Gerasimova (Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology, Switxerland) – Plant ethics: Why it is difficult to argue with the anti-GM movement?

    This paper discusses how the plant ethics influence the way representatives of the movement against the Genetically modified organisms (GMO) shape and debate their arguments against the use of GM plants and why plants are so important for them.

    When in  the Swiss Gene Protection Initiative  was defeated in 1998, its activists recognised that the strategy to fight any kind of genetic engineering was too broad and decided to concentrate their efforts on GM plants and food (Weasel, 2009). Since then there is a unique situation when the use of genetic engineering on humans on animals does not raise such an opposition as the GM plants do. This papers offers its hypotheses to that.

    On the one hand, plant breeding relate to the issue of food, which lies at the heart of social activity and is very political (March, 2003). On the other, plants seem to awake some deep emotions in humans. This can be illustrated by a number of examples of talks from Greenpeace activists to  a TED Talk speaker (Stephenson, 2011). These emotions include admiration for nature and its diversity, guilt for the impact produced by human activities on environment and personification of plants. This has led to a more systematic scientific and moral comprehension of plant ethics. For example, a concept of dignity of plants has been developed by the Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology. Despite the fact that some of this philosophy’s founders are scientists, such as Dr Florianne Kochlin, these questions raise very deep emotional feelings which cannot be argued in a traditional rational manner. Perhaps, this can explain the complaint by some scientists and pro-GM activists that opponents of GM plants practice almost their own anti-GM religion and many GM debates do not lead to any reconciliation (Moore, 2014).