The Instigator
desiflavour
Con (against)
Tied
7 Points
The Contender
andre
Pro (for)
Tied
7 Points

GM Foods - should they be approved for commercial cultivation?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/8/2009 Category: Health
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,944 times Debate No: 10376
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (12)
Votes (2)

 

desiflavour

Con

Personally I'm sort of sitting on the fence when it comes to this topic. However for debate purposes, I'm gonna be "against" it.

And i am also going to give my opposition the opportunity to open first :D
Good luck!
andre

Pro

Undoubtedly, we will get into a lot of detail and maybe research, but for now I'll keep is simple and logical.

First of all, GM foods have huge potential to increase health standards. GM rice, golden rice with elevated levels of vitamin A were created to be used in poor areas of the world where vitamin A was low due to a dependence on rice as a source of food. Other foods can be modified to lose genes that make them worse for the body, and add genes that are beneficial. Some foods now have become "edible vaccines" thanks to genetic modifications.

The fear most people have is simply paranoia. People don't think twice about red meat which can cause heart disease, but dare a food be genetically modified - the "artificial" factor is what is worrying people. We've been told about the problems with artificial preservatives and so on, and so we've associated it with GM.

So should it go on the market? Of course it should. With the potential is has to make foods better for us, we should be encouraged to consume these products, as we would do with any other beneficial health advice. Should it be labelled? Yes, a consumer has a right to know what they are buying.

That's all for now, until then.
Debate Round No. 1
desiflavour

Con

While I do agree with you about GM foods having huge POTENTIAL to increase health standards, I think we honestly don't know much about the consequences of GM food consumption by humans. Even if research has be carried out, they are not LONGITUDINAL study cases that could help us understand long term effects or complexities (if any) on health. While it might seem very beneficial to "add" and "lose" genes accordingly, any geneticist would know that the effects of this are not so simple, and could lead to either a harmful mutation, a dormant gene being switched or vice versa, transfer of allergenic genes, transfer of antibiotic resistance etc. Some very relevant points made by Jeffrey Smith in 'Seeds of deception' (interesting read btw!) are quoted below:

1. Hasn't research shown GM Foods to be safe? - No. The only feeding study done with humans showed that GMOs survived inside the stomach of the people eating GMO food. No follow-up studies were done.
Various feeding studies in animals have resulted in potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy or increased density of the liver, odd shaped cell nuclei and other unexplained anomalies, false pregnancies and higher death rates.

2. Haven't people been eating GM food without any ill-effects? - The biotech industry says that millions have been eating GM foods without ill effect. This is misleading. No one monitors human health impacts of GM foods. If the foods were creating health problems in the US population, it might take years or decades before we identified the cause.

3. What indications are there that GM foods are causing problems? - Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50 percent. In March 2001, the Center for Disease Control reported that food is responsible for twice the number of illnesses in the U.S. compared to estimates just seven years earlier.
This increase roughly corresponds to the period when Americans have been eating GM food. Without follow-up tests, which neither the industry or government are doing, we can't be absolutely sure if genetic engineering was the cause.

4. Are there any documented instance of adverse effects on people? - One epidemic was rare, serious, and fast acting, and therefore more easily discovered. Called EMS, it was traced to a GM brand of the food supplement L-tryptophan. In the 1980's, the contaminated brand killed about 100 Americans and caused sickness or disability in about 5,000-10,000 others.

If you're interested, you can read more about it on www.seedsofdeception.com

Secondly, I think you're right in saying that the fear most people have is simple paranoia, but then to me its JUSTIFIABLE paranoia. Keep in mind that once GM foods are completely introduced and mixed into the food chain, the process is IRREVERSIBLE altering population genetics as well. People definitely have a right to be concerned. You mentioned 'people not thinking twice about red meat which can cause heart disease'...well, possibly. But that is a CHOICE that they make perhaps foolishly, and yet CONSCIOUSLY. Its a different issue with GM food where we simply do not know its FULL POTENTIAL yet.

And these are just the health reasons. Potential socio-economic effects should also be factored in.
andre

Pro

To say that GM foods are safe or not safe is a generalisation - truthfully many people have been eating genetically modified foods without knowing it (admittedly that is not right) in many mass-produced foods without suffering any severe effects. We may not know yet, as you say, whether or not these health problems have appeared, but if they were labelled properly consumers would at least have that choice.

