Food belongs to the things without which humanity cannot exist. Therefore, when food producers face problems, all people inhabiting the planet do, too. When farmers do not have good harvests or when insects damage crops, when natural disasters destroy fields or the conditions of storage lead to the loss of large amounts of food, there is a threat to people’s existence. Scientists have been trying to save the situation by creating genetically modified organisms that can keep food resistant to insects and other adverse influences. However, GMOs meet many obstructions from health organizations and citizens as they can cause many harmful effects for the consumers of such food. There are many debates about the benefits and limitations of GMOs, but so far, scientists fail to prove that the advantages of these organisms are more numerous than the disadvantages.
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The first argument against GMO foods
Genetically modified foods provoke a lot of controversy among citizens and scientists. Those who support the right of GMOs to exist say that they provide better opportunities for humanity as their storage time is longer and resistance to harmful organisms is higher. Those who advocate the abolishing of GMOs say that they bring damage to people’s health and the environment. According to a professor of bioethics Arthur L. Caplan, nearly seventy-five percent of US citizens feel worried about the outcomes of the consumption of genetically modified food (Caplan 407). About one-third of these people believe that GM foods are responsible for allergies and cancer. Caplan notes that research on animals consuming GM foods shows that they give birth to rather weak and ill offsprings. Further, Caplan remarks that GMOs are the biggest threat to the modern world (Caplan 407). This evidence demonstrates how GMOs may harm life on the planet and stimulates people to be more cautious about their food choices. As Robin Mather, a renowned food columnist, mentions, the debate about GM foods “rages” (Mather 410). Mather, as well as Caplan, mentions that GM foods are extremely dangerous. Moreover, Mather points out that governments are doing too little to eliminate the harmful effect of GMOs because they refuse to implement the laws which would require farmers to label GM foods (Mather 410). The author notes that since GMOs gained control of the core agribusiness sectors, many biotech organizations now govern not only GM seeds but almost the whole seed supply (Mather 410). Mather emphasizes that the changes in DNA caused by genetic modification could never happen in nature and are not as definite as their advocates make them look (Mather 410).
The second argument against GMOs
Another serious issue is that in spite of the advocates’ arguments about GMOs’ benefits in increasing food supply, this fact does not have any proof. GMO supporters claim that they are going to save people from hunger by producing more food. However, the problem is not in the amount of food but in access to it. One of the most discussed topics in this area is the production of “Golden Rice” – a genetically engineered product with a high amount of Vitamin A (Potrykus 68). The Golden Rice project claims that its purpose it so provide enough food for those living in developing countries. However, according to Caplan, genetic engineering has not succeeded in finding solutions to food problems that humanity faces so far (410). Organic farming, which the GMO advocates use as a tool of defense, is not an answer to the problem of hunger. People in poor regions have no access to any food – neither organic nor non-organic and that it is the major obstacle to the prosperous future of the planet. Moreover, products from organic farms undergo strict control measures from the government (Hauter 79). As a result, there are frequent cases of large companies buying out the food produced by small companies (Hauter 79). Such politics leads to the increase of prices on organic products. Additionally, it impacts the quality of such food because, in an attempt to make it more affordable, large companies allow the use of synthetic ingredients (Hauter 79). Thus, specialists conclude that GMO foods not only bring no benefits but also cause harm. As Caplan mentions, “a few seed banks” are not enough to provide vulnerable foods with diversity (409). At the same time, the problem of food availability for underserved regions remains open.
Counterargument and rebuttal
While there is much evidence of GM foods being a threat to people, there are also many advocates of genetic modification who say that this process is rather significant for humanity. A professor of political science Robert Paarlberg is one of such defenders. According to him, labeling GM foods may be a good idea for the USA and other developed countries, but it puts the developing countries’ citizens in danger of hunger (Paarlberg). Paarlberg argues that GMOs do not cause any new threats to the environment or people’s health. He quotes the Research Directorate of the European Union which made the conclusion that GM foods bring no more risk than “conventional plant breeding technologies” (Paarlberg). Paarberg’s opinion finds support in the works of Smith and Tscharntke et al. As Smith mentions, the future of global food security greatly depends on conservation methods, which means that GMOs may be a good option (20). Tscharntke et al. also argue that GM food is a good option since it helps to reduce “land grabbing” (55). Moreover, there is an opinion that GMOs can be a solution to the problem of fruit and crop diseases (Caplan 407-408). However, no matter how nice and promising all of these arguments sound, there is no evidence of the benefits of GMOs outnumbering their limitations. On the contrary, research shows that there are adverse outcomes of GM food consumption (Caplan 407). Thus, the question of introducing GMOs into the everyday life of all people without any warning remains open. So far, there are more opponents of such an idea than supporters.
The question of GMOs is among the acutest and most debatable ones in the modern world. In the era of growing food and environmental consciousness, people pay much more attention to what they are consuming than they used to do a couple of decades ago. There is much evidence both for and against GM foods. Some argue against genetically modified organisms as they believe that such modifications can bring serious harm to health. Others, on the contrary, think that GM foods are going to save the planet from hunger. However, everyone should remember that any genetic changes produce an irreversible impact on nature and people. It is up to everyone to choose whether to consume such products or not. What is most important is that governments should not push citizens towards the consumption of potentially dangerous products. Only when scientists prove the benefits of GMOs over their disadvantages should these products receive approval and support from the governments.
Caplan, Arthur L. “Genetically Modified Food: Good, Bad, Ugly.” Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings, edited by John R. Ramage, John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 10th ed., Pearson, 2016, pp. 407-410.
Hauter, Wenonah. Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America. The New Press, 2012.
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Mather, Robin. “The Threats from Genetically Modified Foods.” Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings, edited by John R. Ramage, John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 10th ed., Pearson, 2016, pp. 410-415.
Paarlberg, Robert. “The World Needs Genetically Modified Foods.” The Wall Street Journal, 2013, Web.
Potrykus, Ingo. “Golden Rice,” a GMO-Product for Public Good, and the Consequences of GE-Regulation.” Journal of Plant Biochemistry and Biotechnology, vol. 21, no. S1, 2012, pp. 68-75.
Smith, Pete. “Delivering Food Security without Increasing Pressure on Land.” Global Food Security, vol. 2, no. 1, 2013, pp. 18-23.
Tscharntke, Teja, et al. “Global Food Security, Biodiversity Conservation and the Future of Agricultural Intensification.” Biological Conservation, vol. 151, no. 1, 2012, pp. 53-59.