Before voting on this opinion poll, read the brief outline of each side of this controversial debate below.
As science in general continues to advance at a rapid pace, so too does the ability for scientists to increase their ability to modify living species by altering their genetic makeup. Genetically modified organisms (GMOS), however, bring a sense of anxiety in the minds of consumers, especially considering one of the largest uses of genetic alterations is in food. Food is one of our basic needs as human beings, and one of the most personal and intimate parts of our lives. As a result, many people feel uneasy about eating food that is considered genetically modified. On the other hand, others accept genetic engineering as a positive because of the advancements in food sciences that it brings to our world.
Below we have outlined the two main sides to the debate, and the points that justify each opinion. Note that we are not providing a meta-analysis of all the scientific studies for both sides of the argument because for every study that supports one side or the other, the opposing side has reasons the study in question lacks validity. Therefore, we are simply presenting the outlined reasons why each side of the debate feels the way they do.
- Health consequences of GMOs are largely unknown, especially the long-term effects. Therefore, when we consume food that has been genetically modified, we are risking the potential of allergies and disorders in the future.
- Many GMOs require the use of pesticides. These types of GMOs function by having a gene implanted into their genetic makeup that resists the killing effect of certain pesticides. When a pesticide is sprayed, then, everything in its path gets exterminated, except, of course, the genetically modified crop. The crop will resist the pesticide, but it will still absorb the pesticide. And, pesticides are indisputably harmful to human health. Even if the pesticide does not necessarily reach your plate, the pesticide will have invaded the environment, causing environmental problems.
- When pesticides are used on an environmental landscape, it kills anything that is not resistant to the effects of the pesticide. This is basically everything with the exception of the GMO. However, overtime, “super weeds” may grow, and do so with a resistance to the effects of the pesticide. These super weeds can take over the landscape, and require a separate pesticide to kill them. In addition to the obvious addition of more pesticides in the environment, the cost of developing these additional pesticides is time consuming and costly.
- It is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain a diet that is GMO-free. Nearly everything in the supermarket has been tainted to some degree with modifications. Fortunately, products are now labeled. Nevertheless, it makes shopping for GMO-free foods more difficult.
- Seeds that contain GMOs can spread to crops that are grown without GMOs, thus contaminating them with genetically modified material.
- Foods can be made to taste better through genetic modifications.
- We can produce more food on less land when we genetically modify food. With a population that is rapidly growing, there is an increasing need to produce more food. Unfortunately, land is required to produce that food, and the decline of farmable land has also declined as a result of the rise in population.
- The shelf-life of some foods can be extended through genetic modifications. This allows food to be transported and/or stored for longer periods of time, leading to more efficient food production.
- Crops that are susceptible to disease can be modified to resist the diseases that threaten to eliminate or significantly decrease them. This, of course, leads to more total food in the world. It also helps farmers prevent economic losses.
Again, the GMO debate is obviously much more intense and encompasses more than just crops that are grown for food. The points outlined in this article are simply the overall talking points for each side regarding GMOs in food. In the end, I believe something needs to be done to provide a sustainable food source for an increasing population. In the 1950s, the Green Revolution provided this need. Since the 1970s, the Gene Revolution has taken over. With it, however, has come controversy. Both sides, I believe, have valid points. In the end, I think a compromise, unlikely as that may be, is needed. Scientists need the freedom to utilize their modern capabilities to provide food for the world, but individuals who want nothing to do with the uncertainties of genetic modification should feel that they live in a world where ethics are considered, and their choice to not eat genetically modified foods is honored.
Which side of the GMO debate are you on? Vote below:
You may also be interested in: How Much do You Care Where Your Food Comes From?