New scientific knowledge gathered through experimentation and applied research improves our understanding of the world and is an important tool in making decisions about our role and our actions in the world. Science helps us solve problems by predicting the likely consequences of our actions in response to challenges we have encountered. It is dynamic in nature, constantly questioning and challenging existing knowledge, and thereby expands our boundaries of understanding.
Emerging technologies pose additional challenges. Applying new technologies transforms societies in unfamiliar ways. New practices, new institutions and new interpretations often must be developed in response to new problems. These challenges call for new means of problem-solving and decision-making. Solutions can be further complicated by the seemingly disconnected and potentially conflicting information released to the public about emerging technologies as diverse interested parties promote their latest discoveries and points of view.
In spite of the power afforded by scientific knowledge today, its usefulness lies in the social goals that it helps to achieve. Scientific enquiry should be embedded in broad social values and underpinned by ethical principles.
Ethics refers to principles that define behaviour, action or rules for action (including policies) as right, good and proper. Such principles do not always dictate a single "moral" course of action, but they do provide a means of evaluating and choosing among competing options. Statements on ethics include the articulation, defence and interpretation of such principles, as well as the application of principles to specific problems. Within ethical discourse, a range of perspectives accommodates and reflects the diversity of human experience.
The application of science is not separate or divorced from ethics. It is based on a series of decisions and interpretations, each of which is coloured by the values we hold. Scientific actions are founded on our shared interest in gaining a better understanding of the world.
In food science, and food safety science in particular, these values have always been implicit. The need to build and maintain trustworthiness in the food safety system, however, demands more transparency. The values embedded in the decisions that underpin that system therefore must be defined and clarified to make decision-making more transparent and to enhance understanding of the choices we exercise in ensuring food safety.
|  See Josephson Institute
for Ethics online at http://www.josephsoninstitute.org/.|