Point/Counterpoint: GMOs

PointCounterPoint

Clayton Barker:

Point: Pseudoscience has popularized GMOs

Debates on whether or not Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are good for humanity or bad have been ongoing for twenty some years now. The long term effect of GMOs are unknown, but the short term effects of GMOs are known and are threatening mankind.

If GMOs are so bad, why hasn’t the government done something about them? Why haven’t the people been informed?

Remember this: Monsanto, the leading agrochemical company in the GMO game, spends millions on propaganda and lobbying.

According to Open Secrets Center for Responsive Politics, Monsanto spent close to 9 million dollars in lobbying with the US government in 2008 and millions of dollars every year prior.

Debating whether or not GMOs are good for society always comes down to the same two arguments. The first argument states genetic modification has been going on for decades and is no different today than it was hundreds of years ago. The second argument is how GMOs are needed to feed the world and end world hunger because of their increment of crop yield. These statements couldn’t be anymore false.

Talk to any GMO advocate and mendacity will spew from their mouth stating genetic engineering (GE) or GMOs have been around for hundreds of years, which isn’t true. Most pro GMO gurus like to say that selective breeding and GE are the same. Selective breeding defined by Biology Online: is the intentional breeding of organisms with a desirable trait in an attempt to produce offspring with similar desirable characteristics or with improved traits.

Coercing an animal to have sexual intercourse with another animal or getting vegetable seeds and pollen acquainted with each other for the first time couldn’t be any farther from genetic engineering.

One way to create a GMO is to start with a restriction endonuclease, which is an enzyme that will cut DNA in a very specific section. Once the DNA has been cut, the ability to insert a foreign gene into the open space cut from the enzyme emerges, then genetically modifying the product. Stating genetic engineering is an archaic doing absurd, insertion of arbitrary, foreign genes into a plant or animal is just not comparable to making a Black Lab dog have breed with a Poodle (selective breeding).  

A study conducted by Ed Oplinger, professor of agronomy at the University of Wisconsin, concluded that genetically modified soybean plants have a lower yield average of 4 percent compared to non-GMO soybean crops, although 4 percent is the average, yields dropped all the way to 13 percent lower in comparison to non-GMO soybean crops.

How do Biotech-Agricultural companies plan to end world hunger with GMOs when they’re inferior to conventional farming?

Ending world hunger through GMOs is hard to do taking into fact that 98 percent of soybeans and 79.5 percent of corn that is genetically modified and grown in the USA is fed to livestock or used as fuel for cars. Most GMOs aren’t actually directly going to some far off country to feed starving children, which is the picture agrochemical companies paint in defense of GMOs.

GMOs not only have lower crop yields but are harmful to humanity. Entropy did an independent study of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s “Roundup weed killer” in most GMOs. The enzyme cytochrome P450, also known as CYP, causes inflammation which damages cellular systems over time. CYP also disrupts biosynthesis, which is the production of complex molecules within cells and other organisms. The Entropy study concluded that repercussions of glyphosate include gasintroental disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

GMOs usually are thought to only be in food, cotton is a very common GMO that is also everywhere.

A recent study done by the National University of La Plata in Argentina this October 2015 concluded that glyphosate was in 85 percent of personal care/hygiene products containing cotton in the United States.

This includes GMO cotton swabs, gauze pads, sanitary pads and lastly tampons.

The website Natural News states, “It is inarguable that the human vagina readily absorbs chemicals found in tampons. When those tampons are made from GMO cotton–they almost always contain glyphosate that gets absorbed through the vaginal walls and enters the bloodstream.”

Glyphosate which is considered “probably carcinogenic” according to the World Health Organization. Carcinogenic refers to having the ability to cause cancer in living cells. For all the women out there using tampons or pads, the possibility glyphosate is contained in the tampon or pad is highly probable, or in other words, could be cancerous.

Now let’s talk about planet Earth, the only place we humans can actually call home. GMOs not only have a negative impact on our health but put Earth in harm’s way. Honey bees have been disappearing at an alarming rate over the past decade. Many speculate if GMOs could be contributing to the diminishing honey bee population. In 2011 Monsanto bought out “Beeologics” a small company known for its groundbreaking research on bees.

Whether GMOs are killing honey bees or not is still up for debate and could be for some time as agrochemical company Monsanto owns a prominent honey bee researching firm. Studies on bees that will coincide with GMOs done by Monsanto, a company who makes GMOs, could possibly end in biased studies.

The Institute for Responsible Technology states that “Studies have shown pesticide-producing crops contaminate nearby streams,” and “They may harm beneficial insects.”

GMO crops also have the tendency to contaminate organic or conventional crops, crops that aren’t genetically modified, this is called cross-pollination. This happens through pollination, when the wind blows pollen or is carried via bees, birds, butterflies etc. Many non-GMO farmers’ who have had their crops contaminated from GMO pollen end up getting sued by Monsanto because Monsanto owns full rights to their pollen. Regardless if Monsanto’s pollen blew through the air and landed on an non-GMO farm accidentally, this non-GMO farm is now unlawfully using Monsanto’s patented GMO pollen.

According to Food Democracy, an article written in September 2014, Monsanto has sued over 145 farmers and hasn’t lost a single case, many of these lawsuits have to do with cross pollination.

At the end of the day, planet Earth doesn’t need GMOs, conventional farming has proven to have better crop yields. GMOs are proven unhealthy for humans and for the animals which consume them. If this article inspired you, or more so scared you; know that GMOs can be avoided, just buy USDA organic food for a healthier, GMO free, snack.

Jake Heasley:

Counterpoint: Fear of GMO’s Stems from a Fear of Science

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) seem to be the one of the most controversial aspects of science. GMOs are constantly attacked from all sides by liberals and conservatives alike.

