The Instigator
Con (against)
11 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

On balance, the benefits of GMO's outweigh the harms.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/8/2014 Category: Science
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,201 times Debate No: 64624
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (37)
Votes (3)




R2: constructives (pro will post constructive in R1)
R3: rebuttals
R4: rebuttals and conclusion

this should be impossible to accept, comment if you want to debate this

i figure i might as well debate this on both the pro and the con for maximum experience


Thanks to Liz for instigating! I anticipate a fun debate with her, and perhaps my most challenging yet on DDO. I will begin the debate with brief constructives which will be elaborated as need be upon Pro's rebuttals.

Before we begin, I would like to clarify that due to an err whilst creating the debate, I will be arguing for CON and Debatability will be arguing for PRO. Please judge this debate under the pretense that I am CON and Debatability is PRO. Thanks for reading and good luck to Debatability!


C1. Environmental impact of genetically modified organisms and longterm repercussions

The usage of genetically modified organisms has a grander potential to harm ecosystems to such an extent that employing them in the first place could become massively counterintuitive - most notably due to cross-pollination and cross-breeding.

If genetically modified crops or organisms were to be widely implemented, they could seriously threaten aspects of biodiversity within preexisting ecosystems. The World Health Organization [1] asserts that out-crossing - a process in which genetically modified genes and aspects of genetically modified organisms (specifically crops) are spread to other organisms in the wild - could result in complete hybridization of ecosystems, entirely eliminating not only the plant in it's original form but all other members of the ecosystem that are not tolerant to toxins found in some genetically modified crops, particularly those produced by Monsanto [2]. Large scale production of GMOs can relatively rapidly force their successors into extinction in this fashion.

Besides prompting environmental destruction within ecosystems, GMO susceptibility to out crossing can have economic and societal repercussions. According to the WHO, traces of GMO corn designed for livestock feed can now be found as constituting large portions of the makeup of GMO corn oriented for human consumption. This could upset and subside efforts taken by health organizations to insure proper food and safety practices.

In addition, the adverse effects of genetically modified organisms do not solely relate to plant/crop populations - evidence can support that species as differential as the Monarch Butterfly can be adversely effected by the utilization of genetically modified organisms. [3] A 1999 study illustrated that Monarch Caterpillar exposure to "
Bt Corn", a Monsanto GMO, caused mortality amongst the species. Even considering that Monarch Butterflies do not feed on corn, inevitable exposure via out-crossing and weather events can cause large fluctuations in regional populations.

Straying even further from GM crops, even the introduction of genetically modified salmon has the potential to wreak environmental havoc. According to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, releasing as little as 60 genetically modified salmon into a population of 60,000 could have the potential to wipe out large portions of the unmodified species and drive the population down to a near extinct amount consisting almost solely of modified salmon. [4]

All in all, any possible net benefits that an affirming position could suppose would not exist to such an extent that they could outweigh the value of the sanctity of our environment.

C2. Health Risks

The existence and development of genetically modified organisms within society has been plagued by an extensive history of concern about possible negative/detrimental effects on Human and Environmental health when consumed. A plethora of studies and academia which pose possible issues concerning the safety of genetically modified foods and organisms remain largely undismayed, whilst some are highly contested. To highlight one of the more undismayed reports, relatively recently, a 2011 Elsevier study [5] found that exposure to glysophate, GLUF, and other pesticides resulted in the presence of extrinsic substances associated with pesticides (that are tied to GMOs) in maternal, fetal, and non-pregnant women's blood to varying degrees. The most notable of the toxins found was the Cry1AB toxin (or Monsanto's Bt formula). Fetuses in particular are highly subject to adverse effects and repercussions on development associated with xenobiotics and foreign substances. Studies suggest that, as a possible result of this, fetuses especially exposed to GMOs are at a higher likelihood of undergoing birth defects. [6].

Other studies, most notably the Seralini studies of 2007,09,and 11 found that the consumption of Monsanto GMOs to certain scales caused near-catastrophic damages to the livers, hearts, and kidneys of rats, mostly as a result of dangers associated with hepatorenal toxicity [7]. Certain organizations have even noted deaths of mammals as large as cows after consumption of toxins associated with genetically modified organisms [8]. A variety of other studies and articles on the subject support the theory that generally negative/unusual repercussions can be associated with the regular consumption of genetically modified organisms [9].

The limited amounts of medical analysis provided by independent sources within the scientific community - and note the word independent very well - indicate that there are highly plausible negative effects associated with the consumption of GMOs.

