Should GM food get labelled?

by Bubble on April 2, 2015 - 5:28pm

Genetically modified foods (or GM foods) are foods in which the DNA has been altered with the genetic material of other organisms, thus, allowing a lower price of production and a better resistance against plant diseases. In today’s society, GM products take a very big part in the food market. About 70% of all processed foods in the United States contain at least one genetically modified ingredient (http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/science/gmfoods/). Many debates have been opened on the issue, and one of the main concerns in Canada and in US is the labelling of the GM products. From one side, there is a broad scientific consensus that GM food causes no greater risk to human health than conventional food and that labels are unnecessary. From the other side, people concerned about the safety and environmental issues insist that they want to be able to choose what is found in their plates.

“We don’t need labels on genetically modified foods” is an article that I found on The Washington Post which is opting against the labelling of GM products. The article is however having many ethically troubling issues. We can easily see an important influence exercised by the multinational corporation such as Monsanto, which, not only encourages buyers to adore GMO products for its benefit, but also tries to mislead and manipulate the readers.

The article begins with a statistic: “EIGHTY-EIGHT percent of scientists polled by the Pew Research Center in January said genetically modified food is generally safe to eat. Only 37 percent of the public shared that view. The movement to require genetically modified food products to be labeled both reflects and exploits this divergence between informed opinion and popular anxiety.” ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/we-dont-need-labels-telling-us-ou...)

I would put emphasis on the word “informed” and “popular anxiety”. In many parts of the text, the author makes reference to the credibility of the scientists and the multinational corporations. On the other hand, he plays with the words to create a power dynamic in which the pro-GM food people are superior to the con-GM food people whose worries are considered as results of being uninformed. He makes his opponent seems untrustworthy by treating their statements as rumors and products of overwhelming fear. For example, it argues that the GM food debate is a “classic example of activists overstating risk based on fear of what might be unknown and on a distrust of corporations.” Such argument is very narrow and rude. It dismisses all the negative effects that agriculture of GMO brings to the environment, and it personally attacks the opponents making them looks like cowards. The issue is then not represented ethically, since that, from a deontological point of view, if honesty and respect are part of universal maxims, such argument is undeniably dishonesty and disrespectful.

The author also suggests that investment in GM food is the solution to save people from starving, and as such, the government should avoid regulations that generate unnecessary anxiety and keeps people from buying the product: “This isn’t just a matter of saving consumers from a little unnecessary expense or anxiety. If GM food becomes an economic nonstarter for growers and food companies, the world’s poorest will pay the highest price. GM crops that flourish in challenging environments without the aid of expensive pesticides or equipment can play an important role in alleviating hunger and food stress in the developing world”( http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/we-dont-need-labels-telling-us-ou...)

I would argue, from a deontological point of view, that the benefits of the new technology doesn’t make the article morally right since The Washington Post is obviously influenced by the multinational corporations which basically promote the product for its own profit. However, if the article could be led by a media with a more neutralized perspective, and having more diverse opinions. Then, assuming that the author is having a concern beyond profit, a deontologist may opt for it to be ethical, suggesting that we have a duty to help the poorest and. In opposition, nevertheless, a teleologist whose summun bonum (ultimate goal) is the family’s health could argue that knowing what are the genetic food helps them make choices of what they want to put in their plates.

Comments

Genetically modified food is a very controversial topic and it is important to shed light on it like you have. You have clearly done significant research on the topic by exploring a few articles, which is great.
However, I do not agree with your reasoning on this issue. Within your first argument, I do not think it is justifiable to argue based on what one author had wrote in reference to the larger issue at hand. If you were looking at that one specific article, you could argue using deontology that the author is not morally just, however the issue that you have raised deals with labeling GM foods, not an authors opinion of it. I think it would create a stronger argument to use a teleological approach by stating that considering these foods could potentially be harmful for the environment and on peoples health, the end goal is also potentially not the greatest good for society and it is therefore not morally just to continue without labeling GM foods.
Within your second argument, regarding the GM regulations hindering the poor, this would be morally just using a utilitarian approach because it would be the greatest good for the greatest number and the environment is not a person. To argue that it would pose a threat on many peoples health and is it therefore not morally just would be another valid argument if there were an emphasis in your article on its adverse health effects.
I hope I have been able to expose another view regarding the ethics of this topic.

About the author