Problems with terminology

Some of the terms in common use are:

• Biotechnology

• "Modern" biotechnology

• Genetic engineering

• Transgenic

Terminology is always a confounding factor in discussion and debate around any technical field. Those not "in the know" are dis-advantaged, especially when opponents use a myriad of confusing and unknown terms. A particular problem arises when specific terms are used, which, although everyone claims to know what they mean, are used with differing definitions. When this happens, someone may claim to understand an opponent's point whilst completely misunderstanding their argument. This situation, which is common in the agbiotech debate, is actually worse than debates in which terms are totally unknown; standard definitions can then be sought. To complicate matters further, some "common" terms are not even defined consistently among the experts and regulators who use them in official capacities.

It is fair to assume that nanotechnology, a recent technological development replete with technical terminology and jargon, will face similar confusion and ignorance. The degree of such confusion will depend on the degree to which nanotechnology employs common words in its technical or semi-technical vocabulary. The fewer the better in general, as more confusion and ambiguity arises when common words are appropriated or usurped for technical nomenclature.

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