes. Starting in the late 1990s, the United States and a few other nations rapidly adopted genetically modified soybean, maize (corn), cotton, and canola, while many other countries chose a more cautious path or even outright rejection of genetically modified foods.

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7 Introduction of Transgenic Crops in Centers of Origin and Domestication

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pp. 119-134

In 2003, farmers worldwide planted transgenic crops over about sixty-five million hectares, or 5 percent of total arable land area (James 2003; Food and Agriculture Organization 2004). Most transgenic crops are grown in four countries, the United States, Argentina, Canada, and China. The United States and Argentina together account for nearly 90 percent of transgenic production, with Canada and China accounting for most of the remainder.

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8 Agricultural Biotechnology Science Compromised: The Case of Quist and Chapela

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pp. 135-149

In November 2001, biologists David Quist and Ignacio H. Chapela (2001) generated international controversy when they published research findings demonstrating the presence of transgenes (genes incorporated into the genome of an organism through genetic engineering) in maize land-races in Mexico. Their results were both unexpected and important for a number of reasons.

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9 Hard Red Spring Wheat at a Genetic Crossroad: Rural Prosperity or Corporate Hegemony?

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pp. 150-168

Shortly after Monsanto submitted its 2002 applications to deregulate its Roundup Ready hard red spring wheat in both the United States and Canada, the company publicly pledged that it would not commercially release the world’s first strain of genetically engineered wheat until several conditions were met. First, Monsanto pledged to gain market acceptance for genetically engineered wheat by convincing major international wheat ...

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10 Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environmental Challenge

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pp. 169-177

From 1950, when the world was inhabited by about 2.5 billion people, to 2000, the population has more than doubled, to six billion. How can we sustain human life on this planet as the population continues to grow? Today, although poverty is declining steadily in Asia and Latin America, approximately 1.2 billion people are living on less than $1 per day; in sub- Saharan Africa, almost half the people have an income at or below that level.

Part 3: Hormone Replacement Therapy and Menopause: Science, Culture, and History

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11 Postmenopausal Hormones: An Overview

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pp. 181-197

It is not often that a single study can overturn decades of thinking and have a profound effect on medical practice. However, that was what happened in the case of hormone replacement therapy. Usually, medical knowledge accumulates incrementally, but in this instance one large clinical trial, the Women’s Health Initiative Clinical Trial of Estrogen Plus Progestin, upset all hopes and beliefs that hormone therapy for postmenopausal women ...

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12 The Medicalization of Menopause in America, 1897–2000: Mapping the Terrain

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pp. 198-218

Menopause, the end of fertility in women, has long been associated in the United States with a bewildering array of symptoms. Hot flashes, memory loss, nervousness, vaginal dryness, night sweats, and inhibited sexual desire currently headline an ever-changing set of complaints. Throughout American history, most women have coped with their symptoms—should they occur—in a variety of ways:

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13 The History of Hormone Replacement Therapy: A Timeline

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pp. 219-235

I am a science journalist who has followed the “hormone story” for about forty-five years. I have watched the rise and fall and resurrection of various drugs, and seen patients’ lives both helped and hurt by them. In the pages that follow, I try to provide an outline of many crucial events in the extended history of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

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14 Symptom Reporting at the End of Menstruation: Biological Variation and Cultural Difference

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pp. 236-253

It is well recognized that the end of female reproductive life is a complex transition that involves not only biological but also psychological and social changes. However, it is usually assumed that the biological changes that take place at this time, externally evident by the cessation of menstruation, are essentially universal and that differences reported by individual women can be fully accounted for by the numerous psychological, ...

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15 Evidence-based Medicine and Clinical Practice

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pp. 254-269

The practice of medicine has evolved over many centuries, but the rate of that evolution has become much faster in recent decades. Clinical practice is increasingly influenced by the results of laboratory and clinical studies aimed at evaluating disease risk factors and methods of either preventing or treating disease. However, the results of these scientific studies do not always lead in a straight simple path to the best or optimum ...

Part 4 Smallpox and Bioterrorism

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16 Smallpox: The Disease, the Virus, and the Vaccine

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pp. 273-282

Throughout history smallpox killed untold millions of people and left even larger numbers of survivors disfigured for life. This scourge was finally eliminated from nature in 1977 by an effective worldwide vaccination program (Fenner 1982). This was not a minor undertaking. It involved a concerted effort not only by international health care workers and public health officials but also leaders from all nations, both developed and developing (Brundtland 2002).

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17 The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act:A Tool for Public Health Preparedness

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pp. 283-296

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the intentional release of anthrax spores that October, the Center for Law and the Public’s Health at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities drafted model legislation designed to provide state and local public health agencies with legal authority to plan for, prevent, and respond to public health emergencies.

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18 The States and the War against Bioterrorism: Reactions to the Federal Smallpox Campaign and the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act

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pp. 297-310

The newspaper headlines were stark and eerie: “Efforts to Calm the Nation’s Fears Spin Out of Control,” “Local Public Health Officials Seek Help,” “This Is Not a Test,” “Some States Can’t Handle Bioterrorism,” “Scared into Action.” And the pictures that accompanied them were worse: space-suited investigators, smallpox-ridden children, cold stark laboratories staffed by masked personnel. State and local health departments were now supposed to be on a “war footing,” as one headline noted.

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19 Public Resistance or Cooperation? A Tale of Smallpox in Two Cities

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pp. 311-325

As we think about how to respond to current threats of bioterrorism and new emerging diseases, one major consideration must be the importance of gaining the trust and cooperation of the public. Public apprehension increases with each new disease since HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and, more recently, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), monkey pox, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus.


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pp. 327-334


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pp. 335-341

E-ISBN-13: 9780299203931
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299203948

Publication Year: 2005