The Instigator
ThinkBig
Pro (for)
Winning
11 Points
The Contender
BrendanD19
Con (against)
Losing
5 Points

This house believes that GM crops are safe and GMOs should not be labeled

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Post Voting Period
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after 4 votes the winner is...
ThinkBig
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/31/2016 Category: Science
Updated: 8 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,619 times Debate No: 92092
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (55)
Votes (4)

 

ThinkBig

Pro

Resolved: GM Crops are safe to consume and foods made with GM ingredients should not be labeled.

Definitions

GM/GMO/Genetically Modified Organism: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called "modern biotechnology" or "gene technology", sometimes also "recombinant DNA technology" or "genetic engineering". It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods. (WHO, n.d.)

Rounds
1 Acceptance
2 Opening statements
3-5 Rebuttals

References
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Frequently asked questions on genetically modified foods . Retrieved May 30, 2016, from World Health Organization: http://www.who.int...
Debate Round No. 1
ThinkBig

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this challenge.

Background

Introduction

Since the beginning of agriculture, humans have exploited and altered the genetic information in plants and animals to create new biological variations through artificial selection and crossbreeding. The main difference between genetic engineering and traditional breeding methods is that genetic engineering allows for us to isolate, copy, turn on, and introduce genes into other organisms. This is done by identifying the gene of interests, isolating that trait, inserting that trait into the desired organism, and then propagating that organism. (Powell, 2015)

The Safety of GMOs

There Exists a Scientific Consensus


Scientific consensus on GMO safety

Although a scientific consensus does not in of itself prove the safety of GMOs, understanding the scientific consensus helps us to understand where the scientific evidence actually leads. The science is clear not because of the consensus, but rather a consensus exists because the evidence is clear.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) made the following statement:

“There are several current efforts to require labeling of foods containing products derived from genetically modified crop plants, commonly known as GM crops or GMOs. These efforts are not driven by evidence that GM foods are actually dangerous. Indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. Rather, these initiatives are driven by a variety of factors, ranging from the persistent perception that such foods are somehow “unnatural” and potentially dangerous to the desire to gain competitive advantage by legislating attachment of a label meant to alarm. Another misconception used as a rationale for labeling is that GM crops are untested.”

The EU, for example, has invested more than €300 million in research on the biosafety of GMOs. Its recent report states: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.” The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.” (AAAS, 2012)

GMO Impacts on Our Health

In spite of the scientific consensus, many consumers still are concerned about the impacts of GMOs and our health. Among these concerns are GMOs link to cancer, long-term impacts of consuming GMO foods, and the impact on pregnancy and offspring.

Can GMOs Cause Cancer?

In 2012, Gilles-Eric Séralini published a study in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal studying the impacts on feeding GMOs to rats. Séralini's team had found that rats fed for two years with a glyphosate-resistant type of maize (corn) made by Monsanto developed many more tumours and died earlier than did control animals. It also found that the rats developed tumours when Roundup was added to their drinking water. (Séralini, 2014)

This study reignited fears of GMO foods and debate on labeling. However, the study was retracted in 2013 because the study was highly flawed. Séralini used rats that were highly prone to developing tumors and cancer. Christopehr Preston notes: “The sample sizes are too small, and there are too many treatments and not enough controls. The wrong breed of rat is used. As it is prone to high numbers of tumours, there is going to be a lot of noise and not enough statistical power. There is no dose response, i.e. they were just measuring noise. There are ethical issues with the treatment of the rats.”

To date, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that GMOs cause cancer.

Megan L. Norris notes that:

"After more than 20 years of monitoring by countries and researchers around the world, many of the suspicions surrounding the effects of GMOs on organ health, our offspring, and our DNA have been addressed and tested (Figure 1). In the data discussed above, alongside many more studies not mentioned here, GMOs have been found to exhibit no toxicity, in one generation or across many. Though each new product will require careful analysis and assessment of safety, it appears that GMOs as a class are no more likely to be harmful than traditionally bred and grown food sources." (Norris, 2015)



Labeling GMOs

Why oppose GMO labeling if the science is so clear? For one, genetic modification is a process, not an ingredient. Here is how a GMO is made (Powell, 2015)

Furthermore, genetic modification is complex and are not homogenous. Take, for example, the following table adapted from the FDA's biotechnology varieties. (FDA, n.d.)

As we can see from the table, simply labeling something as GMO or not-GMO simply does not convey enough information.

Conclusion

  1. Every respected scientific body consents to the safety of GMOs.
  2. GE crops and foods are rigorously tested for safety.
  3. GE crops have been in the country for more than 30 years with no evidence of adverse effects.
  4. Genetic modification is a process, not an ingredient.
  5. Our policies should be based on facts, not fear.
  6. There is no reason to label GMOs.

The resolution is affirmed.

Bibliography

American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2012, October 20). Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors On Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods. Retrieved May 30, 2016, from American Association for the Advancement of Science: http://www.aaas.org...

“Biotechnology Consultations on Food from GE Plant Varieties.” Biotechnology Consultations on Food from GE Plant Varieties. FDA, 30 June 2015. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov...

Genetic Literacy Project. (2014, June 14). Scientists react to republished Séralini GMO maize rat study . Retrieved from Genetic Literacy Project: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org...

Norris, L. (2015, August 10). Will GMOs Hurt My Body? The Public’s Concerns and How Scientists Have Addressed Them. Retrieved May 2016, 30, from Harvard University: The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu...

Powell, C. (2015, August 09). How to Make a GMO. Retrieved May 2016, 30, from Harvard University: The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu...

Séralini, G.-E. (2014, June 22). Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerantgenetically modified maize. Environmental Sciences Europe.

