I. Introduction Since January 1997, there are a lot of discussions about Nestl, the biggest food manufacturer in Europe, and genetically engineered food. Greenpeace stated German consumers cannot be sure anymore what they eat since plenty of products of the Swiss company Nestl are made abroad, such as Quality Street, Nuts, Lion. That means that Nestl cannot guarantee that these products are not genetically modified.
The foreign subsidiaries of Nestl did not mention anything about their usage of gene-manipulated ingredients, neither did the German company. In August 1998, Nestl announced that they are going to bring the first genetically manipulated chocolate from USA, named Butterfinger, to the German market in September 1998. This chocolate contains genetically modified maize and on the package of this chocolate should be a very little reference to the gene-manipulated ingredient. On 30 th August 1998, the first chocolate found German gas-stations did not have any hint to this on the package. This paper will discuss if Nestl acts (ed) ethically concerning their consumer production and marketing. To analyse this problem, firstly there will be a short overview about the subject genetically engineered food.
Furthermore, the Nestl case will be presented following an analysis on the ethical issues involved with this case with help of several ethical concepts. Finally, a conclusion will be given. II. Genetically Engineered Food What is genetic engineering Genes are the blueprints for every part of an organism. Genetic engineering is the process of artificially modifying these blueprints.
By cutting and splicing DNA-genetic surgery-genetic engineers can transfer genes specific to one of organism into any other organism on earth. Scientists want to transfer desirable qualities from one organism to another, for example, to make crop resistant to an herbicide or to enhance food value. Is it necessary Closer examination reveals that commerci a and political motives are taking precedence with little regard to the possible dangers. The world has already the ability to feed the population without the risks posed by genetic engineering.
Dangers of genetically engineered food Because living organisms are highly complex, genetic engineers cannot possibly predict all of the effects of introducing new genes into them. Nevertheless, there are some dangerous fact mentioned in specific magazines, such as the fact that genetically engineered products carry more risks than traditional foods. That means that the process of genetic engineering can thus introduce dangerous new allergens and toxins into foods that were previously naturally safe. Already, one genetically engineered soybean was found to cause serious allergic reactions, and bacteria genetically engineered to produce large amounts of the food supplement have been suspected to produce toxic contaminants that killed 37 people and permanently disabled 1, 500 more. Furthermore, unlike chemical or nuclear contamination, genetic pollution is self-perpetuating. It can never be reserved or cleaned up; genetics mistakes will be passed on to all future generations of a species.
III. The Nestl Butterfinger case -are they acting ethical When Nestl announced to enter the German market with the first genetically engineered chocolate bar in September 1998 a wave of opponents of genetically engineered food in Germany wrote letters to Nestl and started to engage heavier in organised groups and campaigns to demonstrate against genetically manipulated food production. Nestl react with a public letter to all the opponents but hold on to their position to be the first big food manufacturer in Germany to offer these products. They stated that their biggest target group are youngsters and kids since they do not worry about gene-manipulation. Further they mentioned already in the last decade that from now on any member of the distribution channel of food has to face the possibility that genetically manipulated maize will be an ingredient in the end product since a lot of ingredients came from other countries.
Therefore, it would be impossible to guarantee non-manipulated food. Actually, this statement is not correct since Greenpeace and other health concerned organisations and groups could prove that, for example, Ferrero is able to produce genetically free candies. In August 1998, the manager of Nestl Germany, Hans Gueldenburg, assured that they will clearly mark manipulated products on their packages if they are genetically modified. In September 1998, just as announced, Butterfinger was offered in German stores. Greenpeace found some of the first in German gas stations but they were not typified. On the 1 st of September 1998, the decision of the European ministry to typify gene-manipulated products was empowered and typifying was legally required.
This resolution did not stop the problem. Unfortunately, it is impossible to read these references on the packages due to the fact that the writing is extremely small. Furthermore, the requirement made by the ministry just says that the products have to be typified if only the end product contains manipulated substance or protein. All additional substances, e. g. Lecithin, do not belong to this definition and products that include just slightly engineered substances do not have to be marked.
