This paper examines the ethical and social questions that underlie the present UK discussion whether genetically modified (GM) crops and organic agriculture can coexist within a given region or are mutually exclusive. A European Commission report predicted practical difficulties in achieving sufficient separation distances to guarantee lower threshold levels proposed for GM material in organic produce. Evidence of gene flow between some crops and their wild relatives has been a key issue in the recent government consultation to consult on whether or not to authorize commercial planting of GM crops, following the results of the current UK farm scale trials. The admixture of imported Bacillus thuringiensis transgenes into landrace varieties of Mexican maize also presents difficulties. An ethical evaluation is made of the claim that organic growers should expect protection from adventitious traces of GM constructs in their products. The assumptions behind notions like "purity" and "contamination" are examined, together with their underlying views of nature and human intervention. The 2001 UK Agriculture and Environmental Biotechnology Commission report is relevant to these issues. While the government wishes to promote the UK biotechnology industry and is under pressure from US claims of trade restraint, a strong organic lobby demands purity from GM contamination. In arriving at policy decisions, the role of the virtue of tolerance is considered in post-modern and Christian ethical contexts.
|Publication Title||Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics|
|Author Address||Society, Religion and Technology Project, Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org|
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