How do we talk about the "GMO tomato"?

Nature or products of technology? This distinction is no longer quite clear. (Ph

Nature or products of technology? This distinction is no longer quite clear. (Photo: J. Kleinert / TUM)


Biotechnology’s intrusions into the realm of animals and plants has blurred the distinction between animate nature and inanimate technology. Expressions such as "clone sheep" and "GMO tomato" emerged to highlight the hybrid nature of so-called biofacts. Society’s underlying understanding is the subject under investigation by the research association ‘The Language of Biofacts’, coordinated by the Munich Center for Technology in Society at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). An exhibition put together by students will be open at TUM from March 4 to 12.

Technical objects are created by humans, living objects are the product of natural processes: The distinction between the two is quite clear - at least that used to be the case. Philosophy of technology uses the term "biofact" to refer to biotechnologically designed living things, for example genetically modified plants. Many people are afraid of the (possible) effects of biofacts or reject them altogether as a matter of basic principle. The result is turbulent social debate.

Uncertainty is increased by the fact that technological intervention is usually not externally visible in biofacts. This makes the language society uses to understand and debate these hybrids all the more important.

Towards a better understanding of conflicts on agriculture and food

The objective of the research association ‘The Language of Biofacts’ is the creation of a sound framework for the analysis of the role played by biofacts in technicalized societies. Particular importance is attached to the question of how we communicate regarding biofacts. The association wants to contribute to a better understanding of societal conflicts in the agriculture and food sectors.

Researchers from the fields history, philosophy, sociology and industrial design work together in the Germany-wide research association. It is coordinated by the Professorship of History of Technology at the TUM’s Munich Center for Technology in Society and receives financial support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Exhibition "Biofact: Natural. Technical."

TUM Master’s degree students in Industrial Design and Architecture have put together an exhibition entitled "Biofact: Natural. Technical." ("Biofakt: Natürlich. Technisch."). Among other things the exhibition highlights technologies for breeding, cultivating and consumption of agricultural crops, and organisms as intellectual property.

Date / Time:

March 4 - 12, 2017, 12:00 noon to 8:00 pm
Technical University of Munich (TUM)
Immatriculation Hall
Arcisstraße 21
80333 Munich

Free admission

The exhibition is a part of the Munich Creative Business Week.

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