The Ethics of Innovations in Genomic Selection: On How to Broaden the Scope of Discussion

K. Kramer*, F. L.B. Meijboom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The use of genomic selection in agricultural animal breeding is in academic literature generally considered an ethically unproblematic development, but some critical views have been offered. Our paper shows that an important preliminary question for any ethical evaluation of (innovations in) genomic selection is how the scope of discussion should be set, that is, which ethical issues and perspectives ought to be considered. This scope is determined by three partly overlapping choices. The first choice is which ethical concepts to include: an ethical discussion of genomic selection approaches may draw on concepts central to (Anglo-Saxon) applied ethics, but some critical views have been based on concepts from critical animal studies and continental philosophy. A related choice is to what extent discussion should focus on new ethical issues raised or on existing ethical issues that will be ameliorated, perpetuated or aggravated by an innovation in genomic selection. The third choice is to treat an innovation in genomic selection either as a technique on itself or as a part of specific practices. We argue that ethical discussion should not limit attention to new issues or ignore the implications of particular ways of applying genomic selection in practice, and this has some consequences for which ethical concepts ought to be included. Limiting the scope of discussion may be defensible in some contexts, but broader ethical discussion remains necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Ethics
  • Genomic selection
  • Livestock breeding
  • Philosophy of technology


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