Acceptable Genes?

Religious Traditions and Genetically Modified Foods

Edited by Conrad G. Brunk & Harold Coward

Subjects: Religion, Comparative Religion, Environmental Studies
Series: SUNY series on Religion and the Environment
Paperback : 9781438428949, 278 pages, October 2009
Hardcover : 9781438428956, 278 pages, October 2009

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Table of contents

Conrad G. Brunk and Harold Coward
1. Genetics and Genetically Modified Organisms
Samuel Abraham
2. Ethical Perspectives on Food Biotechnology
Paul B. Thompson
3. Does Vegetarianism Preclude Eating GM Foods?
Lyne Létourneau
4. “When You Plow the Field Your Torah Is with You”: Genetic Modification and GM Food in the Jewish Tradition(s)
Laurie Zoloth
5. Some Christian Reflections on GM Food
Donald Bruce
6. Genetically Modified Foods and Muslim Ethics
Ebrahim Moosa
7. A Hundred Autumns to Flourish: Hindu Attitudes to Genetically Modified Food
Vasudha Narayanan
8. The Karma of Genetically Modified Food: A Buddhist Perspective
David R. Loy
9. “So That You May Have It with No Harm”: Changing Attitudes toward Food in Late Imperial China
Hsiung Ping-chen
10. Born from Bears and Corn: Why Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Beliefs Matter in the Debate on GM Foods
Shiri Pasternak, Lorenzo Mazgul, Nancy J. Turner
11. Regulatory and Innovation Implications of Religious and Ethical Sensitivities concerning GM Food
Conrad G. Brunk, Nola M. Ries, Leslie C. Rodgers

Perspectives on genetically modified foods from world religions and indigenous traditions.


Modern biotechnology has surpassed science fiction with such feats as putting fish genes in tomatoes to create a more cold-resistant crop. While the environmental and health concerns over such genetically modified foods have been the subject of public debate, religious and spiritual viewpoints have been given short shrift. This book seeks to understand the moral and religious attitudes of groups within pluralistic societies whose traditions and beliefs raise for them unique questions about food and dietary practice. What questions are there for kosher Jews, halal Muslims, and vegetarian Hindus about food products containing transgenes from prohibited sources? How do these foods impact the cultural practices and spiritual teachings of indigenous peoples? Concerns from the above traditions as well as Christianity, Buddhism, Chinese religion, and ethical vegetarianism are included. Contributors look at the ethical context of each tradition and also include information from focus groups. This enlightening work concludes with recommendations for the labeling of genetically modified foods.

Conrad G. Brunk is Professor of Philosophy and former Director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. He is coauthor (with Lawrence Haworth and Brenda Lee) of Value Assumptions in Risk Assessment: A Case Study of the Alachlor Controversy and coeditor (with James O. Young) of The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation. Harold Coward is Professor Emeritus of History and Founding Director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. His many books include The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Eastern and Western Thought and Religion and Peacebuilding (coedited with Gordon S. Smith), both also published by SUNY Press.


"Fascinating and thought-provoking, with interesting insights about cultural mores, this collection provides a valuable appreciation of the social repercussions that result from thrusting a sensitive, volatile technology on a tradition-oriented public. " — CHOICE

"…Conrad G. Brunk and Harold Coward have compiled a unique set of religious, cultural, and indigenous perspectives on genetically modified foods. " — Religion Dispatches

"This well-written and thoughtful book is a significant contribution from religious voices, and the range of lenses in the book itself is a testimony to the many ways one can consider the implications of genetically modified organisms. " — Stephanie Kaza, author of Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking

"Unique and timely; a good text for courses dealing with environmental ethics and comparative religious ethics. " — Swasti Bhattacharyya, author of Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology