Genetically Modified- Food for thought

[ By on April 27, 2016 ]

There are few matters in society that are as profoundly personal and cultural as food, so it stands to reason that issues over genetically modified (GM) food leads to an ethical debate. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are classified as plant and animal organisms, or microorganisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur in nature by mating, cross-pollination, or natural recombination. The technology enables individual genes to be passed from one organism into another, also between non-related species. Foods produced with GMOs are referred to as GM foods (GMFs). The societal benefits to crops altered by GMOs, are that they produce better yields, have shorter growing periods, and are engineered to be resistant to insects and viruses, yet the health risks to the consumer and the environment remain unclear.

Utilitarian theory holds that we ought always act so that we maximize good consequences and minimize the harmful ones. Prior to an action, the consequences of an act should be considered, and finally choose to do what will create the most happiness and alleviate the most pain. GMFs such as rice enhanced with iron or vitamin A, virus-resistant cassava, or aluminum-tolerant sweet potato, can feed at risk populations in a shorter period of time, in regions of the world where there are limited natural resources. As well, GMFs provide an effective means to produce food and have the potential of eradicating malnutrition, lowering the cost of food to the global consumer and redirect national resources to other needs such as health, education, security and infrastructure.

Researchers with the World Health Organization have identified three areas that GMFs may adversely impact world health and the environment. These areas are; reactions from the transfer of genes from commonly allergenic organisms in protein products to non-allergic organisms, gene transfer of antibiotic resistant genes from GM foods to cells of the body or to bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, and the migration or ‘outcrossing’ of genes from GM crops approved for animal feed or industrial use into conventional crops intended for human consumption or related species in the wild.

Since Utilitarianism focuses on consequences rather that actions, it is necessary to decide what outcome maximizes the good and minimizes the pain and suffering. The Utilitarian sees an immediate need to address the problem of malnutrition and death in the world which outweighs the anticipated and potentially disastrous effects on animals, the environment, and humans in years to come. Balancing productivity, profitability, and environmental health is the key challenge for agricultural sustainability in the future. The promotion of traditional farming practices such as crop diversification and field rotation could supplement, and eventually displace, the need for GM technology to eradicate malnutrition and starvation, and feed the world.

Trackback URL

2 Comments on “Genetically Modified- Food for thought”

  1. Aden

    Kelley Nicholson-Flynn

    [ May 03, 2016 at 9:13 pm ]

    Aden, I know you are interested in taking a global view of many of the issues we discuss. There is a huge chasm between how several European countries view GM foods and how we do here in the US. I wonder if there is anything to learn from examining that.

  2. Aden

    I see where you are coming from when you mention that the benefits from GMFs, such as ending world hunger and providing a useful method of producing food in shorter time periods, but have you considered that maybe in this case the cons outweigh the pros? With genetically modified foods, we are seeing an increasing number of antibiotic resistant genes in the human population and for me that is enough of a reason to end GMFs. Antibiotic resistant genes pose a threat to the whole population in terms of health and medicine. There are organizations that are fighting world hunger (and starting to succeed) so I do not believe that GMFs are necessary in that fight. The harm done to the environment with changes to natural food growing and the effects on that animals that are being fed GMFs add to the cons on this issue of GMFs and GMOs. I believe that in this case the cons outweigh pros of using this method.

Hi Stranger, reply with your thoughts:

Allowed XHTML tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>