Over the last few years, the use of GMO produce has increasingly gained attraction. The issue of non-genetically modified organic produce is a subject that has been highly controversial in recent years. While science has been used to determine the safety of the GMO organic produce, ethics plays a fundamental role in evaluating the manner in which we should act. Precisely, ethics asks whether we should indulge in GMO products or not. Due to the numerous ethical issues raised by GMO products, the promotion and use of locally-grown, non-genetically modified, organic produce, if cost-effective should be made a mandatory ethical obligation for all participants in the field of culinary art.
One of the core reasons why cost-effective and locally grown non-GMO produces should be a mandatory ethical responsibility for all players in the culinary field is due to the consequences that arise from GM foods and crops. A significant portion of GM foods has negative consequences for not only an individual’s body but also the population and the environment at large. Although most scientists are in agreement that GM foods are safe for human consumption, the issue of long-term health effects and the consequences thereafter are two issues that have not been accorded due attention. Researchers have shown that GM products have an impact on patenting laws of farmers as well as the risk of contaminating other farm produces exists. Thus, making the promotion and use of locally grown non-GM products and food, if less costly, mandatory, will play a major role in curbing the negative consequences of GM foods and crops.
The second reason as to why the use and promotion of cost-effective non-GM products should be made compulsory is due to the morality of nature. Most of the GM products have raised immense concerns regarding their moral status. The major question that arises in such a scenario is, “does the modification of the genetic make-up of an organism represent a right or wrong dignity or integrity to the organism?” The answer to the question is significantly based on the notion that nature has dignity and interest that goes far beyond those of humans. Most of the individuals who support GMO’s do not readily accept the argument since it essentially depends on the idea of nature as well as due to its metaphysical overtones. An epitome of such can be derived from facts of nature such as the belief that raw milk is good because it is natural. In a similar manner, GM crops are wrong since they are not natural.
Thirdly, the ethics of non-GM foodstuffs can be developed based on virtues and vices associated with them. A prominent question that arises here is “does engaging in the development of GM foodstuffs erode virtues while promoting vice?” The case of golden rice is an epitome of an argument that is virtue-based. The golden rice is a strain that is modified to embrace a precursor of Vitamin A known as beta-carotene. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that over 250 million children who have not commenced attending school suffer from a deficiency of vitamin A. Developers of the golden rice argue that they have the capacity to supply about 60 percent of vitamin A that is recommended for daily consumption. Nevertheless, critics argue that the GM technology employed to produce golden rice is only but an industrial agriculture solution meant to address a problem caused by the same industrial agriculture. Golden rice farmers in nations such as Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines have been termed as being anti-science Luddites who have played a major role in the loss of lives. Thus, as long as locally-produced non-GMO foodstuffs and crops are cost-efficient, making them compulsory for players in the field of culinary will go a long way in curbing ethical issues raised by genetically modified organisms.
Last but not least, while research has demonstrated that genetically-modified technology can reduce chemical pesticide use by nearly 40%, increase yields by over 20% and boost farmers’ profits by as much as 68%, it still isn’t clear whether GMO food is substantially equivalent to non-modified food in terms of genome, metabolome and proteome (Klümper and Qaim; Qaim and Zilberman). As Bakshi pointed out, when new genes are introduced into crops, genetically modified food may end up containing allergenic substances that have been found to be detrimental to human health. Furthermore, farmers’ growing reliance on antibiotic-resistant genes to protect their crops may trigger the emergence of new bacterial strains that are resistant to available antibiotics. On the one hand, genetic engineers tend to argue that genetically-modified food is more nutritious than non-modified food because it contains larger amounts of essential nutrients such as vitamins and proteins. On the other hand, many skeptical researchers believe that genetic modification can also deprive food of key nutrients that have always played a key role in preventing various chronic diseases. For instance, modified crops may contain lower amounts of phytoestrogens, which are defined as plant-derived hormones that prevent cancer and heart disease (Bakshi).
Analyzing the advantages and potential disadvantages of genetic modification, one can easily understand why the use of GMO produce still represents a highly controversial topic. From an economic standpoint, genetic medication has enabled rural communities across the developing world to benefit from enhanced chemical pest control (meaning that pest-related yield losses have been reduced substantially) and higher yield gains. From a public health standpoint, GMO food could potentially help eliminate hunger and starvation in poor countries while slowly deteriorating consumers’ health. In view of these considerations, it is about time policymakers asked themselves whether it is ethically correct to jeopardize the lives of billions of people just so certain regions can produce larger amounts of food. It is only by regulating the use of GMO produce that scientists will be able to monitor the impact of genetically-modified food on human health, thus assisting engineers in developing perfectly safe genetic engineering techniques.
- Bakshi, Anita. “Potential Adverse Health Effects of Genetically Modified Crops.” Journal
Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, vol. 6, no. 3, 2003, pp. 211-25.
- Klümper, Wilhelm and Matin Qaim. “A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified
Crops.” PLoS One, vol. 3, no. 9, 2014.
- Qaim, Matin and David Zilberman. “Yield effects of genetically modified crops in developing
countries.” Science, vol. 299, no. 5608, 2003, pp. 900-902.