The reason that GM soy might cause allergies is again due to a lack of labelling. People with nut allergies should be warned against eat GM soy, as it contains a protein derived from certain nuts. It is this that most likely causes the allergies.

The EMS epidemic is probably a more isolated incident rather than proof of how dangerous GM foods can be. It was simply caused by the company's errors resulting in contamination, in the same way many foods and medicines have errors that cause disease. Other brands of GM L-tryptophan were in fact safe.

And I agree, it is justifiable to be suspicious of these foods. We don't know the full potential of some non-GM foods anyway, e.g. we don't know what meat manufacturers will test for diseases such as Mad Cow Disease or even which label their products with the possible complications of the food, and even less about medicines, which although approved for sale many may have side-effects about which we don't know. The key is informed consent - a patient, or when it comes to food a consumer, knows exactly what they are buying, and what could possibly happen if they choose to consume a product, so at least they get their choice.

As for socio-economic effects? More employment, consumer choice, and even increased production. But more of that later, I guess.
Debate Round No. 2
desiflavour

Con

"To say that GM foods are safe or not safe is a generalization" - That would probably be due to a limited amount of in-depth research conducted. The fact remains that there have been a number of instances with GMOs (whether cotton, soy, maize or even genetically modified "human" insulin to name few) where they hadn't lived up to the expected result causing different issues among producers and consumers alike - isolated instances or not. Experience would tell us that we are moving from so-called 'science' to applied technology in a way which is invasive almost beyond imagination, and with only a tiny fragment of the knowledge necessary to predict the results; and yet, you (as pro) are proposing to use this technology to irrevocably change the fundamental molecular structure of the world's food structure. Funnily enough, before scientists had completed decoding even one complete gene map of any agricultural crop (accomplished in 2002) - that they were so enthusiastically modifying - they had proceeded to insert into our food this foreign genetic material from viruses and bacteria which had never been a part of the human diet. To me, this scenario is far from encouraging.

Other than potential health risks, GM foods also cause environmental risks and socio-economic problems for farmers, especially in developing countries. Bringing GM food to market is sure to be a lengthy and costly process. I'm not going to get into this but the point I want to emphasize is that these problems are very real and relevant, and even if they might seem not so directly related to this topic, they are in fact.

Also, it seems to me - correct me if I'm wrong - that the only point you seem to be advocating is that GM food should be labeled so that consumers can make an informed choice. Personally I don't think its that easy. For one thing, as mentioned before, its bound to raise prices. Would consumers be willing to absorb that? If the food production industry is required to label GM foods, factories will need to construct two separate processing streams and monitor the production lines accordingly. Farmers must be able to keep GM crops and non-GM crops from mixing during planting, harvesting and shipping. Secondly, when nutritionally enhanced crops like rice with high Vitamin A concentrations are planted, it becomes difficult to distinguish them from normal rice with the contingent risk of liver damage if too much of the vitamin is consumed. So what are the acceptable limits of GM contamination? And who is going to monitor companies for compliance? What about penalty if they fail to do so?

Finally, who is to be responsible for educating the public about GM food labels and how costly will that education be? In almost every developing country, this would be a huge, huge challenge. True, there are probably some non-GM foods that we may not know much about either, but I am doubtful that they would have the potential to be even half as dangerous/risky (if they had to be) as compared to GM foods (again if they had to be).

In conclusion to this round, I think there are many challenges ahead for Governments, especially in the areas of safety testing, regulations, international policy and food labeling. Only once these challenges are met, should we consider approving GM foods for commercial cultivation because at this point, I think the cons definitely outweigh the pros.
andre

Pro

I don't at all propose using this technology before rigorous testing and certification by a nation's food safety board. There may be potential health risks, as with all consumer products, and as with any product, GM food must be tested to ensure that it is safe for people to eat. Given the potential benefits, the key is not to eliminate the idea all together but to eliminate the potential risks so as to reap those benefits.

You should have got into this point, as it would have allowed me to understand exactly what you meant, but - GM foods can be beneficial to farmers. For areas in drought, genes can be modified in certain crops to allow them to survive on less water. They can be modified to grow faster or in less space so that a farmer can produce more. They can provide new opportunities for farmers and therefore more jobs.

