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Ethics and Genetically Modified Foods

March 9, 2019 To: Blogs, GradeCrest Writing Guides

Write an essay of about 1250- 1500 words
Summarize and explain in your own terms what Comstock takes to be some of the key questions we
should ask when trying to assess the potential harms associated with genetically modified foods.
Summarize and explain in your own terms Comstock’s main reasons for concluding that it is ethically
justifiable to pursue GM crops and foods. Is the quest for genetically modified crops and foods ethically
justifiable, as Comstock suggest? If you agree with Comstock then, using good reasons and well-
developed arguments suggest some ways in with Comstock’s account or position might be defended,
strengthened, or improved. If you disagree with him then, using good reasons and well-developed
arguments, explain the basis for your disagreement.
You have to use texted evidence which means you have to put the page
the number that supports your position, show where your claim is located in
the article.
Helpful questions:
1- What is the harm envisaged?
2- What information do we have?
3- What are the options?
4- What ethical principals should guide us?
5- How do we reach moral closure?

Ethics and Genetically Modified Foods

The ongoing debate of whether or not to adopt genetically modified food has taken hold of most discussions between different interest groups including scientists, consumer advocates, and consumers themselves. The foods are made from foreign genes that are inserted into other plants to boost their yields. Nonetheless, some of the consumer advocates have taken ethical grounds and stood firm in their opposition to such foods. Comstock states that in delving deeper into the ideologies of the consumer advocates, applied ethics comes into play to determine the soundness of their arguments (p.484). Before Comstock plates his questions, he recounts that ethically reasonable conclusion must rest either on empirical or normative claims. Based on the understanding of the frameworks upon which ethics operates, it is justifiable to look at the hypothetical questions that span the debate on genetically modified crops and foods.

The Body of the Essay

The first question that Comstock expresses is whether it is ethically justifiable to produce genetically modified foods and crops (Comstock, 2002, p.484). In answering this, it is pertinent that epistemic humility is adapted to take into account the claim by different ethicists that the response to the question is wide open. The second fundamental issue that has much propensity towards the concept is of whether or not there are legal ramifications for GM foods to be grown and marketed at the same time. Once again, the answer to the question rests with the consumers who by nature are citizens who have the power to vote and shop in the markets in making their decision to the answer (Comstock, 2002, p.484). The responses to the questions are best answered by using reasoning, feelings, conscience, and intuitions. However, since scientists are no experts or scientists, they have to rest their factual understanding of the opinions of the scientists. Therefore, the answers lie with the ethical responsibility of the scientists who engage GM technology into real-world systems (Comstock, 2002, p.484). Even so, scientist’s moral responsibility is founded on two major values: epistemological and personal values. Therefore, even as the debates take a harder twist, the public trust in the scientists based on the two values should not be lost as they are bound to act as good stewards of the public trust accorded to them by the layman citizens.

The Information

There is a framework that can be used to settle the ethical objections being raised on the potentiality of GM foods and crops to harm living things and persons alike. However, in this case, the harm might or might not be justified by overlooking the benefits alone. Instead, a series of questions have to be answered systematically in the quest to address the concerns of ethicists (485). The first questions concern the harm that is envisaged that is best answered through a critical evaluation of the level of severity of the harm in question. Furthermore, the stakeholders that are at risk and the extent of the harm should also be examined. Still yet, the justice, as well as the fairness of the potential recipients of the harm, must be assessed to determine whether the subjects of the harms are likely to suffer the same as the beneficiaries of such actions (Comstock, 2002, p.484). The second major question is of the information that is available. To make sound and justifiable ethical judgments it is critical to have a deeper understanding of the scientific facts. The core concerns here are whether the harm is being presented reliably, is it an opinion or hearsay, and whether there is missing information pertinent for decision making. The last issue of major concern when stirring the ethical issue debate is the available options. Through this, one can coin a creative problem-solving approach with win-win alternatives that cover the interest of either side being protected proactively. The objectives of the stakeholders and the corresponding number of methods available to fulfill the objectives as well as the advantages and disadvantages attached to each method also warrants as an issue of concern in this context (Comstock, 2002, p. 486). The last item of concern in the list of questions asked when addressing the debate is the ethical principles that guide the arguments.