BrendanD19

Con

Contention 1: Health
While it would be a stretch to say that GMOs are severely harmful, it would also be a stretch to say they pose no risks. While the crops themselves may be no more dangerous than an organic equivalent, adverse health effects have been seen, mostly in the form of allergic reactions.
In Brazil, soybeans which were modified with a nut gene produced an allergic reaction when consumed by people with nut allergies. This phenomenon has been cited by the World Health Organization as a potential concern
It must also be accepted that not much is known about the health impacts of Genetically Modified Ingredients. While some studies have been conducted, not enough studies have been conducted. The Pro attacks the study done on mice showing a link to cancer which was retracted, however this retraction was, as noted by the pro, because of procedural problems, not because of further evidence disproving it. This experiment has yet to be replicated with corrections suggested by the peer review board.
Furthermore, the biotechnology industry has been attacked by the scientific community for thwarting research and making experiments nearly impossible. Companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta have been notorious for refusing to provide scientists with seeds for independent research, citing the patents on the seeds. While the Pro contends that GMOs are " rigorously tested for safety" this is simply not the case. To quote Sheldon Krimsky, professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Public Health and Family Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine.

" In America, we made a decision that genetically modified foods are safe before you even have to test it. So the government never required tests for GMOs in the United States."

No actual testing is done in the US on GMOs which is independent of the producers (Monsanto, Syngenta, etc).
Until further research can be done, the claims that GMOs are 100% safe are simply a gross exaggeration. This being said, I will not challenge the contention that GMOs pose a major risk to Human health because simply no evidence exists which links GMOs to Cancer, mutations or other major issues or complications.

http://www.nytimes.com...
http://articles.latimes.com...
http://www.nytimes.com...


Contention 3: Genetically Modified Crops are Harmful to the Environment
Genetically Modified Crops can be damaging to the environment both directly and indirectly. The most notable of these is Pesticide Resistance.
Genetic Modification has been linked to an increase in the number of pesticide resistant weeds and insects. This is because the added genes in GMOs can be transferred to other plants via pollen, allowing the weeds to adopt the same pesticide resistance found in the genetically modified crops. The most notable example is the increase if weeds resistant to the herbicide Glyphosate, commonly known as Round-up. The transfer of these genes to the weeds that the herbicide is meant to kill has resulted in farmers being forced to use more of the herbicide, and to use older, more toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D and dicamba, as well as using more soil tilling which causes erosion.
Insects are prone to microevolution and quickly develop resistance to insecticides and toxins which are genetically coded into the crops, most notably BT toxin. This makes these insects harder for farmers to kill and threatens other native plant species as well.
There is also research which links Genetic Modification to the Bee die off, and other impacts to biodiversity, which harms greater ecosystems.
Another impact is the fact that Genetically modified crops increase Herbicide use, which harms other native plants. This causes a greater loss of biodiversity and only increases the need for more insecticides. Biotechnology is effectively a self promoting industry. These insecticides are also linked to cancer, and include Roundup and 24D.
It is for all of these reasons that the Union of Concerned Scientists have said that GMOs cannot be considered a sustainable solution to agricultural problems.

http://www.gainesvilletimes.com...
http://abcnews.go.com...
http://www.usnews.com...
http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu...
https://www.organic-center.org...
http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu...
http://www.iatp.org...
http://www.nsf.gov...
http://www.pnas.org...
http://www.ucsusa.org...

Contention 3: Critical
The freedom of information is fundamental to a free society and to a society that prides itself of the freedom of choice. Because of this, Foods which contain Genetically Modified Ingredients should therefore be labeled. Our policies should be based on facts rather than fears, this is true, but our policies should also be based on values. If we want to value the freedom of information and the right to chose, we should label Genetically Modified Foodstuffs not because GMOs represent a significant health risk, but so consumers can make informed decisions about which agricultural products and practices they support.

Conclusion

  • GMOs are not adequately and independently tested for safety
  • GMOs are detrimental to the environment and therefore cannot be considered sustainable
  • In a free society, consumers ought to have the right to know what is in their food and be able to make informed decisions about the practices they support.
  • Genetically Modified ingredients should therefore be labeled.

Thus the resolution is rejected.

Debate Round No. 2
ThinkBig

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for his reply.

Contention 1: Health

My opponent cites an interesting case of the Brazilian soybean. This was a serious concern to the research team that was developing this particular variety.

Allergies to nuts are one of the most common food allergens and allergies to the Brazilian nut are very well documented. We know that almost all food allergens are proteins, and that proteins are encoded by genes. Therefore, if a gene is taken from a plant to which people are allergic, one should be careful that an allergen has not been transferred. When the developers began this project, they selected a protein that was not known to be a potential allergen. However, they asked food allergist to evaluate the safety of their nutritionally-enhanced soybean. During development and testing, researchers found that there was indeed a cause to be concerned and the development was stopped. (Nordlee, 1996)

Finally, no biotech proteins in food have been documented to cause allergic reactions. As Lehrer and Bannon note:

“In order to mitigate the three categories of potential allergy risk associated with biotech crops, all genes introduced into food crops undergo a series of tests designed to determine if the biotech protein exhibits properties of known food allergens. The result of this risk assessment process to date is that no biotech proteins in foods have been documented to cause allergic reactions. These results indicate that the current assessment process is robust, although as science of allergy and allergens evolves, new information and new technology should help further the assessment process for potential allergenicity.” (Lehrer & Bannon, 2005)

The extensive testing and regulations made sure that the GM soybean would never make it to market.

