Although there has been a wealth of research both supporting and raising concerns about the safety and benefits of GM foods, the ethics of GMO for mass consumption remains a moot point. McLean suggests that the safety of such foods are not the only ethical concern, but “sustainability”, and the “just distribution of nutritious food” also need to be considered; she suggests that there is a necessity for “thoughtful regulation that addresses necessary human and environmental protections” and not merely a concern for greater profits (McLean, 2005, n.p.). McLean’s observation about the profits that motivate much research and distribution of GM foods is the reason I believe that it is unethical to produce and distribute GM foods for mass consumption. In the current economic and global political environment, food production, consumption, and distribution are all controlled by a wealthy and profit-hungry minority, and in these circumstances it is unlikely that the true safety and dangers of GM products can be properly assessed. One ethical viewpoint is that it is important to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, and with the profit motivations of GMO in mind it seems unlikely that such products represent the greatest good.
One article which supports this idea appeared in Scientific American in 2013. This article argued that the potential benefits of GM foods for addressing problems of world poverty and global food shortages are outweighed by the unknown potential risks; while the article acknowledged the evidence in favour of GM crops, it argued strongly that further testing is needed. Interestingly, the article pointed out that one reason for the deficiency in adequate testing is that funding for GM research “heavily favors” support of GM foods, because such funding is provided by companies and organizations who profit from the sale of GM seeds (Freedman, 2013, n.p.). This supports the idea that the use of GM in the current global environment is unethical.
Arguing more strongly in favour of GM foods is an article from 2015 in the New York Times, which suggests that the anti-GM movement is largely fuelled by a similar desire for profts on the part of large food producers. The article suggests that food companies capitalize on the fears and beliefs of consumers “regardless of whether it is scientifically justified” (Brody, 2015, n.p.). Although this evidence is presented in support of GM foods, it further highlights the way in which the motivation for profit may provide a biased picture of the true merits and disadvantages of GMO, and thereby supports the idea that the use of GM may be unethical.
Overall, it seems that for GM to be used ethically for mass food production, unbiased and objective research and testing would need to be undertaken on a global scale, to ensure that a true picture of the risks and advantages formed the basis of GM decisions for the disadvantaged populations of the world.
- Brody, J. E. (2015, June 8). “Fears, not Facts, Support GMO-Free Food.” Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/08/fears-not-facts-support-gmo-free-food/.
- Freedman, D. H. (2013, September 1). “The Truth about Genetically Modified Food.” Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-truth-about-genetically-modified-food/.
- McLean, M. R. (2005, April 15). “The Future of Food: An Introduction to the Ethical Issues in Genetically Modified Foods.” Retrieved from: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/medical/conference/presentations/genetically-modified-foods.html.