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Transferring Moral Responsibility for Technological Hazards: The Case of GMOs in Agriculture

Published on Oct 1, 2016in Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics1.398
· DOI :10.1007/s10806-016-9636-5
Zoë Robaey4
Estimated H-index: 4
(TU Delft: Delft University of Technology)
Abstract
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 use plans, I suggest five conditions for a good transfer of moral responsibility for genetically modified seeds. I also look at the Monsanto Technology Use Guide and Technology/Stewardship Agreement, as an examplar of a use plan, to explore the extent to which these conditions are present. I conclude that use plans can play a role in the distribution and transfer of moral responsibility for technologies with high benefits and potential harmful uncertainties.
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  • Citations (3)
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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. ...
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