This downplays any benefits they may have as, being so ambiguous outside the medical knowledge these studies profess, they have the potential to inflict major harm upon consumers and would inherently do more harm than good when consumed - as opposed to regular foods.

C3. Genetically Modified Organisms and Biotechnology Companies

The vast majority of, if not all, genetically modified organisms can trace their origins back to larger scale biotechnology companies. The most notable is Monsanto, an agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company that is responsible for the vast majority of commercial modification of crop genes, though others exist.

Thus, in this regard, a harm associated with genetically modified organisms is that they are, in feasible society, only capable of being produced by biotechnology companies whose motivations may not be to exploit any so-called "benefits" of genetically modified organisms in a fashion that benefits broader humanity or society.

If genetically modified foods are, in some or even most cases, entirely patented [10] and incapable of being controlled by large and diverse markets, then they are in themselves entirely susceptible to control and manipulation to suit the interests of Monsanto - and arguing from utilitarianism, what benefits Monsanto is not what benefits the majority. Monsanto and biotechnological corporations like/associated with them have proven in the past that cooperation with societal needs and interests are less prioritized by them when compared to profit margins. They do this in refusing to label products, indulge in full scientific comprehension of genetically modified organisms, and in using legislative maneuvering to handle concerns about GMOs rather than subscribing to the consensus of the scientific community.

To summarize, any benefits GMOs may 'appear' to have could largely be considered irrelevant judging that they cannot be feasibly exploited anyways as a result of a conflict in interest concerning the companies that own them, drastically effecting how much 'weight' these benefits are appointed per the resolution.


C3 concludes my initial constructives. Depending on Liz's contentions, if I do not reserve the right to introduce some new arguments (none as major as the ones provided here), then I would ask she clarifies as much in R2.

Just to RE-CLARIFY, I am arguing CON in this debate and Debatability (Liz) is arguing for PRO.

Thanks, and on to you, Liz!


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[3] - Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae (Nature, Volume 399, No 6733, Page 214, May 1999)

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Debate Round No. 1


Thanks daltonian for accepting, I look forward to a great debate. I initially planned on making my constructive longer, but due to time constraints I will use my original case.

C1: Gmo’s increase food production.

The need for food is increasing and Gmo’s are the most practical solution. As explained Watson, extreme whether and increased need for food are expected in the next 20 to 50. GM crops, unlike organic foods are temperature and pest tolerant, making them more able to solve expected problems (1). Crops are not the only thing that can be genetically modified; fish production rises significantly through the use of Gmo’s. Menozzi explains that with population growth, the need for fish is likely to increase. GM salmon have potential to grow to a substantial size within close to half the time, making them a viable way meet environmental and economic needs (2). Countries suffering from drought benefit from the use of GM crops. Sanders shows that the “crop water productivity” or amount of water needed to successfully produce a healthy crop. Through the use of crops altered to need less water, the crop water productivity was increased by 20 to 40 percent (3). Additionally, Gmo’s have the potential to overcome are plant diseases. Such diseases (especially blight) destroy close to 15 percent of the world’s harvest. MIT’s Technology Review magazine notes that “GM foods have the potential to create varieties that are better able to withstand the onslaught such as blight resistant potatoes (4).

Increased food production provides numerous utilitarian benefits beyond simply reducing hunger. For impacts, look to environmental benefits, and the reduction of hunger within the developing world. Larger crop yields reduce pressure to clear more areas for farming. IFPRI notes, “This conversion of forested areas, driven by food insecurity, will continue over the next twenty years, particularly in Africa, unless farmers have alternative ways of meeting food needs (5).Deforestation at this level can reduce biodiversity, disrupt water cycles, and increase erosion. Through the reduction of hunger that comes with increased crop yields, the problems that come with it will be decreased. Jooma explains, “11 million people in East Africa and the Horn of Africa are facing shortages owing to a drought… causing long term structural violence… and disease (6).” Thus, increased food production alone is enough to conclude that the benefits outweigh the harms, as people dealing with hunger and the problems that come with it as well as the environment are benefited.

C2: Gmo’s have health benefits.

The usage of pesticides and herbicides (chemicals designed for killing and/or impairing the growth of living organisms) directly harms humans. Such chemicals use can be reduced through the implementation of GMO’s. For example, "A study on smallholder farms in India shows that Bt cotton has reduced pesticide applications by 50%... Bt cotton now helps avoid several million cases of pesticide poisoning in India every year (7)," as noted by Thompson. This does not just apply to cotton. A study done by the USDA explains that GM crops reduce pesticide use by 2.5 million pounds. Glyphosate on HT crops is also significantly less toxic to humans than current herbicides. To further elaborate, the use of pesticides on crops has been reduced by almost 10% since 1996 largely due to the planting of genetically modified crops (8). Additionally, GM crops have shown capability to reduce vitamin deficiency. Thompson explains that golden rice, a GM crop, has shown enormous capability to reduce vitamin A deficiency, which currently causes blindness in over 250,000 children per year, particularly in the developing world (9).