There has been extensive independent testing on biotechnology. Alessandro Nicolia, and others, completed a massive evaluation of over 1,783 research papers, reviews, relevant opinions, and reports between 2002 and 2012 and concluded:

“We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE crop safety for the last 10 years that catches the scientific consensus matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide, and we can conclude that the scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazard directly connected with the use of GM crops. The analysis of the record list shows that the Biodiversity topic dominated, followed by Traceability and GE food/feed consumption, which contributed equally in terms of the number of records.” (Nicolia, 2013)

As a sidebar note, biotechnology can be used to characterize and eliminate allergens naturally present in crops. Biotechnology has been used to remove major allergens in soybeans. (Herman, 2003) This would be a big achievement and could potentially be used to save lives.

Contention 2: Environment

Con stated that GM crops has resulted in an increase in chemical use and pesticide use. However, it really depends on the type of crop. Wilhelm Klümper notes:

“On average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.”

“This meta-analysis confirms that – in spite of impact heterogeneity – the average agronomic and economic benefits of GM crops are large and significant. Impacts vary especially by modified crop trait and geographic region. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for IR crops than for HT crops. Yield and farmer profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries. Recent impact studies used better data and methods than earlier studies, but these improvements in study design did not reduce the estimates of GM crop advantages. Rather, NGO reports and other publications without scientific peer review seem to bias the impact estimates downward. But even with such biased estimates included, mean effects remain sizeable.” (Klümper, 2014)

On average, GM crops have improved the environment by increasing yields, using less pesticides and herbicides, and using less land. This is why farmers were so quick to adopt GM technology.

Can GMOs Help the Environment?

GM technology is responsible for helping to save the Hawaiian papaya. Gonsalves notes:


"The Papaya ringspot virus was discovered and causing severe damage to the papaya. Within a few years, PRSV was widespread and causing severe damage to the papaya. Coincidentally, a field trial to test a PRSV-resistant transgenic papaya had started in 1992, and by 1995 the 'Rainbow' and 'SunUp' transgenic cultivars had been developed. These cultivars were commercialized in 1998. 'Rainbow' is now widely planted and has helped to save the papaya industry from devastation by PRSV. Transgenic papaya have also been developed for other countries, such as Thailand, Jamaica, Brazil, and Venezuela." (Gonsalves, 2003)

Contention 3: Critical

Freedom of information and freedom of choice is important. However, should a consumer wish to avoid GMO foods, there are many companies that voluntarily label their products as GMO-free. As a sidebar note, a recent poll showed that 80% of Americans want mandatory labeling for food containing DNA. (Somin, 2015) Sadly, much of the public is simply ignorant of scientific facts and basic facts about government and public policy.

We should not have mandatory labels for GMOs for the same reason we should not have mandatory labels for DNA. It simply does not convey enough information about the said product, is very costly for the producers, and unnecessarily alarms consumers about the product in which they are consuming.

Conclusion

  1. 1. GMOs are extensively tested for safety and are tested independently.
  2. 2. The scientific community is in a consensus about their safety.
  3. 3. No GMOs have been found to cause allergens.
  4. 4. GMOs do not pose a risk to the environment.
  5. 5. Labeling GMOs is not the way to go forward.

The resolution is affirmed.

Bibliography

Gonsalves, D. (2003, January). Transgenic Papaya in Hawaii and Beyond . Journal of Agrobiotechnology Management and Economics, 7(1-2).

Herman, E. M. (2003, May). Genetically modified soybeans and food allergies. . Journal of Experimental Biology, 54(386), 1317-9.

Klümper, W. (2014, November 3). A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops . (E. Albertini, Ed.) PLOS One.

Lehrer, S. B., & Bannon, G. A. (2005). Risks of allergic reactions to biotech proteins in foods: perception and reality . Allergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology .

Nicolia, A. (2013, September 13). An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research. Critical Reviews in Biotechnology, 34(1), 1-12.

Nordlee, J. A. (1996, March 14). Identification of a Brazil-Nut Allergen in Transgenic Soybeans. New England Journal of Medicine, 688-92.

Somin, l. (2015, January 17). Over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA” . Retrieved June 1, 2016, from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com...

BrendanD19

Con

Contention 1: Health
The Pro claims that the allergy risks do not exist, however, the Pro did concede that the research team in the case of the Brazillian nut even acknowledged that the concern exists. And according to an Article published by Harvard University: "Comprehensive evaluation for market approval, food safety surveillance, and adequate labeling could minimize the health risks of food allergies." (As a side note this article was published alongside the Pro's source on how GMOs are made) Becuase of this we can clearly see that GMO labeling is an effective way of minimizing the risks associated. In addition to this, the Pro continues to cite the "scientific consensus" on the safety of generic Genetically Modified Organisms, however, the pro has not challenged the fact that in the US there is no Precautionary rule which requires that individual GMOs be tested independently for safety (Note that this same rule applies to pesticides and dietary supplements). The pro has also not refuted the fact that Biotech firms like Monsanto and Syngenta make it nearly impossible for scientists to carry out experiments on specific GMOs, making claims of absolute safety nearly impossible to verify. The Pro cannot claim that GMOs are absolutely safe when no testing is even required for GMOs to be released onto the market and the firms which manufacture GMOs make it impossible for Scientists to test their products.

http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu...

https://www.sciencenews.org...

Contention 2: Environment

While the Pro claims that I have stated that GMOs increase pesticide use, however, this is a gross misrepresentation of my argument, which was that GMOs have been linked to an increase in pesticide resistant weeds and insects. This, in turn, increases the amount of pesticides being used and goes on to harm biodiversity. The Pro has instead tried to make an economic argument that has little to no bearing on this debate and also lacks validity.

