“Corporate Decisions About Labeling Genetically Modified Foods”

Chris MacDonald,
Melissa Whellams,

Saint Mary's University

Forthcoming in Journal of Business Ethics, 74:4, 2007


This paper considers whether individual companies have an ethical obligation to label their Genetically Modified Foods. GM foods and ingredients pervade grocery store shelves, despite the fact that a majority of North Americans have worries about eating those products. The market as whole has largely failed to respond to consumer preference in this regard, as have North American governments. A number of consumer groups, NGO’s, and activist organizations have urged corporations to label their GM products. This paper asks whether, in such a situation, individual corporations can be ethically required to take such unilateral action. We argue that they cannot. Given the lack of solid evidence for any risk to human health, and the serious market disadvantage almost surely associated with costly unilateral action, no individual company has an ethical obligation to label its GM foods.

[The outlines of the argument we present can be found in this blog entry.]