The political import of intrinsic objections to genetically engineered food

Robert Streiffer
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Many people object to genetically engineerehd (GE) food because they believe that it is unnatural or that its creation amounts to playing God. These objections are often referred to as intrinsic objections, and they have been widely criticized in the agricultural bioethics literature as being unsound, incompatible with modern science, religious, inchoate, and based on emotion instead of reason. Many of their critics also argue that even if these objections did have some merit as ethicalobjections, their quasi-religious nature means that they are entirely irrelevant when interpreted aspolitical objections regarding what public policy ought to be. In this paper, we argue that this widespread view is false. Intrinsic objections have much more political import than has previously been recognized, and indeed the requirements of political liberalism and its associated idea of liberal neutrality, once properly understood, protect intrinsic objections from many of the most common objections. That is, policy-makers may not legitimately base public policy on grounds that are inconsistent with intrinsic objections, even when they believe those objections to be flawed in the ways mentioned above. This means that in the context of a political debate about GE food, the discussion should not center on the substantive merits of the intrinsic objections themselves but rather on the appropriate political norms for achieving democratically legitimate policy on issues that touch people’s deepest religious and moral beliefs.
Keywords ethics  genetically engineered food  genetically modified food  GM food  intrinsic objections  liberal neutrality  playing God  political liberalism  unnaturalness  yuck factor
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10806-005-0633-3
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 36,003
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.John Rawls - 2001 - Harvard University Press.
Democracy and Disagreement.Amy Gutmann - 1996 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.
The Realm of Rights.Judith Jarvis Thomson - 1990 - Harvard University Press.
Crossing Species Boundaries.Jason Scott Robert & Françoise Baylis - 2003 - American Journal of Bioethics 3 (3):1 – 13.

View all 15 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Is CRISPR an Ethical Game Changer?Marcus Schultz-Bergin - 2018 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 31 (2):219-238.
Consumer Autonomy and Availability of Genetically Modified Food.Helena Siipi & Susanne Uusitalo - 2011 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 24 (2):147-163.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Can an Atheist Believe in God?Andrew S. Eshleman - 2005 - Religious Studies 41 (2):183 - 199.
Intrinsic Properties and Combinatorial Principles.Brian Weatherson - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):365-380.
A Case for Extrinsic Dispositions.J. McKitrick - 2003 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2):155 – 174.
You Are What You Eat: Genetically Modified Foods, Integrity, and Society. [REVIEW]Assya Pascalev - 2003 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 16 (6):583-594.
Is Unpleasantness Intrinsic to Unpleasant Experiences?Stuart Rachels - 2000 - Philosophical Studies 99 (2):187-210.


Added to PP index

Total downloads
38 ( #169,387 of 2,293,920 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #255,053 of 2,293,920 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature