Can GM Foods Be ‘Halal’? Or Kosher?

Investigating the profit-motivated push to make genetically modified food ‘halal’

Back in December 2010, a conference held in Penang, Malaysia with biotechnology experts and halal proponents ended with the conclusion that genetically modified food was halal ( ‘permissible’ for Muslims) as long as the sources from which they originate from are halal. This decision – which was accompanied by a fatwa declaring GM halal – came as a shock to some in the wider Muslim community who consider GM a deviation from god’s creation.

The UK-based green Muslim organisation Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences insisted the fatwa was controversial and “failed to consider biotechnology from an Islamic perspective, ignoring not only the harm that GM causes to the environment but the way it undermines the integrity of God’s creation.”

Genetically modified food is a plant or animal which has genetic material that has been changed using genetic engineering rather than sexual crossing. Genetic modification was developed back in the 1980s and commercial agricultural companies invested heavily in the science in the 1990s to grow crops mainly in developed nations such as Canada and the US.

It has since spread to rising developing nations such as Argentina, Brazil and India (although controversy in Europe means that their use there has been limited).

The Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES) has remarked that GM companies are now targeting Muslim populations through their “profit-motivated” efforts to establish the Shariah-compliance of GM. They added that they are “manipulating Islamic scholars into issuing highly controversial fatwas in support of GM.”

Fazlun Khalid, founder of IFEES, explained in an editorial in the organisations newsletter that there were real fears about pest-resistant GM crops causing species loss and a decline in bird species. “There are complex scientific, ethical,and political issues to be explored ,” he said. “And it is a puzzle how an unrepresentative group of ulema [religious scholars], however learned in the Islamic Sciences, can determine in a two-day conference held in Penang, Malaysia last December, that GM foods are halal and can be consumer by Muslims.”

Green campaigners such as Greenpeace have challenged GM crops on the grounds that there is a lack of adequate scientific understanding of their impact on the environment and human health.

The GM industry has also been criticized due its efforts to portray GM as a solution to world hunger through genetically modifying crops with increased yield and nutrition, when in reality GM crops are expensive, require a lot of pesticide and water which may actually hinder the agriculture of developing nations.

However, even amongst green activists the debate over genetically modified food is not straightforward. During a lecture given by the vertical farming advocate Dickson Despommier, a question was raised about the possibility of using GM crops in the farms.

Despommier, who is a parasitologist at Columbia in New York City, insisted that there was nothing wrong with genetically modified food per se. The only problem he saw was that most GM crops were modified to resist higher and higher levels of herbicide and pesticide and not for greater yield or better nutrition.

So, what do you think? Is GM good or bad for us? Maybe you think that with some limits it can be useful or are you concerned that we are simply meddling in affairs we don’t fully understand? Also, can GM really be Halal or Kosher?

: Image via Joost J. Bakker Ijmuiden/flickr.

For more on GM see:

GM Foods Shrinking Sexual Health In A Womb Near You

Frankenstein Falafel? Israeli Consumers At Risk From GM Foods

Is Egypt Backtracking On GM Crops Ban?

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7 thoughts on “Can GM Foods Be ‘Halal’? Or Kosher?”

  1. Miriam says:

    GMO science ignores the Bible – the holiest of books for Judaism, Christianity & also having a role in Islam.
    If you are a follower of what it says then there is no way GMOs & the science of GM are Kosher or Halal.
    It is a very examination & conclusion.
    The arguments put forward by GMO vested interests are rubbish in my opinion.

    1. Miriam says:

      sorry – missed out the word “simple” – very simple examination

  2. Cynthia Hillinger says:

    Personally, I am extremely disappointed. Even though I am not Muslim, I have been buying Halal because my understanding was that it would not contain GMO because GMO is not natural, and in some cases, may actually contain human dna. It is very hard to find meat that does not contain GMO or massive quantities of antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals and now I find that what I thought was safe (Halal) is now also suspect.

    1. Maimuna says:

      I know the reply is late but if you live in England then try to purchase HMC as they don’t use antibiotics or GMO feed.
      Here is the link
      http://www.halalhmc.org/news-details.htm?news_id=83

  3. Ummer says:

    I personally believe that GMO is haram because of Quran 2:173 alone.

    translation:
    He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced, neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

    That alone should be enough for those who do not desire to do shirk of worshiping corporations.

    Though there is something even more worrying in these verses than just the GM scare.

    1. Mohammad says:

      I see no relationship with worshiping corporations from this verse. If you with to use evidence, then use applicable evidence. To be honest I find it hard to see how manipulating transcription factors can even be compare to creation. Humans have absolutely no way of creating a living creature from scratch and they never will. Inserting DNA and a driving gene will only affect which genes are transcribed. This is the crux of the debate. There is no dedication to something other than Allah.

  4. Phil says:

    The GM lobby is well funded, determined and has expended a great deal of effort in overcoming any resistance to its introduction worldwide.

    Nature took millions of years to produce foods absolutely safe for us to eat provided we don’t damage them in some way through pollution.

    GM foods are not absolutely safe, governments will not accept responsibility for the mass arrival of medical conditiond proven to be brought about by the adoption of GM and its predatory farming practices.

    GM may have a safe future, it is not now, but who can resist the inducements of wealthy agrichemical and power.

    The poor die quietly.

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