The Pros argument is that GMOs have increased yield, however, there are several problems with this claim. First, the source claims "NGO reports and other publications without scientific peer review seem to bias the impact estimates downward." However, the study itself which is cited by the Pro was written by Matin Qaim and Wilhelm Klumper. Both of these authors have been long-time defenders of the biotech industry, and hold ties with corporations including Monsanto, despite having been ruled that neither had a "conflict of interest", which usually can only be a reason for rejection if they would see financial gain as a result of their study. A member of the peer review board also has ties to the Biotech industry. Furthermore, of the more than 300 studies cited, only 147 were accepted by a peer review board, the other 157 were either rejected or published without a peer review. This alone should cast doubt on the argument that GMOs increase yield and reduces pesticide use, however, there is evidence to the contrary as well. A Study published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Sciences Europe noted that since the introduction of GMO seeds in the US, pesticide use increased by 7% between 1996 and 2011. Additionally, a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that when compared side by side, GMO crops, and Organic crops saw similar increases in yield and concluded that GMOs were not necessary to increase crop yield.

By making the argument I have just refuted and failing to respond to the argument about pesticide resistance, the Pro has conceded this argument. I, therefore, extend my original argument from the previous round.

http://www.ucsusa.org...
http://enveurope.springeropen.com...
https://www.sciencenews.org...


Contention 3: Critical
In response to my critical argument, the Pro claims that voluntary labeling is sufficient. This is nothing more telling food companies to self-regulate, a strategy which has never succeeded as corporations will do whatever is necessary to maximize profits. Corporations require regulation because they cannot be trusted to do it themselves.
The Pro has chosen not to actually respond to the argument that I have previously made which is we should label GMOs not because GMOs represent a significant health risk, but so consumers can make informed decisions about which agricultural products and practices they support.
In the world of voluntary labeling that the Pro supports, corporations would never choose to label a product that they know people would then chose not to buy, thereby eliminating the ability of consumers to make the decision about the practices they support.
The Pro also says that labeling GMOs does not convey enough information about the product, however, this argument falls flat, as already, food is required to be labeled with things including the country of origin. The fact that a product comes from one country over another does not mean the product is necessarily harmful because of that, nor does it acknowledge all the information about that country, yet the product is still labeled so that consumers can know where their food is coming from and if they want to support that country by buying that product.

For these reasons, the resolution is therefore rejected.

Debate Round No. 3
ThinkBig

Pro

I would like to thank con for his reply.

I also want to note that due to a family emergency, I am currently at the hospital with my step dad and so any argument that I do not get to respond to should not be considered a concession, but rather I did not have time to respond to.

Contention 1: Health

Con has failed to respond to my argument on the scientific consensus. Why should we reject the majority view of science?


Contrary to con’s arguments, independent scientists and researchers are allowed to use seeds from Monsanto and other biotechnology companies. Monsanto has worked with other GMO developers and the American Seed Trade Association to establish principles that enable the public-sector research community to independently conduct research. Further, independent researchers are allowed to publish findings without any review of approval by Monsanto and others. (Sachs, 2013)

Contention 2: The Environment


Con cites a case of super-weeds and pesticide resistance. This, however, would occur with or without genetic engineering. Keeping up with evolution has always been a challenging task. The Genetic Literacy Project notes:

“Most scientists dislike the use of the word “superweeds” arguing that it polarizes the issue. Superweeds are not ‘super’ in any real sense of the word; they are weeds that have evolved to evade a particular weed management strategy. A dandelion that is so short that it has almost no stem could be considered a superweed. Its super power is crouching beneath the blades of lawnmowers. (Genetic Literacy Project, n.d.)

Andrew Kniss notes:

"Almost any way you look at the data; it appears that GM crops are no greater contributor to the evolution of superweeds than other uses of herbicides.”

“If GM crops have contributed significantly to the development of herbicide resistant weeds, we would expect the number of unique instances of these superweeds to increase following adoption of GM crops. … In the eleven-year period before GM crops were widely grown, approximately 13 new cases of herbicide resistance were documented annually. After GM crop adoption began in earnest, the number of new herbicide resistant weeds DECREASED to 11.4 cases per year.” (Kniss, 2013)

Gilbert notes in her editorial for Nature:

“On balance, herbicide-resistant GM crops are less damaging to the environment than conventional crops grown at industrial scale. A study by PG Economics, a consulting firm in Dorchester, UK, found that the introduction of herbicide-tolerant cotton saved 15.5 million kilograms of herbicide between 1996 and 2011, a 6.1% reduction from what would have been used on conventional cotton2. And GM crop technology delivered an 8.9% improvement to the environmental impact quotient — a measure that considers factors such as pesticide toxicity to wildlife — says Graham Brookes, co-director of PG Economics and a co-author of the industry-funded study, which many scientists consider to be among the field’s most extensive and authoritative assessments of environmental impacts.” (Gilbert, 2013)

Con has failed to respond to the article by Matin Qaim and Wilhelm Klumper. If he wishes to dismiss the entire article because of their “ties to the biotechnology industry” (citation needed), then by the same logic we should dismiss Charles M Benbrook’s article because he has financial ties to the organic industry. (Genetic Literacy Project, n.d.) Many other scientists have criticized Benbrook’s work including Dr Alan McHughenof PG Economics:

“The OC’s assessment of the impact of biotech herbicide tolerant traits (HT) is disappointingly inaccurate, misleading and fails to acknowledge several of the benefits US farmers and citizens have derived from use of the technology… Its conclusions are highly dependent upon the assumptions used, and perceptions of the author, as to how seed markets work and farmers behave. We consider that the mainstream US market evidence does not support the OC report conclusions.” PG Economics briefing note 4 December 2009, “The Magnitude and impacts of the biotech and organic seed price premium: US Organic Center report assessment by PG Economics” & PG Economics Briefing note: 19 November 2009, “Impact of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use: US Organic Center report evaluation by PG Economics. (Genetic Literacy Project, n.d.)

