Genetically modified foods do more good than harm

Author: sarahwornow7 | Last modified: Jan. 23, 2018, 2:27 a.m.


PRO (5 arguments)

When weighing on lives: First, a billion people have been saved from starvation by GMOs - this is a fact, not hypothetical, like the CON case. You can vote Affirmative here because GMOs have already saved a billion people, easily outweighing any potential Negative harm of the environment or ecosystem. Second, GMOs cut food prices by up to 30%, which is really important because the UN World Bank reported in 2011 that high food prices are the main cause of poverty.

When weighing on economy: Remember that Professor Klumper found that GMOs increased farmers profits by 68%, because of the massive increase in crop yields. This allows farmers, who comprise the majority of economic activity in the developing world, to become a larger part of the economy benefitting everyone.

When weighing on environment: First, according to Professor Klumper, GMOs decreased pesticide usage by 37%, because farmers no longer need to buy so much of it. Second, PG Economics study found that the environmental footprint of pesticides were reduced by 18.1% with GMOs, or equivalent to 10.2 million cars being taken off the road!)

1. Claim: Genetically modified organisms can solve the problem of food supply in the developing world.
Warrant:

The possible benefits from GMO food are enormous. Modifications which render plants less vulnerable from pests lead to less pesticide use, which is better for the environment. Other modifications lead to higher crop yield, which leads to lower food prices for all. However, This technology really comes into its own in developing countries. Here where water is at a shortage, modifications (which lead crops to needing less water), are of vital importance.

Impact:

The World Health Organization predicts that vitamin A deficiency, with the use of GMOs, could be wiped out rapidly in the modern world. The scientists developed the strain of rice, called “golden rice”, which produces more beta-carotene and this way produces 20 times more vitamins than other strains, creating a cure for childhood blindness in developing countries. By being able to have genetically modified rice, this project is able to save 500,000 children from being blind and prevent 2 million deaths caused by vitamin-A deficiency in third world countries every year.  Judge, the earliest GMO crops have already saved an enormous amount of lives. A 2013 report filed by the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee found that from 1960-2000, GMO crops increased food production by over 200% in developing countries, from 800 million tons to 2.2 billion tons of food. In the 40 years since their introduction, the report estimates that GMO foods have “saved one billion from famine [and] halved the global percentage of undernourished people.” That is by far the biggest impact in the round, because it is not theoretical. GMOs have already saved one billion people from dying, making it a clear benefit.

Sources:

World Health Organization

2. Claim: GMO crops save farmers money, reducing poverty and starvation.
Warrant:

Because GM crops increase yields so greatly, farmers are able to sell more of their crops, thus increasing overall profits. This is really important, because the majority of the third world depends on local farmers to provide for their economies. 

A German study conducted by Wilhelm Klumper concluded that, “On average, GMO technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmers’ profits by 68%.” This increase in farmer’s profits is very beneficial, as it allows farmers to sell more crops for a cheaper price. According to a 2013 report by the Agricultural Economics Association, GMO crops have already reduced global food prices by 15-30%.

Impact:

This directly leads to reduced poverty, as according to a 2011 report by the U.N. World Bank, food prices have the “largest direct impact on poverty” since food expenditures comprise 80% of families’ budgets in the developing world. The World Bank also reports that lowering food prices can lead to a 4.6% reduction in the global poverty rate. Thus, GMO crops cut global food prices by 30%, which helps to reduce global poverty by 4.6%.

3. Claim: Genetically modified organisms will prevent starvation due to global climate changes. We should transition to using GMOs to be prepared for the future of climate change.
Warrant:

The temperature of the earth is rising. As this continues, foods that grow now will not be acclimatized to the hotter conditions. Evolution takes many years and we simply do not have the time to starve while we wait for this to occur. While there may be a vast supply of food now, we need to look to the future and how our current crops will withstand our changing environment.

Impact:

In 2007 Monsanto modified GMO crops and got them to grow is drought conditions in South Africa, preventing starvation. In other countries, this would also mean that foods could be cultured where organic foods would not be able to. This would mean those in third world countries could grow their own crops on their low nutrient content soil. This has the additional benefit of not impacting  the environment as no transport would be needed to take the food to the places where it is needed; this would have to occur with organic foods grown in areas of good soil and weather conditions. Additionally, by farming GMO products, farmers reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses released because GMOs do not need as much plowing and tillage.

4. Claim: GM crops are extremely beneficial for the environment by reducing harmful pesticides and saving valuable land.
Warrant:

Because most GM crops are already pest resistant, farmers do not need to spray as much pesticides or herbicides on their crops. This both allows farmers to save money and the environment at the same time.

Impact:

A 16-year global study of GMO foods by PG Economics found that the use of GMO crops reduced global pesticide use by over  9% of total usage. This reduction in pesticide is very important because the same study found that GMO crops reduce the environmental footprint of pesticides by 18.1%. This led to a decrease in CO2 emissions equivalent to taking 10.2 million cars off the road. Aside from preserving the environment through less pesticide usage, GMO crops also have reduced the amount of land needed for farming. According to the International Association of the Agri-Biotech Applications, between 1996-2011, GMO crops have saved over 108 million hectares of tropical forests and fragile land worldwide from being developed. Furthermore, according to Charles Conner, President of the National Council of Farmers Cooperatives, land use efficiency has increased by 37%, over the last 20 years as a result of GMO crops. On top of that, Conner also found that GMO crops save resources. In his study, he quantified that it takes 37% less energy and 25% less water to produce a bushel of GMO corn compared to conventional crops.

Sources:

National Council of Farmers Cooperatives

5. Claim: Genetically modified food is just as safe as non-GMO food.
Warrant:

Genetically modified food needs to be rigorously tested before handed out to the public.

According to biotechnology expert, Josh Arnold Ph.D., “GM Food products must be rigorously tested before they can be sold-far more than conventional products. The testing process can take 7-10 years , and must include evaluations of potential risks to humans and livestock as well as potential risks to wildlife and the environment.” Testing includes nutritional and protein analysis so researchers can identify new proteins added that may cause allergic reactions. A large study of 1,700 reviewed studies found no evidence that GMO products negatively affect humans or livestock. A recent study of 29 years of livestock health and productivity statistics (looking at the data both before and after GMO products were implemented) covering more than one billion animals came to the conclusion that Genetically modified food is equally as safe and nutritious as non genetically modified food.

Sources:

World Health organization, the American Medical Association, and the British Royal Society



CON (4 arguments)

Definitions:

GMO foods- plants or animals whose DNA has been altered in a non-natural way.

1. Claim: Genetically modified foods are harmful to the environment.
Warrant:

GMOs may be toxic to non-target organisms, specifically bees. Bees are important to the ecosystem because they pollinate.

Despite their size, the impact bees have on the environment is almost unparalleled. In fact, bees are responsible for pollinating about one-sixth of the flowering plant species worldwide and approximately 400 different agricultural types of plant. In 2014, 37 million bees dropped dead in Ontario due to large GMO corn fields being planted. According to farmer Dave Schuit, “Once the corn started to get planted, our bees died by the millions.” He and many others, including the European Union, believe a class of GMO insecticides are what caused the problem. According to the USDA, GMOs have led to a 400 million kilogram increase in pesticides, with overall pesticide usage 20% higher on GMO farms than on non- GMO farms.

Impact:

If bees went extinct, the whole food chain system would collapse. Animals such as lizards, toads, and snakes, that eat bees and butterflies wouldn’t have a large source of food, so they would die out and eventually leading to all living things dying, including humans.  Additionally, the loss of the bees would be devastating to our economy. According to Professor James Zacharia, pesticides kill bees and result in the loss of species that pollinate many plants. As a result, the USDA estimates that US farmers alone lose at least $200 million a year from reduced crop pollination and pesticides eliminate about a fifth of honeybee colonies and harm an additional 15% per year.

Sources:

truth-out.org, onegreenplanet.org; thepost.on.ca, yournewswire.com,

2. Claim: “Superweeds,” or pesticide and herbicide resistant weeds, are sprouting as a result of GMOs, leading to more use of chemicals.
Warrant:

Pesticides are an important part of growing crops, to keep bugs and and weeds away. If weeds are able to become resistant to pesticides, we will need to continue to create new pesticides to battle weeds.