But what are GMOs really? A genetically modified octopus could be classified as anything that a human has deliberately genetically modified, either through gene splicing or selective breeding. Genetically modified organisms have been around since the beginning of time. GMOs were created when cavemen chose the best fruit and bred the fastest, strongest dogs. Every modern food product is a GMO simply because selective breeding has been a part of society since the beginning of modern agriculture. The pug could even be considered a GMO just because it has been “genetically modified” through selective breeding.

However, that definition above can be considered disingenuous as it isn’t really what people talk about when they say “GMO.” When most people hear GMO they think about crops that have genes spliced into their DNA. These genes could have the same effects as selective breeding except selective breeding would take years, even centuries to have the same effects as gene splicing. These genes can make the crops resistant to frost or pesticides. Some GMOs even make the crop more nutritious, or vitamin rich.

You’ll notice that none of these genes sound like diabolical schemes created by mega-corporations, that’s because GMOs are actually pretty boring. Most GMOs are designed to help farmers so they don’t have to worry about pesticides killing their crops. GMOs can also make sure that an entire crop won’t be wiped out by a single frost. These GMOs can be incredibly helpful for developing regions where food is sometimes scarce. A crop that can survive the cold or has more nutrients can often mean the difference between life and death in some parts of the world.

Now, what about the side effects of GMOs? A “fact” that anti-GMO supporters like to throw around is that GMOs are not tested enough and could have side effects that haven’t been discovered yet. This is completely false.

An article from Forbes shows that, “Every major international science body in the world has reviewed multiple independent studies—in some cases numbering in the hundreds—in coming to the consensus conclusion that GMO crops are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods.”

The scientific organizations in the report include: the American Medical Association, the French Academy of Science, the Royal Society of Medicine (UK), the European Commission, the Union of German Academics of Sciences and Humanities, the World Health Organization,  and many others.  

However, some scientific organizations disagree. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has urged doctors to tell patients about the risk of GMOs. The AAEM also warns against the dangers of Fluoride in water and is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Many arguments from anti-GMO sources stem from the fact that GMOs can make plants resistant to herbicides, specifically Glyphosate. Glyphosate (most commonly used in “Roundup”) is an herbicide that kills weeds but certain genetically modified organisms resist its effects. Anti-GMO people point to numerous studies finding links between Glyphosate and many health issues, including cancer and birth defects. While this sounds pretty damning, there are many issues with these studies.

One of the most infamous GMO studies was conducted by French microbiologist Gilles-Éric Séralini. The study tested tumor growth among rats fed with GMOs and Glyphosate over a long period of time. The study found that GMOs and Glyphosate made tumors more prevalent in rats. However, the breed of rat used was more susceptible to tumors than normal rats. On top of that, too few rats were used for the data to be statistically relevant. These results also ran contrary to many other publicly funded studies on this very topic. Shortly after the article was published, the journal that published it retracted it, after Seralini refused to retract it himself. If you want to read the statement from the journal click here. The study has recently been republished in a different, non-peer reviewed journal.

Some say that Glyphosate is linked to birth defects, however, the only study that can corroborate this evidence was published in the journal of Environmental and Analytical Technology. This journal is owned by the OMICS Publishing Group, a group that has been accused of predatory publishing techniques also known as pay-to-play.

One researcher received an email from OMICS, soliciting an article publication, but when her article was accepted she got a $2,700 fee in the mail. According to her, she had no knowledge of this fee before OMICS accepted her article. OMICS is not a trustworthy source for scientific studies and any study published by them or one of their affiliates should be taken with a grain of salt.

Another study, also published by OMICS, states that chronically ill humans and animals have higher glyphosate levels than healthy humans and animals. However, there are so many problems with this study they’re almost countless. The study does not say how much food was given to either the humans or animals, nor does it state what was fed to either group. Statistics on age, weight, gender or height are also sorely lacking. The study doesn’t even define what “chronic illness” actually is. These are necessary components of almost all studies involving GMOs and any of these variables could affect the data.

Finally, there was a study claiming that Glyphosate is linked to Autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and many other diseases. However, as journalist Keith Kloor points out, there is no research actually conducted in this study, with no data being shown. This study was also published in a predatory publication similar to OMICS and one of the authors has claimed that vaccines cause autism, a dubious statement that was debunked in the early 2000s.

If you want to see further proof that evidence against GMOs is faulty at best go to The Genetic Literacy Project, they have hundreds of sources backing this claim.

But what about crop yields? According to anti-GMO campaigns, GMOs actually decrease crop yields. This runs counter to a study conducted by the Joint Research Center that found GMO crops increased average yields by 11.8%. This study was conducted over a period of nine years, using GMO corn.

GMOs are going to become a necessity in the future. In a world where the population is increasing, food is becoming scarcer, and droughts are more common, GMOs are going to be needed. A GMO that can survive in extreme climates like a drought could save millions of lives. GMOs that contain more nutrients than their non-GMO counterparts could help almost everyone in the world. These are what GMOs can do. GMOs aren’t just “frankenfoods,” they are lifesaving crops that will help the entire world, not just big corporations.

4 responses to “Point/Counterpoint: GMOs

  1. The “Genetic Literacy Project” is funded by massive agrochemical company and creator of GMOs one and only Monsanto, how do you expect the stuff on this website not to be biased, undoubtedly favoring Monsanto?

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  2. If this website is so false (you didn’t actually refute everything it said) how is this any different from the countless anti-gmo studies that have been conducted and found untrue by independent scientific organizations? I will concede this point if you can point out inaccuracies in the links I provided.

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  3. Also, please explain how getting a desired trait (gene) through the use of reproduction is not modifying the genetics of an organism?

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