The food has better taste and quality and a greater resistance to est. and diseases; it is environmentally friendly in that it does not require chemical pesticides and will conserve soil, water and energy; and it offers the world’s best chance to end or at least greatly reduce hunger and malnutrition through greater yields and sturdier crops. However, others believe that this kind of genetic engineering cannot be justified because GM crops threaten the environment and may cause havoc through cross-pollination.
They could have as yet unknown effects on human health by causing unexpected allergic reactions and transferring antibiotic resistance markers. A potentially more serious criticism is that it leads to the exploitation of developing countries: many farmers are encouraged to grow GM crops and gradually become dependent on the multinational companies supporting them. Also, GM food cannot be seen as the sole solution to world hunger – the problem is far more complex, and questions of injustice in the social situations of today’s world need to be examined.
These hugely differing stances on whether genetic engineering is ethically justified are just as evident in human genetic engineering. Christian scholars disagree over whether genetic engineering involving human embryos is ethically justified, For Christians, the sanctity of life is paramount -? the Bible teaches that God created humans in his image and so human life has an intrinsic value. Using an embryo for the sake of another human is wrong, as the embryo has intrinsic worth.
Any technology that creates spare embryos to be used or discarded is wrong. The Roman Catholic Church, which bases its ethics on Natural Law, is positive about advances in science that improve human life, but never at the expense f human life, which is sacred from the moment of conception. Natural Law has the primary precept of self-preservation and from this may be deduced the secondary precept ‘no embryo research’, as it destroys life. However, it could be argued that the research can be justified, as it preserves life by curing diseases.
Many Protestant churches follow Situation Ethics’ principle of agape in their consideration of embryo research. Joseph Fletcher saw a human as ‘a maker and a selector and a designer’ who acts morally when in control of genetics. He was not opposed to IF and therefore it could be concluded that embryo research is the most loving thing to do with spare embryos when the only other option is to destroy them, especially when the research could lead to cures for terrible diseases.
However, creating embryos for the direct purpose of stem cell research is difficult to justify as the most loving thing. Christians in general seem to look favorably at genetic medicine, while acknowledging both the risks and the limits that should be imposed on research in terms of respect for human life. Utilitarianism is not restricted by the principle that human life has absolute value and so is able to assess each individual situation on its own merits to promote the greatest happiness or welfare for those concerned.
However, some would question whether we can ever predict all the consequences or results of genetic engineering and embryo research. A utilitarian would argue the moral justification genetic engineering because it is better to save many lives in the future by embryo research at the cost of a few embryos now. Kantian ethicists find it hard to apply unavailability’s to genetic engineering and embryo research.
For example, it would be possible to universalism the maxim ‘use spare embryos left over from IF for stem cell research’ but not ‘create embryos for stem cell research’, as there would be no embryos left to reproduce and the human race would die out. There is also the emphasis on treating people as ends in themselves and not as a means to an end – embryo research would go against this if the embryo is to be considered a person. Kant was not clear on the moral status of embryos.
Because Kant saw the principles of universal law and not treating people as a means to an end as the most important aspects of his categorical imperative, it could be argued that embryo research is unidentifiable. However, the Kantian idea of respect for persons and the requirement for human rights to be respected, that informed consent should be obtained and so on will mean that genetic medicine, testing, screening and adult stem cell research will be morally justifiable.