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Contamination, crop trials, and compatibility. (Special issue: Ethics as a dimension of agrifood policy: selected papers from the 4th Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics)

By D. Bruce

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Abstract

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.

Date 2003
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 16
Issue 6
Pages 595-604
ISBN/ISSN 1187-7863
DOI 10.1023/B:JAGE.0000004961.84390.ee
Language English
Author Address Society, Religion and Technology Project, Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK. srtp@srtp.org.uk
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Tags
  1. Agriculture
  2. Biotechnology
  3. British Isles
  4. Commonwealth of Nations
  5. Crops
  6. Developed countries
  7. Ecological agriculture
  8. Ethics
  9. Europe
  10. Genetically engineered organisms
  11. Genetically engineered plants
  12. Genetically modified organisms
  13. Genetically modified plants
  14. Genetic engineering
  15. Genetic manipulation
  16. Genetics
  17. Great Britain
  18. OECD countries
  19. organic culture
  20. organic farming
  21. peer-reviewed
  22. Plants
  23. Social psychology and social anthropology
  24. transgenics
  25. United Kingdom
  26. variety trials
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  1. peer-reviewed