Ethics and Genetically Modified Foods

In David M. Kaplan (ed.), The Philosophy of Food. University of California Press. pp. 122-139 (2012)
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Gary Comstock considers whether it is ethically justified to pursue genetically modified (GM) crops and foods. He first considers intrinsic objections to GM crops that allege that the process of making GMOs is objectionable in itself. He argues that there is no justifiable basis for the objections — i.e. GM crops are not intrinsically ethically problematic. He then considers extrinsic objections to GM crops, including objections based on the precautionary principle, which focus on the potential harms that may result from the adoption of GM organisms. He argues that these concerns have some merit. However, they do not justify giving up GM crops altogether. Instead, they require that GM crops be developed carefully and with appropriate oversight. Comstock then presents the positive case for GM crops that he endorses. It is based on three considerations: (i) the right of people to choose to adopt GM technology; (ii) the balance of likely benefits over harms to consumers and the environment from GM technology; and (iii) the wisdom of encouraging discovery, innovation, and careful regulation of GM technology.

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Gary Comstock
North Carolina State University


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