Contention 3: Critical

As noted in the opening, I will have to respond in the next round. I am out of time and need to be with my parents.


Resolution affirmed.

Bibliography

Genetic Literacy Project. (n.d.). Charles Benbrook: Former Washington State adjunct consultant for organic industry . Retrieved June 3, 2016, from Biotech Gallery: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org...

Genetic Literacy Project. (n.d.). Do GMOs cause “superweeds”? . Retrieved June 3, 2016, from Agricultural biotechnology frequently asked questions: http://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org...

Gilbert, N. (2013, May 01). Case studies: A hard look at GM crops. Nature, 479(7447), 24-26. Retrieved June 2016, 02, from Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science: http://www.nature.com...

Kniss, A. (2013, May 01). Where are the super weeds? Retrieved June 3, 2016, from Control Freaks: Wyoming Weed Science in (almost) Real Time: http://weedcontrolfreaks.com...

Sachs, E. (2013, August 8). Ask Us Anything About GMOs. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from GMO Answers: https://gmoanswers.com...

BrendanD19

Con

I would like to begin this round by wishing the best to the Pro and his family as they go through this emergency and wish his stepfather a speedy recovery.

Contention: 1 Health
The Pro makes the claim I have rejected the scientific consensus, however, no where in my argument did I state this. In fact, if you go to my original argument in Round 2, I said the following:

"While it would be a stretch to say that GMOs are severely harmful, it would also be a stretch to say they pose no risks. While the crops themselves may be no more dangerous than an organic equivalent..."

As to the argument about independent testing, there are several problems with the Pros response. Thr first problem is the source. The Source is from Sachs, 2013. In his citations this links to gmoanswers.com, a website, which is funded by the biotech industry. Organizations which are listed as partners include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, The American Sugarbeet Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, and The U.S. Beet Sugar Association. All of the organizations listed are either funded by, associated with or represent the Biotech industry (Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, etc). This source has a clear conflict of interest is clearly meant to promote the technology. This alone should cast doubt upon the claims made by the website. Furthermore, Sachs himself is an employee of Monsanto, therefore, he cannot be trusted to speak impartially about criticisms levied against his company.

The second problem is the claim that is made here. The website rebuts the following argument.

"I learned from practical experience that, in order to get a job with Monsanto, or do any research that is supported by Monsanto, or even to publish research on Monsanto seeds, that all of my work would have to be approved by Monsanto. This makes it very difficult to have legitimate third party research to rely on. How can I trust any research done on GMOs that has the imprimatur of Monsanto?"

This, however, was not the argument that I made. If we again look back to my original argument I said:

"...the biotechnology industry has been attacked by the scientific community for thwarting research and making experiments nearly impossible. Companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta have been notorious for refusing to provide scientists with seeds for independent research, citing the patents on the seeds."

The issue at hand is not that Monsanto has to review any studies on their seeds, it is that they do not allow their seeds to be given to independent researchers that they do not trust. Because the seeds are patented, Biotech firms are able to deny scientists access to their products. The other issue I noted was the right now there is no precautionary rule and that the FDA does not require GM seeds to be tested before they are released onto the market. Scientific consensus about the safety of GMOs, in general, is irrelevant when the individual products released to the public are not tested individually and independently.



Contention 2: Environment
There are several issues with the response made to my argument that GM crops harm the environment. He criticizes the word "superweed", yet nowhere in my arguments had I used the phrase he criticizes. I agree with the premise that use of the term polarizes the issue, just as the use of the term "frankenfood" polarizes the GMO debate.

His argument does not anywhere critique my actual claims about gene contamination and resistance to Glyphosate. Because the Gene which allows the crops to be resistant to Glyphosate can be transferred through cross-pollination, the weeds then adopt this same trait makes Glyphosate ineffective. While this is not the sole reason for the development of this, GM technology has exacerbated other factors including:
  • Monoculture. Growing the same crop on the same land year after year helps weeds to flourish.
  • Overreliance on a single herbicide. When farmers use Roundup exclusively, resistance develops more quickly.
  • Neglect of other weed controls measures. The convenience of the Roundup Ready system encouraged farmers to abandon a range of practices that had been part of their weed control strategy.
This is from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Kniss article should also be taken with a grain of salt, as a) he too has ties to the Biotech industry (even if they are indirect) and b) his work is a blog post. When comparing the sources, the Union of Concerned Scientists vs Dr. Kniss, the scale should weigh in favor of the UCS, as while Dr. Kniss does have his credentials, the UCS represents a number of qualified scientists and is independently funded by its members.

There are sustainable alternatives to GM technology that address the issues creating pesticide resistance, along with other issues. While pesticide resistance may not be increasing at the same rate, GM technology is only continuing this increase.

As to the final response made by the Pro, the source he uses to defend his initial source is a cure worse than the disease. The Genetic Literacy Project, cited by the Pro, is a pro-GMO advocacy group and a sister organization to the Statistical Assessment Service and the Center for Media and Public Affairs, both front groups for corporate special interest groups. The Founder of the project is Jon Entine, a visiting fellow at the pro-Business, Conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute, and his clients have included Monsanto, Dupont, and Syngenta. This group does not stand so much to educate on facts, as it does to oppose any potential and costly new regulations on the Biotech industry. This should not be considered a credible source by any stretch of the imagination and should be disregarded as such.

http://www.ucsusa.org...
http://www.sourcewatch.org...;
http://www.motherjones.com...;


Contention 3: Critical
Out of respect fo the Pro, I shall not elaborate further on this argument and shall await his response in the next round.
Debate Round No. 4
ThinkBig

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for this interesting and informative debate. This has been my first debate in over a year so I hope I did not make too many mistakes.

