Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 857–870 | Cite as

“First Things First”: Application of Islamic Principles of Priority in the Ethical Assessment of Genetically Modified Foods

  • Noor Munirah Isa
  • Saadan Man


Advancement of modern agricultural biotechnology has brought various potential benefits to humankind, but at the same time ethical concerns regarding some applications such as genetically modified foods (GMF) have been raised among the public. Several questions are being posed; should they utilize such applications to improve quality of their life, or should they refrain in order to save themselves from any associated risk? What are the ethical principles that can be applied to assess these applications? By using GMF as a case study, this paper discusses possible answers to these questions from Islamic perspective. Such answers are based on the understanding of the Islamic concept of maslahah (benefit) and mafsadah (harm) as well as the Islamic principles of priority. There is no specific GMF that has been declared as unlawful by Muslim scholars thus far. Nevertheless, they generally state that any GMF that contains unlawful substance is prohibited in Islam. Such statement can be understood since Islam puts highest priority to preserve shari’ah (Islamic law) which prescribes the lawful and unlawful things in human life. Priorities have also been given to preserve human health and environment therefore any GMF that may inflict harm on both entities is also considered as unlawful.


Genetically modified foods Islamic bioethics Ethical assessment Islamic principles of priority Maqasid al-shari’ah Maslahah 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science and Technology Studies, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia
  2. 2.Department of Fiqh and Usul, Academy of Islamic StudiesUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia

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