Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Steven C. Roach, Ph.D.

Committee Member

M. Scott Solomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Harry Vanden, Ph.D.


GMO, Human Rights, Agriculture, Resource Management


Since the Neolithic period and the rise of agriculture along Mesopotamia’s “Fertile Crescent,” greater societies have formed thus requiring laws and governance to ensure their continued preservation. The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi is one such example of how agricultural technologies directly created new social and institutional structures in codifying slavery into law, or how mercantile transactions are to be conducted. Similarly, GMOs are the result of modern agricultural technologies that are altering laws and society as a result of their implementation. This transformation informs the central inquiries of my research question: Why are GMOs necessary, and what influences do they have on the project of human rights? As our age is defined by the products of bioluminescent – or glow-in-the-dark – cats and goats that can excrete spider silk proteins from their mammary glands, these questions become essential. I conclude that the technology does not, at least conceptually, conflict with or undermine human rights. Instrumental reason has firm limitations in biological applications as well as conflict with its inherent anarchical nature. We are now compelled to question the utility of genetic engineering and if it merely places humanity into another precarious “arms race” with weeds and pests, in addition to the pressure of maintaining current dependencies of petrochemicals, fertilizers, and continued observations of ecological homeostasis.