Because we can, does it mean we should? The ethics of GM foods

08 September 2014

Food is cultural, social and deeply personal, so it’s no surprise that modifications to the way food is produced, distributed and consumed often lead to ethical debates. Developments in the genetic modification (GM) of foods and crops has resulted in a raft of controversies. Ethics can help here. While science determines whether we can safely modify the genetic makeup of certain organisms, ethics asks whether we should. Ethics tries to move beyond factual statements about what is, to evaluative statements about the way we should act towards ourselves, each other and the environment we inhabit. But things are not always so clear-cut. Three areas of ethics can help frame some of the concerns with GM food and crops: virtue, moral status and consequences.