C3: Gmo’s reduce poverty in third world countries.

As for economic benefits, due to this reduction of pesticide use on crops an estimated 7.5 Billion dollars was saved over a 9-year span, helping farmers save money. Higher crop yields make farmers significantly more money, as shown in Burkina Faso, “Yield increases of roughly 25% were achieved with Bt cotton, accompanied by reduced spraying costs of 66%. On average, the South African farmer’s income increased by $137 per hectare (10).” This happens because farmers use less farmland to grow more food, thus gaining profit from sales and efficient land use. To quantify this, a hectare is 10,000 square miles; globally, there are 4 billion hectares of farmland total, giving GM crops the potential to save 158 billion dollars if they followed Burkina Faso’s example. Such economic benefits will greatly help various countries in Africa. Orgodo explains that biotechnology will give African nations the potential to become a key player in the global economy, through the increased food production that comes with Gmo’s (12).

In the end, “The use of GM crops has greatly outweighed the health risks, which so far remain theoretical… They have lowered the price of food, increased farmer safety (through the decreased use of pesticides), raised output of corn, cotton and soy, by up to 30 percent.” (Stewart)



One of my sources improperly linked in the last round.

[5] - (

Like Liz, I would have liked to have made these rebuttals longer but I foolishly overestimated the time remaining I had to submit args. All rebuttals will be elaborated in the following rounds.


R1. Food Production and Poverty in impoverished countries

I am rebutting both C1 and C3 here. GMOs increasing rates of food production is directly tied to the argument that it can reduce poverty as a result, so I have coupled the two rebuttals together. I hope neither my opponent nor readers of the debate mind this change in formatting.

In contention one, Liz asserts that GMOs permitting increased food production would be on-balance beneficial. She is unfortunately mislead in this assertion.

In areas and nations where starvation and need for futher nutrition are present, the majority of the problems are more attributable to lack of infrastructure rather than need for better rates of food production. [1] In some impoverished countries, rates of food production have even risen to higher than ever before, but the large quantities of starving people remain the same due to poor systems of food distribution and economic conditions.

By this logic, spending large sums of money to implement even newer methods of crop production when the prime issue is a governmental and societal incapacity to distribute food would be redundant. The amount of monetary funding required for poor farmers to purchase GMO seeds are not worh the minimalist effects they will bring considering the real cause of problems within developing societies.

On balance, replacing and replenishing entire developing nations with GMO seeds instead of indigenous ones would only advance the issue that initiated the conflict; lack of economic capacity and infrastructure.

In terms of supposed environmental benefits, GMOs are on-balance more destructive to the environment than contributive. Liz makes the assertion that GMOs will benefit the environment because they will lessen the need for further forest conversion to farmland, but improvements in Agricultural Technology and Infrastructure could just as equally accomplish this feat.

Reducing pressure to clear more areas for farming is not a benefit exclusive to GMOs. Using the same logic expressed above, bettering the infrastructure of developing countries can do this same thing without the negative baggage that GMOs bring. Considering all of the environmental risks concerning biodiversity established in R1, Food Production and it's relation to poverty is therefore not an inherent benefit.

R2. Health 'Benefits'

"The usage of pesticides and herbicides (chemicals designed for killing and/or impairing the growth of living organisms) directly harms humans. Such chemicals use can be reduced through the implementation of GMO’s."

In this argument, my opponent presents a lighthearted but unfortunately misguided understanding of GMO's.

The whole reason that corporations genetically modify organisms in the United States and around the world is to design them to be resistant to Pesticides and Herbicides. Pesticides and GMOs are an inherently linked combination.

One of the most commonly circulated herbicides in North America, Glysophate [2] is patented and produced by the same company that produces the majority of North American GMOs, Monsanto. In her arguments, Liz even concedes a correlation between GMOs and the herbicides she denounces with this line..

"Glyphosate on HT crops is also significantly less toxic to humans than current herbicides. To further elaborate, the use of pesticides on crops has been reduced by almost 10% since 1996 largely due to the planting of genetically modified crops (8)"

Glysophate is itself a herbicide, and is used in synchronization with genetically modified crops that are altered to be resistant to it. To say that GMO crops reduce the usage of herbicides/pesticides is a contradiction in itself as the majority of GMO crops in the USA are created for the prime purpose of being able to more effectively exploit the herbicides themselves.