Contention 1: Health

Con has accepted that it is a stretch to say that GMOs are severely harmful.

Con claims that there is no precautionary rule (often called the precautionary principle). However, as Giovanni Tagliabue points out in his editorial in Nature Biotechnology:

“As formulated in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the precautionary principle (PP) states: “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” Originally created with the aim of protecting the environment, the PP has subsequently been broadened by the European Union to cover also policies or safeguarding consumers, and human, animal and plant health. However, the PP has sometimes been invoked inappropriately, for example, in situations of generic, undefined alarm. For this reason, the European Commission (Brussels) recommends: “A decision to invoke the PP does not mean that the measures will be adopted on an arbitrary or discriminatory basis”; instead, a decision to apply the PP should be based on “detailed scientific and other objective information.” That is not the case for GMOs. Any attempt to apply the PP to this fake container as a supposed coherent object is meaningless.” (Tagliabue, 2015)

Con also claims “the FDA does not require GM seeds to be tested before they are released onto the market.” This is demonstrably untrue as the FDA requires GE plants and food to meet the same food safety requirements as other foods derived from traditionally bred plants. (Food and Drug Administration, 2015)

Contention 2: The Environment

My opponent once again criticizes the source for the funding and fails to respond to the actual argument that is being presented. Unless con is able to cite flaws within Andrew Kniss’ study, then his argument is simply an argumentum ad hominem.

Sourcewatch, a source that con presents, is not neutral and does not present a balanced point of view. I also noticed that their articles on genetic modification, Monsanto, and others contained outright lies, fallacies, and other anti-science positions.

Con has failed to respond to the article from Nature and so I extend those arguments.

Next, con argues against the genetic literacy project, but yet fails to defend Charles M. Benbrook’s article that he cited in the previous round, and so I extend those arguments. The GLP does not take any funding from corporations, but is rather funded by individuals and several foundations. (Genetic Literacy Project, n.d.) Once again, his argument is nothing more than ad hominem.

Con also cites the issue of monoculture. However, has Giovanni Tagliabue further points out in his editorial:

Extensively cultivated single crops can exist without being genetically modified (e.g., oil palms in Indonesia); they can be pre-existing, and only subsequently be DNA-spliced to add a trait (e.g., alfalfa, a grass for fodder, which has been made tolerant to herbicides in the United States; flax, similarly, in Canada). Also every trait is crossed into tens to hundreds of landraces that perform best in a certain environmental and regional context—hardly “monoculture.” Do these pre-existing crops perhaps change their nature, becoming ready to “spread uncontrollably,” when we add a useful trait through a slight readjustment to their DNA? And in addition, there are numerous small local and typical crops (above all fruit and vegetables), for which genetic engineering solutions are available to protect or improve them in various ways; many are still not applied due to the excessive costs linked to the regulatory nightmare that retards development of GMOs. The claimed link between genetic engineering and extensive monocultivation is not at all necessary, and where there is such a link, it is banal. Consequently, the grounds for the alleged “systemic impact” of GMOs does not exist.”

Dr. Steve Savage also notes that GMO crops do not foster monoculture; rather the issue is about limited crop rotation; history and economics, and not biotechnology. To solve this issue, Savage argues that the solution is education:

“Probably the best way to facilitate more rotational diversity would be through education of the absentee landlord community. Much of the land in the Midwest is held in trusts for the families who have long since migrated to the cities. Typically, all they do is collect the rent checks through a farm management company. If those families could be educated about sustainable cropping practices, they might be willing to engage in re-designed leases designed around medium to long-term economics rather than the typical annual, cash lease. What is needed is a way to give the grower/renters the incentive to implement the practices that might not optimize income for each year, but which lead to improved soil quality over time which in turn leads to higher income potential and more protection from drought (e.g. no-till, cover cropping, controlled wheel traffic and more diverse rotations). The very real benefits of such a system would flow to the land-owner - increasing the value of the asset. It would be far more constructive to find creative ways to share that value between farmers and landowners rather than to worry about ‘monocultures.’"(Savage, 2014)

Contention 3: Critical

I wish to thank con for giving me respect and courtesy to deal with my family emergency.

Con argues “Pro claims that voluntary labeling is sufficient. This is nothing more telling food companies to self-regulate, a strategy which has never succeeded as corporations will do whatever is necessary to maximize profits.”

Con needs to substantiate this claim. Has self-regulation never succeeded? Con needs to prove this point. As a counter-point, the non-GMO project, kosher certifications, halal certification, and free trade certification are all examples of self-regulating labels that work.

Con also claims “Pro also says that labeling GMOs does not convey enough information about the product, however, this argument falls flat, as already, food is required to be labeled with things including the country of origin. The fact that a product comes from one country over another does not mean the product is necessarily harmful because of that, nor does it acknowledge all the information about that country, yet the product is still labeled so that consumers can know where their food is coming from and if they want to support that country by buying that product.”

This is first and foremost issue with the citing the COOL label as an example is that it is a complete straw-man of my argument. My argument simply was that GM crops are too diverse and not homogenous enough to properly inform consumers. I compared this in round 2 to requiring labeling food that contains DNA. It could also be compared to requiring food to be labeled that has been artificially selected.

Once more, genetic modification is not an ingredient, rather it is a process. Why should we signal out a single process above others and unnecessarily alarm consumers? Con has failed to respond to that argument.

Con has failed to prove that GM crops are more harmful than conventional crops and has also failed to provide a sound reason to label GM foods. I soundly affirm the resolution. I hereby turn this debate over to the voters.

Bibliography

Food and Drug Administration. (2015, October 19). Consumer Info About Food from Genetically Engineered Plants . Retrieved June 5, 2016, from Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov...

