Gone with the Wind: Conceiving of Moral Responsibility in the Case of GMO Contamination

Published on Jun 1, 2016in Science and Engineering Ethics2.275
· DOI :10.1007/s11948-015-9744-z
Zoë Robaey4
Estimated H-index: 4
(TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)
Genetically modified organisms are a technology now used with increasing frequency in agriculture. Genetically modified seeds have the special characteristic of being living artefacts that can reproduce and spread; thus it is difficult to control where they end up. In addition, genetically modified seeds may also bring about uncertainties for environmental and human health. Where they will go and what effect they will have is therefore very hard to predict: this creates a puzzle for regulators. In this paper, I use the problem of contamination to complicate my ascription of forward-looking moral responsibility to owners of genetically modified organisms. Indeed, how can owners act responsibly if they cannot know that contamination has occurred? Also, because contamination creates new and unintended ownership, it challenges the ascription of forward-looking moral responsibility based on ownership. From a broader perspective, the question this paper aims to answer is as follows: how can we ascribe forward-looking moral responsibility when the effects of the technologies in question are difficult to know or unknown? To solve this problem, I look at the epistemic conditions for moral responsibility and connect them to the normative notion of the social experiment. Indeed, examining conditions for morally responsible experimentation helps to define a range of actions and to establish the related epistemic virtues that owners should develop in order to act responsibly where genetically modified organisms are concerned.
Figures & Tables
  • References (26)
  • Citations (10)
📖 Papers frequently viewed together
4 Citations
7 Citations
1 Author (John Basl)
1 Citations
78% of Scinapse members use related papers. After signing in, all features are FREE.
#1Jan Peter Bergen (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 2
Conceiving of nuclear energy as a social experiment gives rise to the question of what to do when the experiment is no longer responsible or desirable. To be able to appropriately respond to such a situation, the nuclear energy technology in question should be reversible, i.e. it must be possible to stop its further development and implementation in society, and it must be possible to undo its undesirable consequences. This paper explores these two conditions by applying them to geological dispo...
3 CitationsSource
#1Zoë Robaey (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 4
Until now, the debates around genetically modified seeds in agriculture have converged towards two main issues. The first is about hazards that this new technology brings about, and the second is about the ownership of seeds and the distribution of their economic benefits. In this paper, I explore an underdeveloped topic by linking these two issues: how ownership shapes the distribution of moral responsibility for the potential hazards of genetically modified seeds. Indeed, while ownership is de...
5 CitationsSource
#1Zoë Robaey (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 4
#2Arno SimonsH-Index: 4
This paper assumes that the introduction of new technologies takes the form of social experiments and asks how such experiments can be managed responsibly. While social experimentation in itself is not an entirely new phenomenon, modern societies are increasingly describing themselves as experimental societies. Uncertainty and ignorance are seen as problems of modernity to which a continuous learning approach provides the solution. From an ethical perspective, social experimentation poses entire...
3 CitationsSource
A point of contention in recent discussions of the epistemic condition of moral responsibility is whether culpable ignorance must trace to akratic belief mismanagement. Neil Levy has recently defended an akrasia requirement by arguing that only an akratic agent has the capacity rationally to comply with epistemic expectations the violation of which contributes to her ignorance. In this paper I show that Levy’s argument is unsound. It is possible to have the relevant rational capacity in the abse...
7 CitationsSource
#2Neelke DoornH-Index: 13
Last. Ibo van de PoelH-Index: 23
view all 3 authors...
1 CitationsSource
#1Ibo van de Poel (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 23
A crucial step in Value Sensitive Design (VSD) is the translation of values into design requirements. However, few research has been done on how this translation can be made. In this contribution, I first consider an example of this translation. I then introduce the notion of values hierarchy, a hierarchy structure of values, norms and design requirements. I discuss the relation of specification, by which values can be translated into design requirements, and the for the sake of relation which c...
76 CitationsSource
#1Behnam Taebi (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 11
12 CitationsSource
#1Neelke Doorn (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 13
In the last decades increasing attention is paid to the topic of responsibility in technology development and engineering. The discussion of this topic is often guided by questions related to liability and blameworthiness. Recent discussions in engineering ethics call for a reconsideration of the traditional quest for responsibility. Rather than on alleged wrongdoing and blaming, the focus should shift to more socially responsible engineering, some authors argue. The present paper aims at explor...