In other words, GMOs do not reduce the use of dangerous pesticides and herbicides because they are modified to be resistant to them. Judging how they are modified in this fashion, biotechnology companies can further use pesticides and herbicides with less risk of damaging useful crops.

Glysophate [2], which my opponent argues poses less health risks than other herbicides, is actually found to be an extremely ambiguous and possibly dangerous substance, as per my contentions in R1.

It is true that Glysophate has a lower toxicity than competing herbicide brands, but this does not inherently make it less dangerous.

To quote my second source, The surfactanct polyethoxylated tallowamine has an acute lethal dose three times that of glyphosate alone and destroys red blood cells. Yet toxicity studies used to regulate the product only examine the “active” ingredient only and not the formulation.

Acute symptoms of glyphosate exposure include, destruction of red blood cells, lung dysfunction, low blood pressure, kidney damage, erosion of gastrointestinal tract, dizziness, fever, and nausea.[2a] [2b] [2c]


[1] - (

[2] - (

[2a] - Sawada, Y., et al. 1988. Probable toxicity of surface-active agent in commercial herbicide containing glyphosate. Lancet 1(8580):299.
[2b] - Tominack, R.L. et al. 1991. Taiwan National Poison Center: Survey of glyphosate-surfactant herbicide ingestions. Clin. Toxicol. 29(1):91-109
[2c] - Talbot, A.R. et al. 1991. Acute poisoning with a glyphosate-surfactant herbicide (“Roundup”): A review of 93 cases. Human Exp. Toxicol. 10:1-8.

[3] - All sources from R1
Debate Round No. 2


Ill begin by attacking con's case, and I will move on to rebuild my own.

Con's Case

Environmental impact of GMO's and longterm repercussions.
Con brings up that outcrossing results in the hybridization of ecosystems, eliminating the plant in it's original form as well as eliminating members of the ecosystem. I'll attack this as a whole, and then move on to con's individual examples. First, con has provided very few statistics to back up the idea of ecosystem collapse, nor has con provided reasons to fear the elimination of an original plant species. Secondly, even if you buy his arguments, observe that pesticides and strong herbicides have a similar effect to the one con has mapped out for GM foods.

gm corn used for livestock feed is now used for human feed
Con brings up literally no statistics to support this claims, other than the mere suggestion that such gm feed *could* hurt humans or that such gm feed *could* result in the degradation of testing. I'll get more into rebutting the claim that gm foods hurt humans later, but right now I'll focus on the claim that gm foods are inadequately tested. To quote ASSA, "Our collective experience to date shows that the strict allergenicity tests of GM products has been very successful: not one allergenic GM product has been introduced to the market." Moreover, inadequate testing exists in the world of conventional breeding as well. For example, the kiwi was introduced with little to no testing, resulting in several allergenic reactions. The existence of inadequate testing exists in conventional farming makes con arguments nonunique at the very least. ASSA supports this, "In conventional breeding... such tests are not legally required. For this reason the risk of gm plants causing allergies can be regarded as substantially lower than the products from conventional breeding. (1)"

monarch butterflies
I'd like to cross apply what I said earlier about pesticides causing the same problem due to their high toxicity levels. Even if GM crops contribute to this issue, it cannot be considered to be an issue unique to GM foods. Con has provided almost no statistics pertaining to butterfly populations before and after the implementation of GM foods, and con has provided no other types of plant besides bt corn that have this potential effect.

Con brings up the idea of gm salmon replacing regular salmon. However, con never explains *why* this is a problem. Also, con's evidence is entirely theoretical, and no examples are given of the implementation of GM salmon causing such problems in the past.