Genetic Literacy Project. (n.d.). Mission, Financial Transparency, Governorship . Retrieved June 5, 2016, from https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org...

Savage, D. S. (2014, August 7). Do GMO Crops Foster Monoculture? . Retrieved June 5, 2016, from Applied Mythology: http://appliedmythology.blogspot.com...

Tagliabue, G. (2015, October). The nonsensical GMO pseudo- category and a precautionary rabbit hole. Nature Biotechnology , 33(9), 907-908.

BrendanD19

Con

I will begin by congratulating my opponent on a wonderful debate and thanking him for making this debate so fascinating and insightful.

Contention 1: Health

The Pro has failed to respond to my argument about allergic reactions in rounds 4 and 5 and therefore has conceded the argument. Silence is compliance.

The pro also cites an article in Nature Biotechnology to respond to my criticism on the lack of independent testing for health and safety purposes. This article, however, has nothing to do with this topic. The article in question cites the Rio Declaration, a UN agreement concerning the environmental impacts of economic development strategies. The "precautionary principle" discussed in the Rio Declaration concerned environmental impacts of economic development, not health and safety regulations. As this does not actually address the topic at hand, it is simply irrelevant and should be disregarded in this contention on health.
The precautionary rule being discussed here is that the FDA should require that products be tested for health and safety before they are released onto the market. Currently, this is not the case for dietary supplements, pesticides or GMOs when they are released by companies and developers.
The pro does claim that GMOs are required to meet the same safety requirements as traditionally bred plants, and while this is true, traditionally bred crops use natural means and the manipulation of natural forces, while GMOs are developed in a laboratory setting using a scientific process (described by the Pro in round 1) and are considered by the US Government to be a manufactured good, eligible to be patented. The FDA notes on its website that GMOs are only tested by the developer (ie Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta) and not independently or by the agency, saying

"During the FDA consultation process, the food developer conducts a safety assessment."

It should be plainly obvious that the food developers have a profound interest in having their product approved, and these developers are notorious for manipulating assessments in their favour. If these safety assessments were submitted for peer review, they would most certainly be rejected because of the conflict of interest. This same process is also used for products including food dyes and other food additives, as well as medications, and very often dangerous side effects are discovered years after the fact after independent evaluations are ordered by judges. The Pro cannot claim that GMOs are absolutely safe when no independent testing is even required for GMOs to be released onto the market and the firms which manufacture GMOs make it impossible for Scientists to test their products.

http://www.fda.gov...
http://www.unesco.org...

Contention 2: Environment

The Pro accuses me of failing to respond to the arguments and instead relying on ad hominems. There are several issues with this, but I will first address the issue of my own failure to respond to the Nature magazine article. While I did fail to respond to its claims in the previous round, I do feel it should mention now that not only does the article actually contradict the claims of Andrew Kniss, it actually supports my contention that use of GMOs increases pesticide resistance.
In the article it states:

Since the late 1990s, US farmers had widely adopted GM cotton engineered to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate, which is marketed as Roundup by Monsanto in St Louis, Missouri. The herbicide–crop combination worked spectacularly well — until it didn’t. In 2004, herbicide-resistant amaranth was found in one county in Georgia; by 2011, it had spread to 76...GM crops, by encouraging liberal use of glyphosate, were spurring the evolution of herbicide resistance in many weeds. Twenty-four glyphosate-resistant weed species have been identified since Roundup-tolerant crops were introduced in 1996.

The article goes on to state the as of now, the damage has not been too disastrous, as quoted by the pro, but also notes that the study this was quoted from was an "industry-funded study" and ended with overall scepticism towards the claims of minimal environmental damage.

As to the allegations that my argument relied solely on Ad Hominems. The pro attempts to have this claim support itself, but in reality, the arguments I made were not in any way fallacious, as it is relevant as to what interest the source has in defending GMOs. By highlighting conflicts of interest, I am not using abusive ad hominems or ad hominems which lack any real relevance to the debate and to the credibility of the argument at hand.
As to the claim that SourceWatch is "not neutral and does not present a balanced point of view", the Pro contends that articles on GMOs, Monsanto and unspecified "others" contained "lies, fallacies and anti-science positions". There are two major issues with this allegation by the Pro. First, the pro in no way justifies his claims, providing a warrantless statement that is supposed to be taken at face value. This is the definition of an unsubstantiated claim. Secondly, the use of SourceWatch was to show the lack of credibility of the Genetic Literacy Project, not to make any scientific claims.
The Pro also attempts to defend the GLP by pointing to its funding sources, however, this argument is not an actual response, as I did not attack the GLP's sources of Funding, but rather its bias and the fact that it is a Pro-GMO group, rather than an education organisation and is a sister organization to two corporate front groups. Additionally, there are issues with the funding sources themselves, as many of the foundations listed on the GLPs website include pro-Free Market think tanks, opposed to regulation, and charities which have been used as front groups for corporate interests in the past.

On the issue of monoculture, it must be noted that Monoculture was only mentioned in passing as one of the factors causing pesticide resistance, and was not really a full argument, but rather one of three sub-issues and sub-causes. Furthermore, the two sources he uses to attack this passing remark are, in fact, contradictory. While the first article claims that no link exists at all, the second quote claims that the economics of GMOs have reduced crop rotation and that by educating people on the issues and changing the economic dynamic of GM technology, we can increase crop rotation. Neither of these articles, however, disprove the claims that have been made and fail to address gene contamination and any of the other issues that have been discussed.
The Pro has also never responded to the other issues that I have previously mentioned all throughout this debate, instead focusing on the pesticide-resistant weeds and ignoring issues including the overall harm to biodiversity and the microevolution in insects which is begining to threaten other plant species. He has also ignored the fact that more sustainable alternatives are available to GM technology. Silence is compliance and thus, the Pro has conceded on all of these points.