31 CitationsSource
#1Ibo van de Poel (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 23
28 CitationsSource
#1Ibo van de Poel (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 23
This contribution discusses the relation between forward-looking and backward-looking responsibility. The notion of forward-looking responsibility I focus on is, following Robert Goodin, that of seeing to it that a certain state of affairs obtains. In addition, I focus on two types of backward-looking responsibility: accountability and blameworthiness. I argue that accountability only entails blameworthiness if the agent cannot cite certain reasonable excuses like ignorance and compulsion (which...
41 CitationsSource
Cited By10
#1Rongting ZhouH-Index: 1
Last. Muhammad Asim Nawaz (GCUF: Government College University, Faisalabad)H-Index: 1
view all 8 authors...
The study examines the critical factors affecting Chinese social media (SM) users’ intentions and behavior to seek and share information on genetically modified organisms/ genetically modified food (GMO/GMF). The proposed framework was conceptualized through benefit-risk analysis and subsequently mapped SM users’ perceived benefits and risks to seeks and share information using Kurt Lewin’s valence view. Quantitative data was collected using survey questionnaires administered from 583 SM users. ...
#1Wang Dong (USTC: University of Science and Technology of China)
#2Muhammad Azfar Anwar (CUI: COMSATS Institute of Information Technology)
Last. Ali Hammad (USTC: University of Science and Technology of China)
view all 8 authors...
AbstractThe document examined the intellectual development, evolution, and progress in the field of “Genetically Modified Food” (GMF) and “Genetically Modified Organisms” (GMO) by adopting the approach of bibliometric analysis. The total of 1,045 academic articles, 288 researchers, 204 journals and 15,744 references are covered during the current study. In term of identifying, defining, and bringing insight about the intellectual bases, research fronts, and the knowledge domain of GMO/GMF, the t...
#1Olya Kudina (UT: University of Twente)H-Index: 1
#2Peter-Paul Verbeek (UT: University of Twente)H-Index: 7
Following the “control dilemma” of Collingridge, influencing technological developments is easy when their implications are not yet manifest, yet once we know these implications, they are difficult...
6 CitationsSource
#1Cristian Timmermann (University of Chile)H-Index: 6
The mixture of political, social, cultural, and economic environments in Latin America, together with the enormous diversity in climates, natural habitats, and biological resources the continent offers, make the ethical assessment of agricultural policies extremely difficult. Yet the experience gained while addressing the contemporary challenges the region faces, such as rapid urbanization, loss of culinary and crop diversity, extreme inequality, disappearing farming styles, water and land grabs...
#1Zoë Robaey (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 4
#2Shannon L. Spruit (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 4
Last. Ibo van de Poel (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 23
view all 3 authors...
The Safe-by-Design approach in synthetic biology holds the promise of designing the building blocks of life in an organism guided by the value of safety. This paves a new way for using biotechnologies safely. However, the Safe-by-Design approach moves the bulk of the responsibility for safety to the actors in the research and development phase. Also, it assumes that safety can be defined and understood by all stakeholders in the same way. These assumptions are problematic and might actually unde...
#1Z. Robaey (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)
#2L. Asveld (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)
Last. P. Osseweijer (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)
view all 3 authors...
#1Ibo van de Poel (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 23
#2Zoë Robaey (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 4
Safe-by-design (SbD) aims at addressing safety issues already during the RD it also misses out on the resources that users (and others) can bring for achieving safety, and it is undemocratic. We argue that rather than directly designing for safety, it is better to design for the responsibility for safety, i.e., designers should think where the responsibility for safety is best situated and design technologies accordingly. We propose some heuristics that can be used in deciding how to share and d...
8 CitationsSource
#1M. Kaiser (University of Bergen)
#1Zoë Robaey (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 4
The use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture makes great promises of better seeds, but also raises many controversies about ownership of seeds and about potential hazards. I suggest that owners of these seeds bear the responsibility to do no harm in using these seeds. After defining the nature of this responsibility, this paper asks, if ownership entails moral responsibility, and ownership can be transferred, then how is moral responsibility transferred? Building on the literature on...
3 CitationsSource
#1Neelke Doorn (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 13
#2Shannon L. Spruit (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 4
Last. Zoë Robaey (TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)H-Index: 4
view all 3 authors...
Technology has always been a vital component of human development, most often aimed at the advancement of human well-being. However, the introduction of new technologies may also introduce harmful consequences. Indeed, we often do not know beforehand the full spectrum of potential impacts and hazards that these new technologies may bring about. Conventional approaches to risk governance are not directly applicable to these fields due to high levels of uncertainty and ignorance. The inadequacies ...
2 CitationsSource