Monsanto is among the companies specializing in the business of genetically modified seeds and herbicides that promise to maximize production capacity among farmers. It has played a major role in initiating agricultural changes through biotechnologically advanced products with support from governing agencies making the corporation of great controversy in America. The ethical problem is the implications of supplying genetically modified seeds to basic life forms on the planet, as well as the individuals who consume products from the seeds. Genetic engineering is controversial; however, the nature of the business being conducted by Monsanto is creating ethical problems.
Based on research regarding the company activities, the issue being addressed is the corporate activities that are intended to maximize commercial profits despite the implications of genetically altered seeds and application of herbicides to natural soil formations. The company is being regarded as being worse than pharmaceutical companies or weapons manufacturing because its products are threatening the very foundation that sustains natural processes through genetic variations. Since its inception, the company model has been to dominate the seed and pesticide market, disregarding the subsequent implications. Expectations are that the company is supposed to behave with human decency and respect for life and natural creations rather than altering their genetic compositions for maximal business benefits.
The moral position is that corporate activities linked to Monsanto are wrong, unethical, and disrespectful to human life, as well as the supporting ecosystem. This position is supported by the ethical framework of utilitarianism. It holds that best moral actions are the ones that maximize utility towards their target entities. As per the theory, utility is defined as the outcomes of any action, and this concept should be performed based on the quality of pleasure, focus on rules, and advocacy for reduction of negative consequences. Although wide-ranging characteristics can be applied to this rule, utilitarianism is best fitting to this case because it provides a standard for passing a moral judgment on Monsanto’s corporate activities (Crane & Matten, 2013).
Utilitarianism is lending itself to this situation in several ways from the way Monsanto conducts its business and the implications of its products. To begin with, ethical frameworks dictate that corporations must ensure that their activities do not cause suffering or detriment to their society. However, the company has indicated its willingness to violate the moral precept of maximizing the utility of its customers and general population by choosing death over life. In other words, genetically modified products compromise life, and herbicides are introducing toxicities being consumed by humans, as well as animals using the crops for food.
As per the ethical framework, consequences of any actions are the ones that determine if it is morally right or wrong. In this case, genetically modified corn from Monsanto has undergone experimentation only to find out that it accumulates a toxic chemical inside the corn kernel. This is among the parts eaten by humans, and, and a scientific study indicated that feeding the same products to laboratory rats made them grow tumors. If the experimentation animals succumbed to cancer tumors, it means that humans can experience the same fate making it unethical for the company to provide genetically modified products while it knows the consequences.
In addition to being lethal, the company is preferring secrecy against regulatory frameworks that promote corporations to disclose information to stakeholders. In fact, the company is spending millions trying to defeat the California bill that would require genetically modified products to be labeled appropriately. While other companies are preferring to provide more disclosures as part of their social responsibility, ethical requirements, and regulatory provisions, Monsanto is instead fighting against this norm. The reason is that it does not want consumers to know the truth about the kind of foods they purchase. From a consequentialist perspective, hiding the truth from customers is unethical since they are being misled to make decisions without sufficient information.
The best moral deed is the one that maximizes the well-being of sentient beings. This is the primal rule of the utilitarian ethical framework. However, it seems that the environment is a victim of the genetic modifications companies especially the herbicides being produced by Monsanto. For instance, a roundup has been recorded to devastate soils by contaminating them, killing microbial life, and introducing toxicity in surface and underground water that is subsequently consumed by people. As per this argument, destruction of the environment in order to maximize commercial benefits raises ethical questions regarding the kind of products being sold under the name of increasing crop yields (Singer, 2014).
Taking the stance that distribution of genetically modified seeds, production of harmful herbicides, and ignorance of their implications on nature and humans is unethical is supported by the premise that nature is being violated instead of receiving honor. The nature has engineered organisms in such ways that they balance the ecosystem, their survival, and conserve natural genetic development. However, Monsanto has violated these provisions by overriding healthy genes in plants with poison oriented ones that produce insecticides within the crops. These are the same chemical components that are being consumed to cause detrimental effects on humans, animals and nature.
The next premise supporting the stance is based on the nature in which products undergo testing before being released to the mass market. It is true that genetically modified products and toxic herbicides cause cancer, infertility, and other disorders. Instead of conducting long-term tests to confirm these effects, scientists involved in the testing do not do the testing for more than 90 days before declaring them safe for consumption. The perception of such undertakings is unethical, inane, and brutally deceptive. It is a fabrication of scientific results so that Monsanto can make increased sales and dominate the world of genetically modified products.
Utilitarianism is applicable in finding the solution to the featured moral problem in terms of developing solutions that maximize utility without causing negative implications. Using the theoretical framework, it is possible to justify laws like the Californian Proposition 37, eliminate conflicts of interests between governing agencies and private corporations, and introduce guidelines for long-term researches on the effects of genetically modified elements on human health. In addition, the framework is supposed to compel companies to adhere to moral provisions of providing customers with sufficient information to make informed choices since they cannot separate which products are genetically modified from others.
Finally, the theory has the capability to ensure that economic activity of farmers using the harmful herbicides is not affected through education. Therefore, it is justifiable to state that utilitarianism has a superior solution to other frameworks like deontology. Using deontology, the company is supposed to follow rules without the flexibility of conducting experiments that lead to innovations that are not covered by existing laws. So, the company is limited in its activities by prevalent regulatory frameworks hence the inefficiencies of deontology. However, by judging individual actions as right or wrong, utilitarianism becomes superior as it allows the creation of solutions that reflect situational challenges, and at the same time, provide frameworks for their governance in terms of adherence to moral laws, provisions of ethical provisions, regulatory requirements, and public concerns. Its superiority is also based on the ability to instill self-regulation as per industry specifications.
- Crane, A., & Matten, D. (2013). Business Ethics. New Jersey, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Singer, P. (2014). Practical Ethics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.