According to Dow Chemical, the infestation of superweeds has more than doubled since 2009, and the most logical explanation is GMOs. These superweeds have already cost over $1 billion dollars in damage to crops. As Neil Harker, a weed ecologist says, “We’re losing the effectiveness of herbicide tools.” Bill Freese, an expert at the Center for Food safety claimed there were better, natural ways to fight weeds. “We don't need pesticide-resistant GMOs,” he said. According to a USDA study, GMO crops have been directly responsible for the addition of 24 new superweeds. These superweeds are extremely common, growing on nearly 20% of US farms for a total of 61 million infected acres. This becomes very problematic when an analysis from the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service found that superweeds increase the volume of herbicides needed each year by 25%.

Impact:

Clearly, herbicide and pesticide resistant crops are not helping, rather they are wasting money and making it harder to battle weeds. According to Purdue University, superweeds can cause 100% crop loss, resulting in less food being produced and money being wasted.  In addition, according to the Des Moines Register, a moderate infestation of a superweed, has robbed farmers of over ⅔ of their total crop yields. Overall, the moderate increase in yields is drastically outweighed by a loss of ⅔ of overall crop yields because of the superweeds that are caused by GMO crops.

Sources:

NBC; New York Times

3. Claim: Genetically modified foods harm the economy.
Warrant:

When compared to non GMO foods, GMO foods take just as long to mature as well as the same amount of effort, therefore showing that there is NO real economic value to having GMO in foods and it hurts the economy. Thousands of food producers are upset about the economics of growing and producing GMO food. Estimated and promised profits that GMO crops were expected to bring in, have not yet materialized for the majority of growers and farmers. When economist, Michael Duffy of Iowa State University analyzed soybean crops,  he found GMO soy HAD LOST way more money per acre than non-GMO soy after every single factor was considered. GMO soy had lost $8.87 an acre while on the other hand, non-GMO soy only lost 2 CENTS per acre. According to Dr. Charles Benbrook, from 1996 to 2001 American farmers paid close to $659 MILLION in price premiums to buy and plant GMO corn. Farmers lost $92 MILLION or about $1.31 per acre from raising this crop. A “technology fee” that dramatically raises the cost of seeds by 25 to 40% is added to GMO seeds. Furthermore, farmers must sign a legal contract with GMO seed producers whereby farmers agree that they cannot and will not save seed from their harvests despite the common farming practice of saving seed for the next planting. Farmers are legally PREVENTED from saving seed. Globally in 2005 farmers paid a premium of $2.2 billion for GMO seeds, which represents the “technology fee”.

Impact:

Overall, there is absolutely ZERO economic benefit to have genetically modified foods. While there is no benefit, there is a clear and dramatic deficit in economic profits. The evidence above proves that GMOs hurt the economy and our farmers.

Sources:

Canada’s national farmers Union; New York Times

4. Claim: Genetically modified plant and animal products can cause extinction of the natural world as we know it.
Warrant:

When genetically modified plants are eaten by animals, they can cause the animals to die out, like bees and butterflies. And when the animals themselves are genetically modified, like fish that we eat, the genetically modified fish can eventually take over the natural species habitat, which leads the natural species to become extinct. 

A few weeks ago, at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Cancun, Mexico, 160 global groups called for a moratorium on new 'genetic extinction' technology which they say, poses serious and irreversible threats to biodiversity, national sovereignty, peace and food security. Gene drives, developed through new gene-editing techniques, are designed to force a particular genetically engineered trait to spread through an entire wild population - potentially changing entire species or even causing deliberate extinctions. Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, representing the Federation of German Scientists, said:

"We lack the knowledge and understanding to release gene drives into the environment - we don't even know what questions to ask. To deliberately drive a species to extinction has major ethical, social and environmental implications."

In a 2015 interview with CNBC, Oregon Representative  Peter DeFazio, stated, "Monarch butterflies are becoming extinct" because of increased use of crops genetically modified to withstand pesticides.  Additionally, professors from Purdue University, using computer models and statistical analysis, have warned that genetically modified organisms, when introduced into wild populations, could make the natural species extinct. Professor William Muir and  Richard Howard, illustrated that transgenic fish--fish that have had genes from another species inserted into their own--released into the wild could cause the extinction of non-transgenic fish in 20 to 40 generations.

Impact:

You cannot overstate the potential impact of GMOs on our planet.  Judge- we are talking about mass extinction of all living things being replaced by all genetically modified forms of life.

Sources:

The Ecologist; Natural Products Insider