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Value Assumptions in Risk Assessment

A Case Study of the Alachlor Controversy

Conrad G. Brunk, Lawrence Haworth, and Brenda Lee

Hardcover 166 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-200-9

Release Date: August 1991


Hardcover edition is out of print.  

Paper 166 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-266-5

Release Date: September 1995

Online discount: 25%

$36.99  $27.74


Selected by Choice as one of the outstanding publications for 1991.

Value Assumptions in Risk Assessment is a case study of the Alachlor Controversy of 1985 in which the Canadian Minister of Agriculture cancelled the registration of the herbicide alachlor. This book demonstrates the opinion that risk assessments by scientific experts as well as ordinary citizens are guided by dominant values held by the assessors. It examines what these values typically are, how they work within a risk assessment, and some implications of reconsidering risk debates as primarily debates about values.

Throughout, the book draws the conclusion that such debates are not primarily debates about science itself, but rather consist of political debate among different value frameworks, different ways of thinking about moral values, different conceptions of society, and different attitudes toward technology and toward risk-taking itself. The larger question in the analysis of these risk assessments is which set of values will ultimately prevail.

Conrad Brunk is professor of philosophy and former director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria (UVic). Dr. Brunk is a regular consultant to the Canadian government and international organizations on environmental and health risk management and biotechnology and is the author of numerous articles in journals and books on ethical issues in technology, the environment, law, and professional practice.

Lawrence Haworth is a professor of philosophy at the University of Waterloo and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; he also holds the title of Distinguished Professor Emeritus. Articles of his have appeared in Dialogue, Philosophy of Science, American Philosophical Quarterly, Ethics, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Harvard Business Review, American Institute of Planners Journal, Educational Theory, Leisure Studies, Environments, and Plan Canada, among others. He has contributed chapters to a number of books, including The Inner Citadel, The Possibility of Aesthetic Experience, Power, Poverty, and Urban Policy, Social Ethics, Urban Problems, and Concepts in Social and Political Philosophy. He is the author of Autonomy (1986), The Good City (1963), Decadence and Objectivity (1977), and a co-author of A Textured Life (WLU Press,1999.)


“Any of us who have been involved in decision-making processes that involve risk assessment will immediately recognize the similarities between this example and our own experiences. It is very valuable to have this illuminating case study so thoroughly presented to us.”

— John Jackson, Alternatives

“Highly recommended for college and university libraries, and for technology-based entrepreneurs and their regulators.”

— T.R. Blackburn, American Chemical Society, Choice