, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 59-73
Date: 24 Jun 2008

An Ethical Assessment of Cisgenesis in Breeding Late Blight Resistant Potato

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Abstract

Because of objections and worries related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the approval of GMO crops is a long and expensive process. Recently some researchers argued that a specific form of genetic modification, cisgenesis, would be safer and ethically more acceptable and therefore require a less stringent assessment. In this paper cisgenesis, as defined in recent literature, is ethically evaluated. After some general remarks on ethics in science and technology, two different basic attitudes towards reality are sketched as an evaluative framework for interventions in nature. Combined with general characteristics of biotechnology in agriculture and a view of the role of genetic information in organisms, that framework helps to formulate an ethical distinction between and evaluation of cisgenesis and transgenesis. It is argued that there is a significant ethical difference between transgenesis and cisgenesis, but that nevertheless any form of genetic modification should be integrated in a broader normative understanding of agriculture in order to work towards a more sustainable agriculture.