Health Risks
The EU commission funded 500 studies independently which all came to the same conclusion: gm foods have no health risk (2). This meta study is the first piece of evidence that brings to light the safety of gm crops. Thus, con's claims pertaining to limited meta analysis are completely invalid.
The first thing con brings up is problems with glyphosate, a herbicide. Look to the fact that this herbicide is 1/3 less toxic than herbicides used on GM crops as noted by my USDA evidence in my constructive. Con's evidence shouldn't factor in to whether or not the benefits of GM crops outweigh the harms because his evidence doesn't compare glyphosate to other currently used herbicides in conventional farming. Glyphosate is safer than things used on crops today, and is a viable option through the implementation of GM crops, thus should be looked to as a benefit.
Con needs to do significantly more to prove that the use of dangerous pesticides are directly tied to GMO's for his Elsevier study to be considered valid because the study was not pertaining to the exposure of GM crops, rather it was exposure to the pesticides and herbicides. Moreover, as shown by a well sourced comment on my opponent's very own source, the study was done incorrectly due to Elsevier's incorrect method and standard. Essentially, the kit used to test and detect such proteins was not meant for mammals, and had potential to show a false positive. I don't have time to address the flaws of this study in depth, but I will elaborate in later rounds if necessary.
Con has not sufficiently shown that GM crops can cause legitimate harm to humans. Look to the fact that absolutely no one has died from eating GM foods, nor has anyone experienced sickness. GM crops have been prevalent enough in the past 10 years that if they were to actually cause harm to humans, it would be apparent.
GM crops actually have potential to positively impact health health in the area of herbicide and pesticide use, as I have shown with my India evidence. 1 million cases of pesticide poisoning were prevented through the implementation of bt cotton. The dramatic reduction in pesticide use applies to all sects of GM farming and is a huge benefit since pesticides are significantly more toxic to humans than GM crops, which is exemplified by the sharp reduction of poisoning rates in India.

Genetically Modified Organisms and Bio tech Companies
Con has provided no examples of higher prices, small farms legitimately going out of business, or any other harms derived from the use of these patents. Con does not have enough empirical evidence for this point to go through. I'll first talk about the use of patents specifically. Patents are not something new. Thompson explains, "For centuries millions of intellectual property rights have been granted throughout the world... thereby promoting the progress of science. This provides incentives for innovators to develop new technologies for society (3)." Beyond that, the potential harms of patenting gm foods are vastly outweighed by the economic benefits of GM foods. Firstly, farmers initially save a good deal of money because they don't have to buy as many pesticides, as I talked about in my constructive. Secondly, due to increased crop yields, farmers globally save close to 158 billion dollars, invalidating any potential expenses.
Finally, observe that in many cases an "anti farm agenda" is not exclusive to GM crops. Thus, con's argument could potentially be seen as nonunique.

My Case

Increased Crop Yield and Economic Gain
Con labels world hunger as a food distribution problem, rather than a food production problem, which is (in part) true. However there are several things to remember. Firstly, increased crop yields and other GM benefits can still help decrease world hunger. Con attributes world hunger to a bad economy consistently in his rebuttal; I'll go ahead and put this in a syllogism.
P1: Economic problems within the developing world contribute to world hunger.
P2: GM crops help the economy within the developing world.
C: Gm crops can positively impact world hunger.
So, think of my argument like this. Increasing crop yields will help the economic state of the developing world, thus positively impacting world hunger by decreasing poverty. GM crops save money, not only due to crop yields, but due to money saved on pesticides. Moreover, con never directly attacks crop yields, rather con asserts that increased yields don't matter. However, look to the vast array of economic benefits that come through increased food production, exemplified by burkina faso. GM crops can help the economy, and the economic benefit goes towards potentially decreasing hunger. Look to my Ogodo evidence which notes that GM crops give Africa to become a key player within the world economy.

Looking towards the environment: even if other things besides increased yields have potential to help the environment, we should still consider decreased pressure to clear forested areas to be a net benefit. Just because one thing can decrease deforestation doesn't me we shouldn't look to other ways of reducing deforestation. Deforestation can largely be attributed to clearing areas for farmland, thus higher yields should be considered significantly more desirable, even if food production itself is not the problem.

Understand the distinction between pesticides and herbicides (and their relation to GMO's). Pesticide use is reduced, and herbicide used on GM crops is safer. I would like to cross apply most of the things I said in my rebuttal against his health contention to start off. However, I will make some notes. Firstly, there are two types of GM crops, bt and ht. Ht crops are the ones which are bred to be tolerant to herbicides. The herbicide used on them, as I noted in both my case and my rebuttal, is significantly safer. Con even concedes to this; the fact that glyphosate is a safer herbicide cannot be dismissed as a benefit because it proves: chemicals used on GM crops are safer than chemicals used in conventional farming. Bt (insect tolerant) crops have vast potential to decrease pesticide use as pesticides are only other way of reducing problems derived from insects.

Thus, I affirm.

(2) David H. Freedman, 2013, August 20, Scientific American, The Truth About Genetically Modified Food
(3) Dr. Jennifer Thompson, 2013, Food for Africa: The Life and Work of a Scientist in GM Crops


Due to family issues, I will not be able to post an argument. I have clarified the situation with Debatability, and if she does not otherwise OK me posting a conclusion in replacement with a no round R4, I tentatively concede this debate (unless she would also otherwise clarify that the debate will be judged up to this point or etc)

Sorry and thanks!
Debate Round No. 3


I accept my opponents concession and I have cleared things up with him via pm. I will ultimately leave it up to him to decide whether or not this debate should be considered a concession, as I am perfectly fine with the voters judging the debate up to this point.