Three ethical principles have been widely researched and accepted and their applicability is unquestionable. The first is the rights theory that champions for human beings to be treated as independent individuals and not just as a means that justifies an end. The second one is the utilitarian theory that we must act in a manner that our actions maximize good consequences and minimize the detrimental consequences (Comstock, 2002, p.486). The three must be systematically and sequentially applied in solving the aura of confusion that has taken hold of the whole world. The convergence of the three is an implication that there are moral grounds to perform an action.

It is also mandatory to look at how one can achieve moral closure where the decisions of the stakeholders and their views are incorporated in making final stands. Most importantly, there should not be any form of inclination to consensus or compromise in making ethical justifications. The only thing left then is to stand with the proven truth however bitter it may be as moral closure is a sad fact in life altogether and at times the right decision has to be made even though doing so oversteps ethics (Comstock, 2002, p. 487).

In the process of reflecting the ethical issues involved in the use of GM in agriculture two schools of objections arise: extrinsic and intrinsic objections. The former is more inclined to the potential harm following the adoption of GMOs while the latter alleges that the process of making GMOs is questionable in one way or the other. The extrinsic class of view bases its argument on the anticipated results of the whole action that is deemed disastrous to animals and nature. A plethora of potential harms underlies the argument. Based on this view, the author contends that even though GMOs can be adopted, there must be some accountability such that there are appropriate caution and responsibility (Comstock, 2002, p.487). Therefore, countries adopting GMOs must take responsibility and ensure that the whole systems in place to handle the same assure safety.

The second school of thought would automatically halt the production of GMOs. The extrinsic view cautions that the whole process of making GMOs is objectionable being that genetic engineering is unnatural. The alternative option of engaging in biotechnology makes one play God, invent the world-changing technology, cross species boundaries and is commodifying life (Comstock, 2002, p.487). At some point in his arguments, Comstock takes a religious approach in defining his stand on GM foods and crops. In his opinion, Comstock believes that unnatural and religious objections are unsound due to their counterintuitive outcomes. Furthermore, the results of the two are also ambiguous and contentious and are thus more of intrinsic objections. Here Comstock takes a twist on his view on GM foods and crops. In reality, people use the precautionary measure when it comes to food because it is their health that is in question.

Any negative information on certain foods reshapes our stand on that food however much the information is biased. In this case, the source of the information becomes useless. The belief that GM foods would ruin the world is an unsupported claim because, on the other hand, it aids in solving world hunger (Comstock, 2002, p. 497). Comstock believes there should be an open conversation about the topic of GMOs everyone has their opinion. I agree with Comstock in every sense since where both sides the pro and anti-GMOs have their opinions that should be expressed and common ground reached. The only limit to these opinions should be some scientific knowledge other than emotions that will lead to biases, panic, and anarchy.

Three considerations made Comstock change his earlier stand on GMOs. First, there is the right of people in different countries to choose to adopt GM technology and thus the human rights perspective (Comstock, 2002, p. 497). Secondly, there is a balance between the benefits and the harms as well as environmental health from GM technology- Utilitarianism in play. Lastly, the wisdom of encouraging innovation, discovery, and control of GM technology (Comstock, 2002, p. 497). All three are possible when considering different points of views.

Conclusion

There is a biased belief that the production of GM foods making many people oppose its authenticity and importance. Yes, there is the darker side of GM technology just like any other invention, but the benefits overshadow the harm for the common good of many. Therefore, as an important rejection method, the precautionary method becomes the best channel to outdo the dangerous theories (Comstock, 2002, p. 497).  Even so, there must be a series of supported claims to back the arguments. There should be room for acceptance of information through being open-minded. Specifically, the information that is well backed by scientific assertions and data should be embraced as rejecting the ideas could be for the benefit of the environment and vice versa.

References

Comstock, G. (2010). Ethics and genetically modified foods. In Food Ethics (pp. 49-66). Springer, New York, NY.

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