Contention 3: Critical

Self-regulation has been historically a failure for the simple fact that corporations, which are driven solely by profits, will not voluntarily implement a policy which will hinder this goal of maximum profits. The issue at hand is that these corporations have a conflict of interest and it is not in their interest to regulate themselves. It has been a failure throughout history and it is the key reason why most industries are regulated.
The Pro claims that the Non-GMO project, Kosher and Halal Certifications and Fair Trade certifications serve as successful examples of self-regulation, however, none of these are examples of self-regulation. Kosher and Halal certifications are given out by non-profit religious foundations independent of the food industry. The Non-GMO project was started by food retailers as a way of certifying products by food manufacturers and is an independent 501(c)3. Fair Trade certification meanwhile must come from FLOCERT, and NGO associated with a Fair Trade promotion group. None of these are in any way examples of self-regulation, as all are administered by third parties.

The Pro also claims that Country of Origin Labeling as an analogy is a strawman, and claims that a better example is labeling DNA, however what the Pro fails to acknowledge is that nearly every food product contains DNA, as nearly every food we eat is derived from a plant or animal. Not every food contains GMOs, and thus this analogy is simply ridicolous. While GMO labels would not tell the consumer absolutley everything they need to know, the purpose is to give them a choice as to whether or not they want to support the methods being used. The reason I have given to why GMOs should be labled is very simply that if we want to value the freedom of information and the right to chose, we should label GMOs so consumers can decide what agricultural practices they support. It is not about the unproven risks to human health, it is about the right for consumers to know what is in their food.

As to the Pro's second to last paragraph, it must be noted this argument was dropped after the second round by the Pro and therefore should not be allowed to be reargued in the final statement.

http://www.koshercertification.org.uk...;
http://www.ifanca.org...;
http://www.flocert.net...
http://www.nongmoproject.org...

For all of these reasons, I can only see a vote for the Con at the end of this debate. The pro has failed to burden of proof and has relied of faulty evidence to substaniate his claims and has not shown any legitimate reason why the resolution should be affirmed.
Vote Con
Debate Round No. 5
55 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ThinkBig 8 months ago
ThinkBig
@42life, I totally agree. We need better debaters and more interesting debate topics. How many times has gay marriage, abortion, God, and global warming been debated on this site?
Posted by 42lifeuniverseverything 8 months ago
42lifeuniverseverything
You guys did a terrific job. Debates like this are what this site needs, but doesn't have that often.
Posted by BrendanD19 8 months ago
BrendanD19
I've never had so many votes and RFDs that are actually worth reading
Posted by ThinkBig 8 months ago
ThinkBig
Paired. I am glad people read the debate and voted on it. Even more glad for the phenomenal RFDs.
Posted by BrendanD19 8 months ago
BrendanD19
Thank you so much lannan. This is what RFDs should look like, same goes for 4lifeuniverseandeverything
Posted by 42lifeuniverseverything 8 months ago
42lifeuniverseverything
Great vote lannan!
Posted by lannan13 8 months ago
lannan13
Good debate you guys. I learned a few things here which is the point of debating a lot.
Posted by lannan13 8 months ago
lannan13
RFD Part 5: Conclusion.

One of the double binds of the resolution is that Pro must show that they are safe and they shouldn't be labeled. Meaning that if Con won an argument on either side, he would win the debate due to the end. Pro did just that. He won all the arguments, so I have to give the arguments points to Pro.
Posted by lannan13 8 months ago
lannan13
RFD Part 4: Critical

Con brings up how labeling is important since the US is supported by the right to choose and the freedom of information. Thus GMOs should be labeled. Pro brings up how some comapnies label their GMOs and some don't. He states that though 80% of Americans support it, they are ignoring the facts behind it. Though wouldn't the fact that 80% of Americans supporting it mean that we should ennact it? Con states that self-regulation doesn't work as you can't trust them by themselves. Con states that in a complete free market that no one would label their products. This may be true, but then why do some already do so without the requirement? Con also doesn't go into depth as to how self-regulation has NEVER worked. Con brings up a few arguments in R5, but many of them are relitively new, so they must be excluded. Con's droppage of self-regulation by some companies in the status quo self label without the legal requirements.

This argument to Pro.
Posted by lannan13 8 months ago
lannan13
RFD Part 3: GMOs and the environment

Con states that increasing GMO usage increases pesticide resistance amongst bugs and weeds. This has been causing farmers to use more and more of the pesticide. Con then argues that increased usage destroys the surrounding ecosystem and biodiversisty. Pro counters by saying that many effects on blanets tend to varry and in some cases it supports the surrounding ecosystem. Con brings up how Pro's sources are invalid since Pro's sources are bias for biotech. Con also brings up how out of 300 studies that were done and under half were actually accepted. Though I don't think this actually makes these studies questionable especially if they were accepted. Pro here cites 3 sources and really doesn't make an actual argument here. The articles talk about how 'superweeds' aren't really a thing and new resitsance are rare and only 11.4 times a year.Pro also brings up how it has been shown to improve the environment by 8.9%. Con goes and critisizes Pro's sources again.

For that I have to give this argument to Pro.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by lannan13 8 months ago
lannan13
ThinkBigBrendanD19Tied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in the comments section. This RFD has been brought to you in part by the DDO's Voter's Union.
Vote Placed by 42lifeuniverseverything 8 months ago
42lifeuniverseverything
ThinkBigBrendanD19Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in the comments.
Vote Placed by Bob13 8 months ago
Bob13
ThinkBigBrendanD19Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Vote on behalf of the Voter's Union. RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 8 months ago
RoyLatham
ThinkBigBrendanD19Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: I'll put my RFD in comments.