I forfeit conduct points for this debate and would ask the voters vote based on their interpretation of the debate up until R3, even if that may be a full 7 point concession by me.

This debate was totally and utterly messed up, and if Liz still even wants to debate me, we could re-try another time and I'd promise not to FF.

Again, Debatability is PRO and I am CON.

Thanks for the patience, and sorry for the trouble, Liz. I apologize for any inconvenience on my part.
Debate Round No. 4
37 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Daltonian 3 years ago
Thanks for the very extensive vote, whiteflame! I agree with many parts of it, actually, and it is a shame that I couldn't submit my final round. Debatability is (I think) a stronger debater than me and her rebuttals were tough.

I was planning to make arguments related to the idea that the implementation of artificial genetics in foods consumed by the larger portion of humanity should be avoided solely on policy and weight of the risk, but I wasn't sure how that argument as a primary one would be able to withstand any contentions Liz might make. In my head at the time, I thought it sounded like a "you can't prove they WON'T suddenly turn bad in 100 years, so therefore we should just not use them" - it's a BOP thing. It also implies that she is an advocate of the current systematic production of GMO's and not, say, slowly introducing them to eliminate feasible risk or something of the likes. I ended up deciding to pursue the biotechnology argument instead as something semi-different from the theme of my first two contentions, perhaps unwisely now upon revision.

I did try to focus on the concept of "potential risk" a tad, still, though. See the last two rounds of Health Risks in R1 and some of the language I use. I was preparing something like it as an extended rebuttal.

Anyways, I concede that I mostly lost this debate (may have fared better if I'd posted my last round.. maybe) and found the majority of your analysis to be deeply accurate. Thank you for taking the time, again!

@LIZ - I'm going away for Christmas Vacation and have Midterms in January/February, but I would really love to debate this again as either side, preferably instead as PRO, or with you on any resolution. It might be quite a while from now, though..
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
RFD (Pt. 1):

I'll give an overview first.

While I do feel that both debaters presented substantial cases with numerous warrants and evidence to support them, I didn't feel like there was any depth to this debate. It all seemed to be incredibly superficial to me, with very little delving into the intricate details on this rather complex issue. I understand that, after only two rounds, there's only so much that you guys can cover, but it felt like this could have gone much further. I'll go through some of those areas where I thought that depth could have been placed as I go through each of the cases.


I felt like your R1 was very strong considering the routes for argumentation that you chose. That being said, there were numerous holes, some of which were exploited by Con. I'll try to cover the ones that I saw that weren't discussed as I go through each argument.

C1. Environmental impact

I end up agreeing with much of Con's rebuttal here, especially since I get only a very limited story from you on how this works. So you have a genetically modified organism. That organism produces pollen, that pollen spreads via insect vectors and wind currents. Genes that afford resistance to a given pest or disease are net beneficial to the organism. Without it being transformed in a stable way into another plant, there is practically no chance of that gene being transferred to another plant. Only through cross-pollination does a gene have a substantial probability of appearing in plant progeny because that is the only instance where genetic transfer actually occurs through natural methods.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
(Pt. 2)

Admittedly, that argument comes with its own problems, namely that it's rather unlikely that any cross between an agricultural and natural plants is likely to hold any sort of competitive advantage over their fully naturalized counterparts (there's a reason we had to breed them together in carefully cared for environments in order to get our current produce), but this is a set of warrants that could have really benefited this portion of your case. Another argument that could have been used to bring this down was just that GMOs need not all be fertile. There's a rather large subset of GM crops that don't spread their genes, and as such, would evade this argument. There are easy responses to that based on cost burden and dependency on a company, though, so you had a line of response, though that probably should have appeared your economic argument (more on that to come).

Similarly, to my knowledge, there's a lot of uncertainty with regards to the effects on animals besides pests. I'll get to humans later, but the Monarch caterpillar, in particular, has had much concern built around it, but also a wide variety of studies that say BT has no effect on this population. Even if it does, I need more than just "inevitable exposure via out-crossing and weather events" as evidence that butterflies will suffer. Epidemiologic effects should be present now, and if they aren't, this isn't where you want to go with your argument.