That means that consumers buy products without knowing whether they are manipulated or not. Even if they are marked consumers do not have the possibility to recognise it due to the small writing that eyes of human beings cannot read. A Dutch research organisation came to the result that these hints on the package do not lead to clearing-ups for consumers. 85 % of the questioned people in the Netherlands actually bought the manipulated products but did not recognise it. Therefore, a buying decision which is made freely and knowingly is difficult to achieve. The ethical issue in this case is whether Nestl, as a representative of all companies involved in genetically engineering food industry, acted morally right or not concerning their consumer production and marketing.
Relevant literature about this subject serves us with several theories each on which strikes a different balance between the consumer s duty to himself or herself and the manufacturer s duty to the consumers: the contract view, the due care view and the social costs view. It will now follow a short presentation of the available means of ethical judgements to analyse Nets s behaviour. III. Application of Theories According to the first theory, the contract view, the relationship between a business firm and its customers is essentially a contractual relationship, and the firm s moral duties to the consumer are those created by this contractual relationship. For a contract is essentially a free agreement struck between two parties. Since an agreement cannot exist unless both parties know what they are agreeing to, contracts require full knowledge and the absence of misinterpretation.
The basic duties of businesses to customers are mainly: The basic duty of (1) complying with the terms of the sales contract, and the secondary duties of (2) disclosing the nature of the product, (3) avoiding misinterpretation, and (4) avoiding the use of duress and undue influence. Within the first moral duty, the duty to comply Frederick Sturdivant classifies this area according to several variables one of which is product safety. He mentions that the use of virtually any product involves some degree of risk, questions of safety are essentially questions of acceptable known levels of risk. That is, a product is safe if its attendant risk s are known and judged to be acceptable or reasonable by the buyer in view of the benefits the buyer expects to derive from using the product. Thus, the seller has the duty to provide a product with a level of risk which is no higher than he or she expressly or implicitly claims it to be, and which the consumer freely and knowingly contracts to assume. The second duty evolved by Velasquez, the duty of disclosure means that at minimum, this means the seller has a duty to inform the buyer of any facts about the product that would affect the customer s decision to purchase the product.
Actually, there are some problems to the contractual view theory. First, critics argue, the theory unrealistically assumes that manufactures make direct agreements with consumers, secondly, this theory focuses on the fact that a contract is a two-edged sword. That means, if a consumer can freely choose to buy a product with certain qualities, the consumer can also freely choose to buy a product without those qualities. That is, freedom of contract allows the manufacturer to be released from his contractual obligations by explicitly disclaiming that the product is reliable, safe, serviceable etc.
The Uniform Commercial code, in fact, stipulates this in several sections. Thirdly, this theory focuses on the assumption that buyer and seller meet each other as equal in the sales agreement. That means, that buyer and seller are equally skilled at evaluating the quality of a product and that the buyer is able to adequately protect their interests against the seller. This is far from realty since consumers have neither the expertise nor the time to acquire and process the information on which they must base their purchase decisions. The second theory, the due care theory, tells us that consumers and sellers do not meet as equals and that the consumer s interests are particularly vulnerable to being harmed by the manufacturer who has the knowledge and an expertise that the consumers does not have. The duty to exercise due care contains producer s responsibilities as well.
One area of these is information. The manufacturer should fix labels, notices, or instructions on the product that will warn the user of all dangers involved in using the item and that will enable the user to adequately guard himself against harm or injuries. These instructions should be clear and simple, and warnings of any hazards involved in using the product should also be clear, simple and prominent. Furthermore, the manufacturer must also take into consideration the capacities of the persons who will use the product. If a manufacturer anticipates that a product will be used by persons who are immature, mentally deficient, or too inexperienced to be aware of the dangers attendant on the use of the product, then the manufacturer owes them a greater degree of care. This, especially is focused on manufacturer s target groups such as children who cannot be expected to realise the dangers involved of using some products.
The third theory, the theory of the social costs view embodies that manufacturers should pay the costs of any injuries sustained through any defects in the product, even when the manufacturer exercised all reasonable precautions to warn users of every foreseen danger. Furthermore, Prof. E. J. J.
