GM Crops, the Hubris Argument and the Nature of Agriculture
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In this paper, I investigate the moral status of agricultural biotechnology and, more specifically, genetically modified (GM) crops by employing the hubris argument. The old notion of hubris, given to us by the ancient Greeks, provides a narrative from which we can understand ourselves and technology. Ronald Sandler offers us an understanding of hubris he claims gives us a prima facie reason and a presumption against the use of GM crops. I argue that Sandler’s hubris argument fails for several reasons: (1) Sander and many others fail to have a proper understanding of agriculture as an inherently technological practice which is radically different from ‘nature’; (2) the notions of control and manipulation which are central to the concept of hubris are difficult to understand and use in the context of agriculture; (3) trying to establish a prima facie reason against GM crops runs into serious difficulty since many GM crops are profoundly different from each other; and (4) even if we accept Sandler’s argument of hubris, it actually plays no role in the reasoning and evaluation of the moral status of different GM crops.
KeywordsVirtue ethics Hubris Humility Ronald Sandler GM crops Biotechnology Agriculture
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Per Sandin for being an excellent supervisor and for his valuable feedback on this paper. Thanks also to Sven Ove Hansson and Karin Edvardsson Björnberg for valuable comments. Thanks to William Bülow, Karim Jebari and all my colleagues at KTH for the contribution to this paper from our department seminar.
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