Lastly, on the salmon. I actually thought this was a pretty good point, but it is highly theoretical (as Con pointed out). Perhaps GM salmon will do this kind of harm. If they do, though, I'd need a strong reason to prefer your environmental story based on impact. What does it mean to wipe out many such species? You might have discussed how salmon range pretty far and wide, and how that can very easily expand the effect to very large populations in order to show a substantial harm, but that still doesn't deal with the warrant structure.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
(Pt. 3)

Which is why I feel your argument would have been best served by one thing, which I'll talk about under health risks.

C2. Health Risks

You start off by acknowledging the the effects of GMOs on human populations are hotly contested, but then proceed to try to do what you can with it, stating that there are certain things we can know. However, I think this is where you go the most wrong. Con is right that the evidence for harm just really doesn't exist. Sure, herbicides and pesticides can cause broader harms, but that seems non-unique (and, as Con points out, more likely a ding against you than her). You don't showcase any epidemiologic data from this, mainly because it doesn't exist, and while the animal studies are good, they really only present a risk.

I think you needed to build your case on risk, not on certain harms. You're going to lose that argument every time " there's a huge body of evidence showcasing the harms of pesticides, and Con is right to argue that pesticide usage goes down in a GMO world, meaning that you're always going to be on the losing end of that argument.

Your side of the debate should have focused on using the precautionary principle, focusing on possible long term harms instead of the short term effects, and talking about these possible risks as showcasing that there is no scientific consensus that GMOs aren't harmful. GMOs are still relatively new, and many more are likely to come, meaning that there's a lot of sources of uncertainty. This would have shifted the burden of proof onto Con, forcing her to defend against any and all scientific attacks in order to win the debate. Having a discussion over whether the precautionary principle should be used would have been far more even. Much of your environmental argument would similarly have been served by this line of argumentation.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
(Pt. 4)

C3. Biotech Companies

I perceived this as your weakest argument. Essentially, your arguing that we're putting the interests of companies like Monsanto ahead of the population at large, but I have a hard time finding reasoning here for why the two are mutually exclusive in this case. You're right that they can patent it, but patenting by itself isn't harmful. You could certainly have discussed the wide-ranging implication of patenting GMOs, you could have mentioned attempts to essentially put many farmers on the hook, requiring them to buy new seed every year and then buy only their products, or talked about Monsanto's multiple court cases against small farmers, which may or may not be justified. There is a very real economic harm that's done at a more localized level here " you don't have to argue that it's nebulously harmful to utility. It seems like this argument was a philosophical point about what we're prioritizing as a society, and it just felt out of place in a discussion about net benefits.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
(Pt. 5)

R1. Food production and poverty

I don't think you handled this as well as you could have. Much of this rebuttal seems to be focused on how there are other issues to solve, but none of it really attacks the basic reasoning of Con's arguments, just instead stating that complete solvency, or perhaps even substantial solvency, requires that we deal with other factors first. I can agree with you completely and still see a net benefit in Con's case. I think you're assuming a) that funds are limited and therefore that only one can be done, b) that your side can simply add alternatives without actually fleshing out a counter-proposal, and c) that any counter proposal is fine, even if both could be done at the same time. I don't believe this really satisfies on any of those levels. I don't see why governments can't spend large sums of money on GMOs and work towards improving governmental and societal capacities to distribute food. I don't see you fleshing out a means by which this is made possible, either. It just seems to be a "we should do this, somehow" argument, which at best serves as a partial solvency takeout, at worst just makes me disregard it as improbable if not impossible. You could have given more meat to this by talking about where that food is likely to go (wasted, into the hands of corrupt officials, etc.), but without it, this argument just feels incomplete.

And, just a note here, there are examples of GMOs failing in countries overseas due to a careful ecosystem balance, you might have looked into that.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
(Pt. 6)

R2. Health 'Benefits'

Again, I don't see much in the way of direct rebuttal here. I can understand where you're going with this, but throughout, much of this argumentation seems non-unique, as Con points out. The argument that more herbicides and pesticides get used is a strange one. I might buy that more herbicides get used (though I'm not sure that's true, and I'd love to see some numbers on it), but pesticide usage should go down due to GMO crops, as Con points out. Moreover, that's not all GMO crops do. They also can protect against a variety of plant diseases and improve the quality of the food. I don't see responses to that in here " you're just attacking one subset and leaving the rest dropped.


C1. Food Production

I think this could have used some more impacts, especially since you've limited much of this discussion to drought and pest resistance. There are a slew of diseases that can be protected against as well, not to mention other conditions (flooding, salt and cold, just to name a few that come to mind). The argument itself is well-made, it's just somewhat lacking in reasoning for why populations would see far larger crop yields.

