The Immorality in Genetically Modified Food

By Taiwo Abiodun-Oni

The discourse around genetically modified (GM) food is one of the most polarizing debates of the 21st century, pervading various domains from agriculture and environment to politics and bioethics. This debate traverses the boundaries of scientific inquiry and ventures into the realm of morality. In discussing the morality of genetically modified food, one must consider a range of factors such as human health, environmental implications, and socio-economic considerations.

Genetically Modified Food and Human Health

From the grand amphitheater of human health arises a moral question of biblical proportions: Do we have the right, like Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, to alter the genetic fabric of the sustenance we consume? Genetic modification of food crops, aiming to bless our tables with bounty—enhanced nutritional content, extended shelf life, and formidable resistance to pests and diseases—can be likened to manna from heaven. Yet, the whispers of doubt, akin to the ancient serpent in Eden, cast a shadow over this promised bounty.

Detractors, bearing the weight of public health on their shoulders, point to a lack of extensive longitudinal studies like the sword of Damocles hanging over our collective head. They argue that potential unforeseen health consequences may lurk in the shadows of this brave new world of genetic modification. Much like the Quranic story of Adam and Eve being banished from paradise due to their desire for knowledge and immortality (Surah 2, Al-Baqarah, The Cow), opponents contend that our ambition may lead us down a perilous path. The rapid and widespread adoption of GM food, in their view, feels akin to building a Tower of Babel—ambitious, audacious, but potentially attracting divine disfavor.

However, proponents armed with science and statistics, like David with his sling, argue that the potential health benefits overshadow these speculative risks. They highlight the exhaustive testing and stringent regulations in place, akin to the biblical laws of kashrut, or the Islamic dietary laws of halal, ensuring food is safe for consumption. The meticulous scrutiny these GM crops undergo, they argue, is as stringent as the purification rites undergone by the Levitical priests (Exodus 29).

They offer a powerful vision, the loaves and fishes miracle rendered in the genetic code. The promise of a world where nutrient-dense crops can combat malnutrition, where food can be preserved longer to reduce waste, and where crops resist pests without the copious use of harmful pesticides. And in the face of a global health crisis, they point to the moral imperative for such innovation. Drawing from the Islamic principle of “Ihsan” (doing what is good and right), they contend that if we can improve the health of millions, perhaps even billions, do we not have a moral obligation to do so?

Thus, we stand on the precipice of a decision that echoes across our kitchens and dining tables, our farmlands and laboratories, and deep within the labyrinth of our moral convictions. The question of genetically modified food is not merely about our right to tamper with nature, but also our responsibility to the welfare of humankind. And as we ponder upon this moral quandary, we must not forget the most vulnerable among us, for it is often they who bear the brunt of our collective choices.

The Moral Consequences on the Environment

The environmental narrative surrounding GM food is not unlike the tale of David and Goliath. It’s a tale fraught with moral dilemmas, a tale of the small and seemingly insignificant standing against the monumental forces of human innovation. In this unfolding drama, our ecosystems—majestic in their intricacy yet delicate as the web of a spider—find themselves at the forefront of this moral discourse on genetically modified food.

The detractors of GM food, the self-appointed Davids in this saga, warn of a potential disruption to the sanctity of these ecosystems. They argue that the introduction of GM crops might compromise nature’s intricate balance due to cross-pollination with non-GM species, akin to casting a stone into a tranquil pond and causing ripples that disrupt the serene surface. The potential harm to non-target organisms, the inadvertent casualties in this venture, and the looming fears of the rise of ‘superweeds,’ resistant to pesticides due to horizontal gene transfer, become reminiscent of the Biblical plagues—a profound disarray brought upon the land due to human hubris. For these critics, the act of meddling with nature in such a manner seems to violate a cardinal responsibility bestowed upon us, akin to the Islamic concept of “Khalifah,” the stewardship of humans to protect biodiversity and uphold ecological balance.

However, the proponents of GM food, the Goliaths in this story, argue with compelling conviction about the bountiful fruits borne by this human ingenuity. They emphasize the environmental benefits of GM crops, a modern-day Noah’s Ark carrying the promise of sustainability amidst a flood of environmental challenges. By reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers, genetic modification could promote sustainable farming practices akin to the Biblical principle of letting the land rest to restore its fertility (Leviticus 25:1-7).

Moreover, through enhancing crop yields and resilience, GM crops rise as a beacon of hope against the tempestuous waves of climate change—unpredictable weather patterns and increased salinity or drought conditions. These proponents argue that it is not just morally acceptable, but indeed a moral imperative, akin to the Islamic principle of “Israf” (avoiding waste), to utilize available technology for environmental sustainability and food security. They offer a poignant image of a world with an ever-increasing population, a world teetering on the brink of hunger, and argue that GM crops could be our proverbial bread and fish, capable of feeding multitudes.

Thus, we find ourselves at the intersection of technological innovation and moral obligation, a crossroads where we must weigh the potential disruption of the delicate web of life against the promise of a more sustainable future. As we navigate these moral waters, may we be guided by wisdom and a deep reverence for the sanctity of our shared environment.

Social and Economic Considerations

The socio-economic implications of GM food provide a third pillar in this moral examination. Critics argue that the use of GM seeds often leads to an increased dependency on multinational corporations that hold patents for these crops. They contend that this creates a moral dilemma as it further widens the economic divide between farmers in developed and developing nations.

Conversely, proponents point out that GM crops can contribute to food security in regions struggling with harsh climatic conditions or pests. By developing crops that can thrive in such environments, genetic modification could help alleviate hunger and malnutrition, a compelling moral argument for GM food.


As we stand on the brink of a new era shaped by biotechnology, it is crucial to deliberate the morality of our choices. The discourse on the morality of genetically modified food is multifaceted, encompassing issues of human health, environmental conservation, and socio-economic disparities. Balancing these moral concerns requires a nuanced understanding of the potential benefits and risks associated with GM food.

The principle of ‘do no harm’ should guide us as we move forward. As such, rigorous scientific investigation must continue to ascertain the potential impacts of GM food on human health and the environment. Simultaneously, legal and policy frameworks must ensure equitable access and benefits for all stakeholders involved in GM food production and consumption. By engaging in this ongoing conversation, society can navigate the ethical complexities of this technology and make informed decisions that best serve the collective good.

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