Uncertainties of Nutrigenomics and Their EthicalMeaning
Accepted: 14 November 2009
The Author(s) 2009. This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com
Again and again utopian hopes are connected with the life sciences (nohunger, health for everyone; life without diseases, longevity), but simultaneouslyserious research shows uncertain, incoherent, and ambivalent results. It is unrealisticto expect that these uncertainties will disappear. We start by providing a notexhaustive list of ﬁve different types of uncertainties end-users of nutrigenomicshave to cope with without being able to perceive them as risks and to subject themto risk-analysis. First, genes connected with the human body or nutrients can havedifferent functions in interaction with their environment (for instance, one nutrientcan be healthy for the heart, but can also be a high risk in relation to cancer).Secondly, uncertainties are formed by risk analyses. Will it be possible to calculatea certain risk of getting a certain condition with a certain lifestyle? Will it bedifﬁcult to separate the genetic component and the lifestyle component? How highwill these risks be? How will these risks be handled by the actors? In the case of personal genotyping, it is unclear how frequent an adverse polymorphism willoccur. Will every individual have a certain vulnerability to a certain disease or willit only be applicable to a small group of the population or particular populations?Thirdly, dietary advices are subject to uncertainties and still to be developed pro-fessional standards: some will have adverse outcomes, some will not delay thedisease, and some will assume uncertain associations between nutrients, lifestyle,and genetic vulnerabilities. Fourth, with regard to the usefulness of tests it isuncertain to what extent risks indications about obesity and diabetes and othervulnerabilities really inﬂuence people to live healthier and therefore will help toprevent these conditions. Fifth, it is uncertain how and what nutrigenomics productswill be developed and used. Will it be possible to develop more effectively healthimproving products? Or is this too difﬁcult and will nutrigenomics continue to beused in not always justiﬁed health claims as a commercial and marketing tool?
M. Korthals (
R. KomduurApplied Philosophy, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlandse-mail: Michiel.firstname.lastname@example.org
J Agric Environ EthicsDOI 10.1007/s10806-009-9223-0