It would raise prices, but for the benefits it would have, yes, consumers would be OK to choose whether or not to absorb that, and for better value.

Separation of the two different types of crops is hardly an issue. It isn't hard to do. As for rice with high Vitamin A, the rice was also a different colour, making it easier to distinguish them, as does separating the crops or growing them in different farms altogether. We could have GM-certified farms, monitored by food safety boards, and as for a penalty, shut them down if they can't comply with these simple regulations.

Educating the public? No one individual or group needs to be responsible - think of how you may have learnt about normal food labels and normal food safety.

All foods are risky and we don't just outlaw them. GM foods as we all agree on, have amazing potential for health, for convenience, and so long as the benefits are in demand, we have to approve the foods for commercialisation. Admittedly, as with all products, we should not do this until we test them one by one, and label them to allow the consumer to make an informed decision based on the possible risks. For instance, I have to take a medication twice a day that potentially could make my medical condition worse and cause damage to my kidneys. But I assumed the risk for the benefits I needed. I read the labels, and everything I need to have made my informed choice, my doctor told me all about it - the medication was once subjected to a barrage of trials and tests to ensure its safety for use, and even after that they have made sure to inform the consumer about all the possible risks.

We don't just outlaw something because it might be unsafe. We don't outlaw knives or cars because we need them. And would it not be hypocrisy to outlaw GM foods while we continue to consume billions of poisonous cigarettes each year?

Genetically modified foods might be unsafe, but it is up to the consumer to make that choice.
Debate Round No. 3
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by desiflavour 6 years ago
desiflavour
because more often than not, the government or policy makers aren't honest with the general public
Posted by desiflavour 6 years ago
desiflavour
a.k.a. the "scientification of politics". Not very benign to democratic ideals through broad-based decision making processes though.
Posted by andre 6 years ago
andre
The logic in regulations is to obtain products we want despite the possible negatives and yet try to prevent those negatives all the same, believing the positives to outweigh the negatives, though as with most law this is a matter of opinion. There's nothing illogical about it.

One would hope that regulations would be prevent breeding between GM foods and non-GM foods, admittedly accidents might happen but with a little luck a complete contamination could be contained.
Posted by desiflavour 6 years ago
desiflavour
Frankly, I see quite a number of complications in your argument but they might trigger another debate so I'll let it go. And I do understand that no amount of caution can avoid unknown hazards sometimes -- the nature of revolutionary technology is that our knowledge base is too limited to anticipate long term consequences. I get that. But I also think we're sometimes a bit too foolish in our enthusiasm, especially where people's health or life is concerned. Where is the logic in approving GM food and then saying that we need to have proper legislation, laws, legally binding safety precautions etc. Its silly. I'm not completely against this but I do think we need to be a bit more sensible.
By the way, another thing is that - regardless of labeling - if a GM food is in fact dangerous, it would pollute the population gene pool. This becomes a issue concerning not just the individual making the choice, alone.
Posted by andre 6 years ago
andre
Yes, it is. I agree with probably all of the point you raised but believe the potential benefits outweigh the negatives, so long as consumers are given a fair and informed choice to get the benefits. Eventually, as research progresses, the products will get safer and maybe even commonplace.
Posted by desiflavour 6 years ago
desiflavour
well technically not in your propositions but in your assumptions. anyway, this could probably go on forever... at least turned out to be a debate of some sorts. Is your personal stance pro GM food as well?
Posted by andre 6 years ago
andre
Elitist? Hardly. As for patent rights, one would hope, or force should it be necessary, that farmers should not have to pay to grow any crop and that creation must be brought into the public domain, and corporations who buy the GM foods from farmers would pay royalties to creators, if that is what you meant.
Posted by desiflavour 6 years ago
desiflavour
Andre, I was refering to patent rights and that sort of thing. In reality, most of the time it actually is threat to farmers. Also, you're taking a very 'elistist' point of view in most of your propositions.
Posted by desiflavour 7 years ago
desiflavour
i look forward to your arguments
Posted by andre 7 years ago
andre
you better not, coz ill accept.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by WilliamofOckham 3 years ago
WilliamofOckham
desiflavourandreTied
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: Negating dasamster's unexplained vote.
Vote Placed by dasamster 6 years ago
dasamster
desiflavourandreTied
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Total points awarded:70