Australian consensus conference gene technology in the food chain 1999

Australian consensus conference gene technology in the food chain 1999


Case Overview

In the Austria consensus conference a lay panel of 14 people were bought together, it took place in south Australia in the Canberra's Old Parliament House over the course of three days. The issue which the conference dealt with was GMOs in food Genetically modified foods, and whether it should take place in our food industry. GMOs is the process of altering the gene in our food. The participants which were used were randomly selected as they had no subject matter in common and represented a cross selection of the community. The citizens that took part were able to hear from a wide range of speakers of academics. They also reflected a range of gender, age, education, occupation and geographical location.

Problems and Purpose

The purpose of the conference was to provide citizens the chance to contribute to a better future for food, it attempted to provide citizens the opportunity to contribute to a better future for gene food not only for the citizen of Australia but for all around the world. It also allowed the voice of citizen to be heard regarding the issue of gene technology in food. Another one of the key purpose for the conference was to provide direction on the issue in order to encourage a fair and balanced decision-making process without undue influence from vested interest. The conference used random selection which can be seen as a problem for some as whether data collected from random sampling can be meaningfully generalized specially from a small sample. Also during the decision making process the penal was not able to ask specific questions.


The process was a conciseness conference, consensuses conference was first introduced in Denmark. The aim of this process was to in-integrate the public back into the decision making process. It does this in a number of ways, the first one by using rigorous rules, it also made available the best available knowledge so that the participants can have a board and better understanding of the issue at hand which was science and technology in food. During the process dialogue takes place between two panels, one consists of citizens which were randomly selected whom are unaware of the issue and the other panel is a group of experts. They have all have conflicting view points on the issue and are experts in their field. The consensus conference aimed to bridge the gap between citizens and decision makers such as governments and industry specialist. The citizen produced a citizens panel report, the purpose for this report is to put forward the view of citizens decision makers. Citizen conference had had a verity of effect, for example in Demark reports established have had direct influence in the course of legislations. And in the case of the Australian consensus conference gene technology in the food chain 1999, the conference managed to establish a new department in the Australian government biotechnology department in Australia. Another key factor the of this is that citizen panel is the main actor.

Orginating Organization and Funding

Australian Museum and was intended to bring together consumers, "a citizens' panel" selected from around Australia.

Participant Selection

14 members of the public were randomly selected, they reflected a range of gender, age, education, occupation and geographical location.

Deliberations, Decisions and Public Interaction

During the deliberation the participants were able to listen to a Lay panel, through out the decision making process decision makers were able to understand clearly the aspiration of the public regarding gene technology. In order to produce the lay panel report the citizens argued, discussed, talked and listened to the views of other achieve consensus. It is argued that the conference was significant for public interest as it not only represented the view of the public but it demonstrated the purest form of citizen participation. As it showed how to include the public in decision making regarding global issues. The reason why they argue that this was important is because the decisions made during the conference not only effected the privileged few but the majority of the public. The citizens had an opportunity to listen to experts with conflicting opinions, and then got together to recommendations on each of the issues they discussed which was then put in a report to present to government. They were able to hear conflicting viewpoint to help them make up there minds, until they found a point that they agreed on.

Influence, Outcomes and Effects

At the end of the conference the panel had produced a written report which has all there recommendations in each of the areas which they were considering which was Regulations of Gene Technology in the Food Chain, Processes of Decision- Making, Science and Risk, Environment and Health, Alternatives to Gene Technology, Ethics and Morality, Multinational Corporations, International Conventions, Public Awareness and Participation and Labelling and Choice. As a result of the conference the Australian government established new body in this are which is the Biotechnology Australia, this body now coordinates regulations in food production.

Analyses and Lessons Learnt

The reason why the Australian consensus conference gene technology in the food effect democratic innovations chain 1999 was significant for democratic innovation was due to the fact that it used public deliberations and was inclusive. Also the fact that the conference included ordinary citizens whom are not aligned to interest groups, the conference encourages deliberative democracy as it is a form of public deliberation because it is free and equal citizen are at the core of decision making. The Australian conference was significant as it used the some of the key features of democratic innovations such as to inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower citizens. Each one of these point serves a different purpose for citizens for example in the conference the participants were informed by listening to an expert panel, and were able to listen to a balanced view. Also the conference consulted and involved citizens by working directly with the public and obtained feedback. Additionally it was an ideal form of deliberative democracy as it followed the three principles which are representative (the use of random selection), deliberation(consulting the participants) and influence. The fact that the participants were randomly selected showed that they resembled the wider population. As the conference consisted of a small group of people it provides the opportunity to deliberate and dialog. The conference was a clear example that having a smaller group allows for complex issues to be discussed and a Conesus to be reached. Deliberative democracy is at the key of Habermas’ procedural concept of democracy. consensus conference delivers a new (citizens') view on the particular topic. The Australian consensus conference on gene technology in the food chain made participants a wear that “science and industry have to take account of the concerns of citizens about ethics, the environment, the right of choice and information, and many others, if they wish to win public support not only for gene technology but also from consumers and for science itself” (McKay, 1999). What this demonstrates is that the result of conferences is largely influenced by the mass media. The reason why I have picked this topic is because it not only affected the country in which the conference was taking place which was Australia but could have had a massive impact on the rest of the world and how we produce food. It also has a direct impact on health and environment and the possibility to reduce world hunger. It is also suggested that if the conference is successful it will help give volume to the voice of people all over the world. The conference also raised important questions which would affect everyday life if gene technology was introduced such as what would be the fundamental issues that would affect the environment in relation to EMOS .

Challenges with collecting data

Consensus conference can fulfill different aims and objectives depending on the different settings in which the tool may be applied.However consensus conference can be time consuming and requires a lot of manpower. However the Australian consensus conference gene technology in the food chain 1999 was different in that after each discussion the group came of with recommendation in each area. an . Unlike their usual community consultation and education strategies, in consensus conferencing there is no control over the outcome. Consensus conferencing is unconventional and challenging, and involves making a leap of faith. The reports were easy to find, a lot of data was collected on the conference however not a lot was gathered on how the random selection was performed.


Maconi, Giovanni, and Ferdinando Magro. 'Comparing Techniques To Achieve High Accuracy And Low Cost: How Should We First Diagnose Crohn's Disease?'. Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research 4.2 (2015): 75-78. Web.

Carr, Brendan G., and Ricardo Martinez. 'Executive Summary-2010 Consensus Conference'.Academic Emergency Medicine 17.12 (2010): 1269-1273. Web.

External Links

Final Report:




Spezifische(s) Thema/en: 


Canberra Old Parliament House
18 King George Terrace
ACT 2600 Canberra
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Mittwoch, März 3, 1999
Sonntag, März 7, 1999
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Dana Jones, Museum of Australia


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