Social and Ethical Considerations of Agro-biotechnology Gary A. Goreham, Ph.D. Department of Sociology/Anthropology North Dakota State University Biotechnology, in general, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in particular, pose many social and ethical questions. Our discussion today will explore some of these questions. The Sociology of Genetically Modified Organisms The Social Psychology of GMOs Macro-Structural Issues: Government, Private Industry, and International Relations Micro-Structural Issues: Small Groups and Communities The Social Psychology of GMOs What is the social psychology and cosmology regarding human’s place in/connection to nature as a result of the “genetic revolution?” How are public perceptions of GMOs affected by the larger questions of biotechnology and human cloning? What are environmentalists’, faith community’s, etc. attitudes toward GMOs? How do social movement organizations shape attitudes toward GMOs? What are producers attitudes toward/adoption of GMOs? What are consumer awareness of/attitudes toward GMOs? Micro-Structural Issues: Small Groups and Communities What are the characteristics of those who can and can’t afford GMOs technology? What are the consequences for producers for adopting or not adopting GMOs? What are the employment, social capital, conflict, and development implications for rural communities? How have the relationships among residents in rural neighborhoods been affected by GMOs? Macro-Structural Issues: Government, Private Industry, & International Relations Who are the beneficiaries of GMOs: producers, consumers, agribusiness, general public? What about the monopoly of the agro-food system by transnational corporations? Market Share Controlled by Largest Food Firms Food Sector Four Largest Food Firms Market Share (%) Broilers Tyson, Gold Kist, Perdue Farms, ConAgra 45 Beef IBP, ConAgra (Monfort), Cargill (Excell), Farmland Industries (National Farms) Flour Milling ConAgra, ADM, Cargill, General Mills IBP, Smithfield, ConAgra, Cargill (Excell) 87 ConAgra, Superior Packing, High Country, Denver Lamb ADM, Cargill, Bunge, Ag Processsors 73 ConAgra, Rocco Turkeys, Hormel (Jennie-O), Carolina Turkeys ADM, Cargill, Tate and Lyle, CPC 35 Bunge, Illinois Cereal, ADM, ConAgra (Lincoln Grain) 57 Flour Milling Pork Slaughter Sheep Slaughter Soybean Crushing Turkey Wet Corn Milling Dry Corn Milling Heffernan, et al., 1996. 71 46 76 74 Macro-Structural Issues: Government, Private Industry, & International Relations Who are the beneficiaries of GMOs: producers, consumers, agribusiness, general public? What about the monopoly of the agro-food system by transnational corporations? What are the connections among government-subsidized GMO research, private industry, and government regulation? How about patent and intellectual property rights? Whose responsibility is it to clean-up genetic contamination? What is the Impact on the structure of agriculture in Developing Nations? How about GMOs as military, economic weapons; genetic terrorism? The Ethics of Genetically Modified Organisms Ethical Principles Beneficence Non-maleficence Justice Autonomy Beneficence Beneficence = to do good; unconditional goodwill and compassion. Can GMOs feed a hungry world? Is GMO engineering, technology, and agriculture sustainable? Profitable? Healthy? Autonomy Autonomy = self-determination; respect for persons. What limits human action: God’s or Nature’s design? Human knowledge (science) or ability (technology)? To what degree should GMO engineering, technology, and agriculture be regulated? Labeling: Do individuals have a right to know in order to make informed decisions? Non-maleficence Non-maleficence = do no evil or harm; riskbenefit analysis. What are the biological, environmental, health, and economic risks of GMOs? Are they safe? What could happen? What should happen? Who will decide? Are the risks acceptable? And do the benefits outweigh the risks? Justice Justice = equity; fair treatment for all people. Should private individuals or corporations have the right to patent genes or life forms? How equitably will the benefits and risks be distributed? The current state of affairs regarding the social and ethical implications of genetically modified organisms? We have far more questions than answers!