Home > GM Debate & Controversy > Ethical Concerns and GM Foods

Ethical Concerns and GM Foods

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 14 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
Gm Foods Ethical Company Production

There are a number of ethical concerns over genetically modified (GM) foods and these have all affected public support of the products. The issues have also triggered controversy and regulations around GM foods and any company that produces these crops or products. Concerns range from the environment to risks to our food web or issues concerning disease, allergies and contamination.

Allergies And Disease

A key ethical concern about GM foods is their potential to trigger allergies or disease in humans. Given that a gene could be extracted from an allergenic organism and placed into another one that typically does not cause allergies, a person may unknowingly be exposed to an allergen. In turn, this could lead to an allergic reaction. There is also the fear that new allergies could occur from the mixing of genes from two organisms.

Disease is a major health worry with regards to GM foods. Given that some of the crops modified are done so with DNA from a bacterium or virus, there is concern that a new disease may occur in humans who consume the GM food. With some GM crops having antibiotic-resistant marker genes, there is also the worry that these genes could be passed on to microbes that cause disease and health problems in humans. With widespread antibiotic resistance currently already occurring, any new resistance could prove disastrous.

Damage To The Environment

Damage to the environment is another ethical fear with regards to GM crops. Unfortunately, the technology is still new enough that there is much we do not know about the effect of GM crop production on the environment. Long-term studies take decades to complete and most studies of GM crop production involve short-term effects of the technology.

Another ethical issue around GM crops is our ability to contain them in a specific area. There are fears that if these crops do negatively impact the environment, they will spread in an out-of-control fashion and we will not be able to stop their damaging effects. For instance, one type of sugar beet that had been engineered to be resistant to a specific herbicide ended up unintentionally having the genes to resist a different herbicide. When farmers went to eliminate the crop, they still found that a small percentage had survived.


Cross-pollination is a challenge for any crop growth but it can typically be managed if care is taken to use good growing practices. There is the possibility of genes from GM foods spreading to other plants and crops, which could create overzealous weeds that can't be contained at all.

Food Web And Risks

Risks to the food web are a very real ethical concern around GM technology. Any pesticide or herbicide from the crop could harm animals and other organisms in the environment. For example, GM sugar beets that were produced to be resistant to herbicides did successfully reduce weeds. However, Skylark birds that consume the seeds from this particular weed would now be required to find a new food source, thereby endangering their existence.

An animal could also consume the GM crop itself, which means that if the crop has been engineered to produce a pesticide, the animal may become ill and die. In one North American study, caterpillars of the monarch butterfly were killed when they fed on pollen from GM corn crops.

Addressing Ethical Concerns For GM Foods

Unfortunately, the controversy and fears around GM foods and any company that produces these products still continue to persevere, although this could be viewed as a positive movement because it will challenge GM technology and help to make it safer and more regulated. In one public opinion poll, it was found that the more people read about GM foods, the more concerned they became about the technology.

Studies are ongoing into the many ethical concerns around GM foods but these are not conclusive and have thus far shown very mixed results. It is also very difficult to assess the long-term impact, thereby leaving many of the public fearing for the long-term safety of humans and the environment.

For now, it is hoped that people will become more educated on the ethical concerns about GM foods, which will ideally fuel further research and accountability in the field.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Very good Pieces of information, just what I like to hear! Thanx
Dave - 13-May-12 @ 11:05 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Drwhite
    Re: What Are the Cost Benefits of GM Foods?
    This article is really bad and not understandable! I really struggled to follow the text.
    11 January 2018
  • amethystmoon
    Re: Fact Sheet: Pros vs Cons
    Gmo's are interuupting the spirtual world and disrupting the connection between true Pagans and the god and goddess. My powers and…
    30 October 2017
  • Goya1981
    Re: GM Foods in Asia
    The Issue with GMO is uncertainty that even those who develop it do not have it yet on what will happen to those who use GMO foods and the exposed…
    22 September 2017
  • CloBear
    Re: Can GM Foods Cause Allergies?
    The benefits of GM foods outweigh the stupid allergy thing. GM foods can feed tons of people.
    16 September 2017
  • A-Nickey
    Re: Fact Sheet: Pros vs Cons
    I have an assignment and this is the article I chose to review it's credibility. Would you mind linking me the sources of where you…
    28 August 2017
  • Dr Robotnic
    Re: Fact Sheet: Pros vs Cons
    Do you believe that we could further develop GMO technology and if so, how
    3 July 2017
  • alley43217
    Re: Fact Sheet: Pros vs Cons
    (I think religion should be put out of this issue, seeing it's a sensitive topic)
    22 May 2017
  • capitalistic bastard
    Re: Fact Sheet: Pros vs Cons
    If god is real then he would accept all his children. Including the lizard people and the angry demimgod Xenu. And I think he would…
    27 April 2017
  • dunno
    Re: Fact Sheet: Pros vs Cons
    Okay seriously calm down for one we don't know if god is real or not because we don't have solid proof except for "man's" word and we…
    25 April 2017
  • dragonhunter
    Re: Fact Sheet: Pros vs Cons
    i think that they can help alot.
    24 April 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the GeneticallyModifiedFoods website. Please read our Disclaimer.