I think the reduction of hunger is a good choice for impact scenarios, but you should definitely have fleshed that out more. There are substantial amounts of the world population that are malnourished " give some numbers. Also, talk about how disease, pests, salty water and any number of other factors have basically shut down many family farms all over the planet, a big problem in countries where farming is the major way by which people feed themselves. GMOs give them a survival mechanism that a) allows them to feed themselves, b) keeps the economy in these countries alive, and c) provides far less reason for the U.S. to be dumping tons of food on other nations, depressing their economies still further. There's a lot of good arguments you could build on this point.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
(Pt. 7)

Giving less reason to expand farming might not be the best way to take this. Pro could easily have argued that incentive exists to expand in any case. They may not be desperate for extra land, but there's a benefit in that expansion all the same. Still, I end up buying most of this point because it goes uncontested.

One other thing that could have been brought up against this argument is that GMOs are really only a short term solution. Pests and the diseases they carry are likely to evolve far faster in this molecular arms race, and as such, what we're doing is breeding hardier organisms rather than resulting in any sustained benefit. In other words, we're setting up for a big fall.

C2. Health Benefits

A strong point that stands well throughout the debate. I think you could have spent more time on the pesticide problem (there's certainly plenty of support for it), as well as arguing several other routes beyond golden rice by which necessary vitamins can be brought to needy populations. As a start, this looks good, but it's also probably one of the most important points here, and so it needs fleshing out.

C3. Reducing Poverty

This is getting somewhat into the economic benefit, but it could use some work, particularly in the broader explanation of what it means to an economy that's built on farmers. Those farmers are now doing much better as a result of using GMOs, and it's worth taking the time to explain why the country as a whole does better as well.


I've already addressed most of this under Pro's contentions, but I'll go through the ones that I felt worked and didn't.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
(Pt. 8)

R1. Environmental impact

The initial argument here is overly defensive, and if Pro had been able to provide reasons why ecosystem collapse could occur with GMOs in particular, he might have gotten some distance here. Provide reasons why ecosystem collapse could never happen, or even why more usage of pesticides alters the balance, rather than just arguing that his point is unwarranted and non-unique.

Good response on allergens, but I didn't see that argument coming from Pro, so I would have left this out. You don't want to give him ground he hasn't taken, and you don't want to waste time arguing against points he never makes.

As I mentioned above, there is actual evidence that Bt does nothing to Monarchs, and it's worth presenting that. I buy that pesticides basically do the same harm, but it's a whole lot easier to just shut him down here.

Again, I feel like more could have been done than just attacking a lack of warrants on salmon. There are reasons why salmon have longer growth times in the wild, and it's worth going through them to explain why GM salmon would never be a great threat.

R2. Health risks

Solid response here throughout, really knocked this point out well.

R3. Biotech companies

All you really had to do here was show that, while companies might be benefiting, so are the people at large. I think you did that, though there are larger impacts to them that you could have discussed.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
(Pt. 9)

I feel the case defense looks fine as well. I think I would have liked to see an overview above all this, though, where you challenged Pro's assumption that all he has to do is prove that there's a net harm from using GMOs compared to an optimal situation where everything's perfect. There is no perfect solution, there is only a bad solution, and one that's less bad. It's worth making it clear that your solution is the best option available, and that Con hasn't presented any alternative (beyond the permable one in round 2). Pesticides are not a good alternative, and we can't all go organic. You mentioned that in your argument earlier, but I would have liked to see it play a bigger role in the third round.


Basically, I'm seeing most of the points leaning Con. I'm finding it very difficult to pick Pro up on underused and, let's face it, unprotected arguments. Losing out on that last round did a lot of harm to Pro's case, and Con's rebuttal and case defense was strong enough to make my decision relatively straightforward.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments. The conduct point comes from the forfeited rounds.
Vote Placed by MyDinosaurHands 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Daltonian's arguments were full of vague statements suggesting certain outcomes, whereas Debatability used lots of statistics to show where the balance fell, so to speak. Many of Daltonian's rebuttals focused on only part of Debatability's arguments, and again, used less statistics than I'd like to make a determination of the severity of some of the things he's claiming. Debatability correctly points out the vagueness in her opponent's arguments before his last two forfeited rounds, which is where the conduct points are coming from obviously.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I feel like con attacked pro well and refuted his arguments good, especially the ones about environment and the lack of statistics, while Debatability used a study with massive amount of people (and thus trustworthy). as well as the ultimate argument concerning helping poverty and third-world countries. Also, Lizzie's economy advantages were dropped. It was a close call up to round 3, really.