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Are GMOs good or bad? Show more Show less

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are organisms (plants and animals) that have had specific genes from a different species inserted into its own DNA. This results in the crop having new desirable features. Examples include papayas that are virus-resistant or corn that is herbicide-resistant. Our food has been genetically modified since the first GMO tomato (Flvr Svr) in the early 1990s. The acceptance of GMOs has varied between countries; the United States, Argentina, and Canada have quickly adopted GMOs while the EU countries have passed stricter legislation. There is a heated debate over whether GMOs are good or bad for our health, environment, world hunger, and the economy.

GMOs are bad Show more Show less

GMOs come with legal/economic risks (research restrictions and lawsuits against farmers) and health risks (increased amount of toxic herbicide on the crops and unintended DNA changes). The increased use of herbicide and decreased biodiversity associated with GMOs are also harmful to the environment.
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GMOs are not natural

GMOs have modifications that do not appear naturally. Genetic engineering can also cause unintended changes to the organism's DNA which can be difficult to test for and could be unsafe. People should not eat unnatural food.
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Context

The Argument

The European Union defines a GMO as “an organism, with the exception of human beings, in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination”.[1] A GMO is an organism that does not appear in nature and we should only be putting natural food into our bodies. Apples that don’t get brown and potatoes that don’t bruise are not natural. According to USDA organic regulations, GMOs are not allowed in organic products; farmers/processors must show that they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their food from contact with GMOs.[2] This supports the idea that GMOs are not natural. However, these products are still be marketed as natural. This is deceitful and doesn’t allow the consumer to decide for themselves if they want to consume GMOs. There are reasons to be distrustful of GMOs. Genetic engineering has unintentionally introduced additional fragments of genes to a plant’s DNA and gene-editing (altering the organism’s DNA instead of inserting new genetic material) can have “off-target effects” which means that DNA at a different location can be unintentionally edited.[1] The consequences of this can be hard to predict or detect. This is why even though scientists claim that GMOs are safe, it makes sense to be distrustful because researchers may not be able to test for the unintentional changes and these changes could end up being unsafe.

Counter arguments

Modifications happen naturally too it just takes a long time. Domesticated crops have been genetically altered compared to the wild plants that they have been from.[3] By grafting different plants together, people have been creating transgenic plants (plants that contain genetic material from an unrelated organism) for a millennium.[4] Additionally, research has found naturally occurring transgenic plants; some of these plants (such as bananas and peanuts) contain the exact same bacterium (Agrobacterium microbe) that scientists typically use to create GMOs.[4] If these modifications can happen without human intervention, then they cannot be claimed to be unnatural. Modifying organisms in a lab is just speeding up the process. It is the next step in agriculture.

Framing

Premises

[P1] GMOs have modifications that do not appear naturally. [P2] Genetic engineering can cause unintended changes to the organism's DNA. [P3] These changes are difficult to test for and could be unsafe.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Modifications happen naturally too.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/16658-what-s-a-gmo
  2. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/05/17/organic-101-can-gmos-be-used-organic-products
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/11/10/should-the-fda-regulate-the-use-of-natural-on-food-products-15/calling-gmos-unnatural-suggests-they-are-unhealthy
  4. https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2019/10/many-plants-naturally-gmo-research-finds/

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This page was last edited on Saturday, 11 Jul 2020 at 19:45 UTC