GMO’s: Ethical Analysis

A society pregnant with expectations yet rife with a variety of ideological, ethical, legal, and personal thinking will struggle with the emergence of scientific technologies that seemingly violates the conscience and practicality of many individuals have, given rise to robust debate as the vehicle of catalytic proportion to provide a platform and framework within which ideas are argued respectfully to seek solutions beneficial to all. The topic of genetically engineered organisms has infused the consciousness of the masses with hope on one hand yet adding fuel to the fiery specter of ethical abuse on the other. It is therefore significant for discussions to highlight the prevailing views of ethics in consideration of the technology’s impact on humanity.

The impact of GMO’s will be the deciding factor for sufficiency in the provision of solutions for humanity’s challenges by providing sustenance through increased production, cutting-edge medical applications, and the technology for shaping a central framework to development and implementation of strategic policies imperative to the survival of nations. The journey to attain sustenance has been tested by the belief and thinking of scientists, politicians, companies, and individuals who are all concern with ethical considerations that have test the norm and conduct of many in trying to distinguish between the right and wrong of GMO’s application, to determine the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. J. Latham (2017) in his work on ethical concerns discuss the significance and concept of ethical thought exploring the rightness or wrongness of the actions, rather than the rightness or wrongness of the consequence of the action of imposing the benefits of biotechnology in various cultures.

The principle of research standards and moral judgment is to maintain the integrity of scientific findings and to examine them from a perspective based on duty or obligation, presenting them in an unbiased manner. The Deontological ethics; moral suitable action, and Teleological Ethics perspective of ethical thought; end results are two distinct approaches offering different viewpoints on the question of ethics raised by the availability and use of GMO’s. Krimsky & Schwab (2017) in discussing the ethical dilemma faced by scientists in the use of GMO’s pointed to the expectation and desire of many to provide the technology as a duty to mankind, instead of a means to an end; that of achieving gains and rewards.

Deontological Ethics

The deontological view of the use and impact of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) holds that an action is determined by conformity to moral rules, seeing the provision of the technology as a responsible duty to humanity in solving the world’s food, medical, and environmental crisis by holding to the moral ground that the use/leverage of the technology does not justify the end results; that of enhancing production via this methodology simply because it is available when the total effect is not known. Deontological ethical position is based on moral issues pointing to GMO technology as tampering with the natural balance of nature, and the actions resulting from its use should be entrenched in values that are instilled in each person. L. A. Mitchell (2016) in an examination of the principles, views, and doctrine of biblical ethics, support the view of the deontological ethics approach for moral turpitude regarding human dignity and universality in any decisions for the use of GMO’s for the benefit of humanity. Motivation and principles are therefore important for an act to be considered right or wrong.

Teleological Ethics

Teleological view of the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) sees justification in its potential and use in driving substantial increases in production and solutions for the economy. The school of thought is that the results gained at the end justified the use of genetically modified organisms to solve the food and medical crisis, instilling a sense of joy and happiness as these problems are solved compared to the least amount of pain and adversity. This approach highlights the benefits of GMO technology to humanity, and the need for decision-makers to take whatever actions is necessary to produce the desired results as it outweighs the call of duty (deontological approach) in deciding on its benefits to all within the economy. The graph below compares the largest nations using the technology to enhance food production and better agricultural practices

According to analysis of the persistent concern over genetically modified crops, the GMO industry report (2012) shows an increase in genetic engineered farming techniques taking hold around the world. The International Service for the Acquisition of Biotech Application provide statistics on the industry that shows increasing growth in global farming has remained in an uninterrupted upward trend since 2012. The US is the world leader and top GMO crop growing country.

Most GMO crops today are developed and grown to assist the producer/farmer in managing:

  • Resistance to plague/insect’s damage
  • Tolerance to herbicides
  • Resistance to plant viruses

The rationality for research standards and moral judgment must be examined in the context of economic decision-making and the prominent ethical theories that guide the actions and reasoning behind motivational perspectives, giving rise to the questions of moral and ethics, thus providing connectivity via pertinence with individuals in the wider community. An explanation of motives and actions is not sufficient to understand varying views on ethics, but that various elements from different theories on ethics will provide analysis for a more profound model of reasoning in understanding human belief and behavior. The Deontological view on ethics is usually seen as performing a moral duty or obligation to humanity and as such GMO technology should not be used if the total effects are unknown. This thought guides the decision that GMO’s should not be consumed until the potential risks are assessed and products are clarified for use. Scientist and lawmakers are therefore taking the decision to protect humanity against the proliferation of GMO’s until the moral concerns are eliminated. Teleological ethics perspective embraces the belief of finding the greatest good for the greatest number of people, with the efficient production of food as a solution to hunger providing the greatest good when biotechnology is used.

The theories of ethical thoughts that have driven the GMO debate shows the correlation between GE food consumption and rejection of use to be striking, and that whichever ethical stance is taken pertinent data be made readily available providing fodder to enrich ongoing dialog. Ongoing education is therefore the key to inform in all impact areas so individuals can make their own decisions in choosing alternate food sources. The incongruity of the debate strikes at the heart of scientific communities where scientists on both side of the ethical aisle are adamant in their stance in support for or against the use of biotechnology in providing solutions for global and domestic problems. However, the mold has been cast and genetically engineered food sources are the future technological solutions robustness of species, increased production and efficiency. It therefore stands to reason that regardless of one’s position on the issue, GMO technology is relevant for providing solutions for the greater good of mankind and as such should not be sidelined as some atrocity. Since its benefits are essential to the betterment of mankind it is imperative for the science community to show improved methodologies for presenting their findings, and reaching a consensus as to the safeness and benefits of embracing GE technologies highlighting the negatives as well as the positives in an unbiased manner. The reality is that every individual regardless of a consensus will ultimately have to make a personal choice in selection of their basic food items, particularly those impacted by GE technology.

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