Ethical distinctions between different kinds of plant breeding

B.K. Myskja, H.J. Schouten, M. Gjerris

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper

1 Citation (Scopus)


The article discusses whether there are ethically significant distinctions between different forms of plant breeding. We distinguish different forms of plant breeding according to the kind of technology and degree of human intervention compared to plant reproduction occurring in nature. According to the dominant scientific view, the main concerns are issues of biosafety that are dealt with through risk assessment. Thus, the techniques are ethically equivalent and only the resulting product is of interest. In parts of the societal and philosophical discourse, however, there are attempts to distinguish ethically between these approaches, often relying on ambiguous concepts such as ‘naturalness’. We argue that a virtue-based approach can be used to explicate the assumptions behind such distinctions that are relevant for scientific and public discourse, and support a conclusion that there are ethical differences between plant breeding methods. The framework can contribute to an improved dialogue between the scientific community and the wider public by making the scepticism towards GM-technology more intelligible.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKnow your food
Subtitle of host publicationfood ethics and innovation
EditorsDiana Elena Dumitras, Ionel Mugurel Jitea, Stef Arts
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868131
ISBN (Print)9789086862641
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


Cite this

Myskja, B. K., Schouten, H. J., & Gjerris, M. (2015). Ethical distinctions between different kinds of plant breeding. In D. E. Dumitras, I. M. Jitea, & S. Arts (Eds.), Know your food: food ethics and innovation (pp. 95-100). Wageningen Academic Publishers.