Food Biotechnology

Volume 111 of the series Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology pp 229-264


Food and Agricultural Biotechnology: A Summary and Analysis of Ethical Concerns

  • Paul B. ThompsonAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Michigan State University Email author 
  • , William HannahAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Michigan State University

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The range of social and ethical concerns that have been raised in connection with food and agricultural biotechnology is exceedingly broad. Many of these deal with risks and possible outcomes that are not unique to crops or animals developed using recombinant DNA. Food safety, animal welfare, socio-economic and environmental impacts, as well as shifts in power relations or access to technology raise concerns that might be generalized to many technologies. These aspects of the controversy over biotechnology are analyzed below as elements of general technological ethics, and key norms or values pertinent to each of these categories are specified in some detail. However, a number of special concerns unique to the use of rDNA in manipulating plant and animal genomes have been raised, and these are reviewed as well. The chapter concludes by reviewing two broad policy strategies for responding to the issues, one involving labels and consumer consent, the other applying the precautionary principle.

Animal welfare Environmental risk Farm structure Food safety Libertarianism Precautionary principle Utilitarianism