Transferring Moral Responsibility for Technological Hazards: The Case of GMOs in Agriculture

Zoë Robaey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


The use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture makes great promises of better seeds, but also raises many controversies about ownership of seeds and about potential hazards. I suggest that owners of these seeds bear the responsibility to do no harm in using these seeds. After defining the nature of this responsibility, this paper asks, if ownership entails moral responsibility, and ownership can be transferred, then how is moral responsibility transferred? Building on the literature on use plans, I suggest five conditions for a good transfer of moral responsibility for genetically modified seeds. I also look at the Monsanto Technology Use Guide and Technology/Stewardship Agreement, as an examplar of a use plan, to explore the extent to which these conditions are present. I conclude that use plans can play a role in the distribution and transfer of moral responsibility for technologies with high benefits and potential harmful uncertainties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-786
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • GMOs
  • Moral responsibility
  • Ownership
  • Technology use guide
  • Uncertainties
  • Use plans

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