NEM-32806 Dilemmas in Food Safety and Security


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper0
Group work3
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. MTW Vervoort
Lecturer(s)dr. MTW Vervoort
dr. G Smant
prof. dr. ir. FPM Govers
dr. ir. JJ Fros
dr. PW de Jong
Examiner(s)dr. G Smant

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

PHP-21303 Fundamentals of Plant Pathology and Entomology; PBR-22303 Plant Breeding 1 or equivalent BSc courses


This course focuses on current dilemmas in global food safety and food security with a particular emphasis on the control of plant diseases, pests, and weeds. For example, despite major efforts to cultivate food crops without the application of pesticides, most of the global food production is still depending on chemical control of plant diseases and pests. Some experts even claim that it will be impossible to feed the world without the use of chemical control. This course discusses different aspects of chemical control of plant diseases and pests, including factors affecting the efficacy active ingredients of pesticides as well as their impact on the environment and human health. Genetic engineering is often portrayed as a strategy to reduce our dependency on pesticides in the control of plant pathogens and pests in food production. Recent genetic engineering strategies for the control of plant diseases and pests will be discussed to give an overview of the merits of each strategy and their implications for food safety and food security. The implementation of new technologies is dependent on the degree of public acceptance. This course includes an introduction to factors that determine public risk perception with regard to (bio)technologies.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain and illustrate the scientific, technological, and societal aspects of current dilemmas in food safety and security with particular emphasis on plant biotechnology and plant sciences;
- explain the impact of different factors related to risk communication (i.e. multiple messages, psychological processes) on the public perception of biotechnologies; - identify drivers of change related to the future of agriculture-related research and policy;
- analyse the positions and influence of key stakeholders in complex food systems;
- analyse and evaluate research and policy papers on current dilemmas in food safety and security;
- write a position paper ('white paper') on a specific dilemma in food safety and security;
- orally debate this position in a group.


This course will include lectures on dilemmas associated with recent developments in the application of pesticides, synthetic biology and other types of genetic engineering, and the use of exotic species for pest control. One of the key topics of the course concerns the assessment of risk associated with new technologies, and the communication of risk through the media. The lectures will also address specific ethical aspects of food safety and security, as value judgments have such a major impact on risk assessments. The lectures will include case studies centred on current dilemmas (e.g. pesticide residues). The students will analyse and evaluate different arguments in favour (i.e. benefits) and against (i.e. risks) of the use of new technologies. The students will participate in a scenario-planning workshop to identify drivers of change in complex systems. Scenario-planning as a methodology itself increasingly forms the foundation of national and international policies on dilemmas in food safety and security. The students will collaboratively write a position paper (white paper) on a specific dilemma in food safety and security. At the end of the course the students will have a plenary debate during which they will defend different positions regarding dilemmas in food security and safety.


Written assignments: 70 %
Written exam, open questions: 30%


Portfolios with several relevant research and policy papers will be provided at the start of the course.

Restricted Optional for: MPBPlant BiotechnologyMSc4WD