M. Kimman mentioned in his book Organisatie Ethiek six different patterns of thinking. One of these patterns is called goal thinking (doeldenken) which can be mostly used to describe behaviours of a company. Nestl as a profit seeking organisation is of course goal directed. That means that they introduce the chocolate bar Butterfinger with the purpose to attract new consumers, especially the youth to this genetically engineered food to reach a higher profit level.
For Nestl this means that they benefit of using genetically manipulated food since due to this newly developed process. For example, cows that get food with genetically manipulated soybeans can produce 8% more fat content in their milk. That saves costs and is more efficient concerning their production. If we try to apply the mentioned theories to this case it is eye-striking that Nestl lacks another pattern of thinking developed by Kimman: duty directed thinking (middelendenken). This means that they are goal directed in their behaviour but it should also matter how they reach their goal. A buying decision for a consumer should always be made freely and knowingly.
This is a right for consumers and if it is not violated then to decide freely and knowingly implies that consumers of Nestl s products should be informed whether they are genetically manipulated or not. Therefore, the second theory presented above, the Due care theory fits best to this case. According to it Nestl breached their moral duty to exercise due care and violated consumer s right to expect such care that rests on the consumer s need to rely on the manufacturer s expertise when they offered Butterfinger in German gas stations in August 1998 without typifying the product as genetically manipulated. Furthermore, when the resolution of the European ministry made typifying these products legally required Nestl reacted with unreadable hints on the packages. The due care theory tells that these instruction should be made clear, simple and prominent. Thus, in this point as well Nestl lacks duty directed thinking.
Additionally, in determining the safeguards that should be built into a product, the manufacturer must also take into consideration the above mentioned capacities of the consumers. Due care theory explains that especially immature and / or inexperienced people have to be provided with a greater degree of care. Due to this theory Nestl violated their responsibilities as well when they clearly stated that their target group of Butterfinger will be to a great extent the youth of the population. By announcing that Nestl focuses mainly on kids and youngsters because they expect that they are no opponents of genetically engineered food they take advantage of the inexperience and immaturity of children. In general, according to this theory, Nestl, in virtue of a greater expertise and knowledge, has a positive duty to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the product is as safe as possible. Thus, by hiding as much as possible the fact that Butterfinger is a genetically manipulated chocolate bar Nestl acts and acted also in former times unethically towards their consumers.
Furthermore, the resolution of the European ministry is partly an unethical act as well since, as mentioned above, typifying genetically engineered food is limited up to a certain extent. Finally, since Nestl is given the possibility to still confuse consumers by hiding information which should definitely be given to them the first institution that should become aware of their violated duties is the European ministry. IV. Conclusion Although there are several theories available to judge ethical behaviour all three presented theories have one fact in common: it is the moral duty of manufacturers to provide consumers with all relevant information to prevent them from being injured by the product. As showed, Nestl acts / acted unethically in many ways. Firstly, they did not typify there products although they contained genetically engineered ingredients.
Secondly, when they were legally required to do that the hints on the package were not clear and prominent since they were unreadable. Thirdly, they try to serve to great extent children with Butterfinger. This calls for special attention, greater degree of exercising care. But the Swiss company ignores that fact. Additionally, political regulations up to now give the possibility to behave like Nestl since they lack duty directed thinking (middelendenken) as well.
Therefore, the if companies such as Nestl are not enough duty thinking directed on their own, legal regulations have to be settled in such a way that these companies are obligated to be duty directed. If not then some consumers rights are treated in a immoral way which means unethical. V. Literature list John B.
Fagan, Ph. D. , Genetic Engineering: Hazards, E vedic Engineering: The Solutions, article, originally excerpted from Journal Genetics (Oct. 1997), Genetic Society of America Harrison Pierre V. , Das Emporium Nestl, Rot punkt-Verlag, 1986 Several press release of Greenpeace in 1998 Press release, Reuters Wirtschaftsdienst, Brussels, May 18 th, 1998 M.
G. Velasquez, Business ethics: Concepts and Cases, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 4 th ed. , 1998, Chapter 6 Frederick D. Sturdivant and Heidi Vernon-Wortzel, Business and Society: A managerial approach, 4 th ed. (Homewood, IL: Irwin, 1990), pp.
310-311. E. J. J. M. Kimman, Organisatie Ethiek, Van Gor cum, Assen/Maastricht, 1991.