Term Paper: Required Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods

Pages: 5 (1483 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Agriculture  ·  Buy This Paper

Genetically Modified Foods Should Be Labeled

Genetically modified foods are making up an increasing portion of the world's food supply. Generally, foods are genetically modified in order to either for efficiency or enhancement. That is, foods are modified either to increase the quantity/cost ratio or to enhance the crop's taste or durability. Generally, genetically modified foods are attractive to food manufacturers because they provide cost savings and increased certainty for crop yields.

Genetically modified foods have been linked to various human diseases and deformities. These foods have been speculated to cause paralysis, allergic, and bacterial infections, among other things. (Ohio State University, 2000). Genetically modified foods have also been linked to diseases affecting non-human life, such as the genetically modified pollen contaminating the larvae of the monarch butterfly species. (Nature, 1999, p. 214).

Genetically modified foods present threats not only to individual health, but also to the environment. Genetically modified crop strains have been suspected of causing soil problems in countries where they have been recently introduced. Also, genetically modified foods are widely considered to be harmful to plant life. Thus, genetically modified foods are not only an issue for individuals, but also for whole societies and national governments.

Thesis: According to the philosophical of John Stuart Mill, genetically modified foods should be labeled. The risk of harm to consumers caused by omitting warning labels far outweighs the harm to food manufacturers from attaching warning labels. Mandatory labels would achieve the greatest amount of good, notice/information, for the greatest amount of people, all consumers of genetically modified foods. On the other hand, the harm resulting from mandatory labels would be borne by relatively few in society, manufacturers.

Background

Harm

The controversy over genetically modified foods involves a situation where one group in society, food manufacturers, present a risk of harm to a larger group in society, consumers. Here, the consumers' advocates claim that there is strong evidence that genetically modified food, which utilizes new and unproven technology, has caused harm to human life, non-human life, and the ecosystem in general.

However, there have been no absolutely conclusive studies confirming the harmfulness of genetically modified foods. Because there it is no conclusive evidence confirming that it is not harmful, consumer advocates believe that potential consumers of such foods be warned. Food manufacturers, on the other hand, believe that, since there is no conclusive evidence confirming that it is harmful, it is unnecessary and unreasonable to require warning labels on the food.

Government's Duty to Prevent Harm

Government is indicated in this controversy because of two main reasons. First, Government has a general duty to ensure public safety. Second, in many capitalist countries, Government has assumed a role in the protection of consumers.

The type of government response in dispute here is the concept of government-mandated warning labels on all genetically modified foods. According to consumer advocates, these labels would accomplish both of these government duties. First, labels would protect public safety by warning and thereby preventing unwilling consumers from eating genetically modified foods. Second, labels would accomplish consumer protection objectives by giving consumers adequate notice and warning about what type of product they are purchasing.

Rights of Manufacturers

The government solution in dispute, mandatory labeling, affects the basic rights of manufacturers as a group in society. Food manufacturers are also entitled to the protection of the governments with regard to their property rights. Government regulations which make the operation of business excessively burdensome or expensive might frustrate the commercial objectives of businesses altogether. In countries with strong protections on property rights, such as the United States, excessively burdensome regulations may even be considered s a deprivation of private property by the government, under the reasoning that lost profit is lost property.

Background on John Stuart Mill's Philosophy

John Stuart Mill was a highly influential philosopher working the 19th Century. He was particularly prominent in the areas of moral philosophy, political philosophy, and economic philosophy. Because of his extensive work in each of these areas, Mill's philosophical views are very instructive for this particular dispute, as the dispute involves the moral considerations attached to human health as well as the economic considerations attached to regulating businesses.

Of particular interests here are Mill's views on the relationship between the individual and society. Mill views this relationship as frequently contentious, though not necessarily so. Mill is concerned with the individual's duty to society and the government's relationship with the individual. Although Mill would probably claim… [END OF PREVIEW]

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