Monday, November 29

The GMO Debate ~

k, so that was a good debate in class! But clearly we didn't have the proper amount of time to discuss it all as we should together, which is a shame the GM food issue is so critical.

So: I want us to continue the conversation over the next two weeks on our blog! How would you address the resolution yourself personally?

I am asking everyone to post their personal reflection on the issue here. In the comment line of this post.

You can come down one side or another, but you can also be undecided or less black and white. Either way, please say what you are thinking and WHY. What arguments and rationales in the debate do you find most or less compelling? If you are Pro or Anti, what concerns on the other side might be legitimate (but in the end may be of low priority to you or perhaps fixable?)

Or, perhaps the resolution itself is poorly formulated and leads us to oversimplifying conclusions? What is a better way to think about the issue? What questions still remain that need to be answered?

Write to out here thoughtfully and drawing from all the various forms of arguments and evidence we've come across (I'd say a minimum of 150 words). Please sign your name too so we know who's thoughts we are reading!

As a consumer, voter, and cultural producer it is important to have a point of view on GM as it is likely to only between a larger issues in the years to come in our daily lives and globally....

The risks of GM foods outweigh the purported benefits and should not be allowed to be sold and planted.

Meanwhile, feel free to continue posting to blog items of relevant and interest!



pyrostylez said...

I think that GM foods should be allowed to be sold and planted given that it was necessary in the circumstance. For example, the people in Africa that are dying from starvation and have been given the chance to grow GM sweet potatoes really gave them the opportunity to feed themselves. However I feel like there should be ample information or classes provided that are required prior to purchasing these GM seeds, making sure that the potential farmers know what is needed during the process of farming them (like how Indian farmers were not informed that their cotton crops needed double the water amount).
I’m still torn over the fact of GMO foods in general because I know personally if I go to a grocery store I would try to steer clear of GMO products. But I feel that it is necessary in countries where farming is difficult due to terrible soil conditions and low water supply.


Moira said...

I still can't come to a consensus over whether or not the risks of GM foods outweigh the benefits, even after letting the debate marinate overnight in my head. I am completely aware of all of the "what ifs" posed by opponents of GMOs, including the potentially irreversible risks to the environment and to humans who raise and consume them. It doesn't bother me personally that I am consuming genetically modified products, it is the politics of the issue that really get to me. Monsanto and other biotech organizations can easily use their tools for good, but it is apparent that they are misusing their power because of their control over the market. It seems as though Americans have very little control over the matter, since decisions seem to be up to lobbyists, special interest groups, and NGOs. It's pretty frustrating.

Lauren said...

On the whole I'd say I am pro GM foods. I do believe that it's possible to grow enough food, organically, for the whole world now, however the distribution of that food is the problem. Countries with nutrient deprived soils are not suitable to growing crops organically and shipping products is simply too expensive (not to mention a waste of fossil fuels). GM crops should be available to these countries, but I agree with Robyn in that classes and a thorough explanation of the product also need to be pushed. I think GM crops are opening up doors for the future of food, but like all super science it needs to be monitored. Monsanto deals dirty, there's no doubt about that. But Monsanto isn't the only company out there trying to help. Food shouldn't be turned into a monopoly and only when it turns to legal rights and "who gets the money" does it become a fight. Plenty of individuals and smaller companies are working on this crisis (like that papaya guy) and personally I don't find anything wrong with that. Although I am pro GMOs, I still think it's very important to maintain organic practices on smaller farms and even in personal gardens. When farmers are lucky enough to have good soil and ample rainfall, they shouldn't fix it if it ain't broke. I like the thought of organic gardening (and i know most people given the choice will always prefer organic food) but GMOs are a quick fix to the global food crisis we're in. If someone doesn't take action now people will starve.


Bird said...

I still feel a bit torn about the whole situation. I know that I agree with Moira and Lauren and that it's hard to look past and let go of the way Monsanto has dealt with GM foods. Expecially since they are one of the leading groups, they put a name and reputation on the rest. Looking back at our debate, the things that stuck out to me with the GM pro side was the idea that now they can take advantage and do things for the environment in terms of using less water , less food and no pesticides. They mentioned SOYA, stating that people can get their omega 3's without fishing. I'm not sure if it costs more to run SOYA though. With GM foods there is also no harm to populations and it does create jobs, which seems like a plus. Apparently there are also seeds that can tolerate more salt, and use less water, this seems like one sustainable solution. GM foods also seem desirable because there are so many people in the world and with resources becoming depleted these do help with that. Its a hard decision to make because I feel like I'm not against GM food, but when it gets in the wrong hands and their isn't a level of trust or honesty, thats when things go wrong.

Jais said...

My problem with GM foods is the conflict that I think they pose to the concept of de-growth, which I think is a necessary phase we have to go through in order make human life sustained on this planet. As it is, we are shooting upwards at an exponential rate, in terms of population as well as industrial and technological growth. I don't think that a technological revolution is going to get us out of the dire straits we've put ourselves in, because I think this kind of revolution is just an extension of the industrial revolution. BUT then again, maybe not? We have evolved along with technology most of the history of our species, so maybe there is some way for us to go back past the industrial revolution.
So is it that GM foods are just another technological advancement we highly developed primates have made to aid our propagation? As Bird says, it really does depend on whose hands the technology is in. In the current paradigm of global free-market capitalism, those hands seem to inevitably be the abusive, overreaching, non-human hands that put us in this position in the first place. Developing countries simply want a standard of living that is on par with what we enjoy in developed worlds. The system that developed these standards will gladly reap the benefits of extending it to those places that are still searching. This is just where I think the likes of Monsanto and other GMO producers fit in. It simply is in the wrong hands. or not so simply...
So, having gotten a little of track, of course I believe that a community should be able to feed itself. And often times this is done through innovation, finding new technologies that will make the farming process more efficient, and those technologies are passed down by generation. In a world where time and place don't mean anything, the technologies can be passed around the globe at hyperspeed. We've moved so fast, and at this point I think we have to consider more points than simply just feeding a population that is starving, things like what caused this kind of mass hunger and starvation in the first place? I also have the luxury of being able to say this from the blind perspective as a citizen of a developed country, and I don't truly know the real pain that entire populations are going through as we speak.
How are the GMO's distributed? How are they able to be used freely, without patents and profits? Who should truly profit from the use of GMO's? If its the people using them to feed themselves who are the true profiteers, how do those industries and enterprises that have developed them sustain the research and development behind them that's necessary? Can those who are using them to feed themselves in some way be in charge of the research and development of the organisms, NOT products? The developments should be recognized as organisms first and not products.
I don't know if this addresses GMO's at all, it does I guess, but I'm thinking about it at a macro-level.

I'd like to think that we've always been in some sort of food crisis.

Hanna said...

I think that I would have to agree with everyone on this subject. I think GMO's is a great idea that would help a lot o f people in need but those that own it don't fully understand what they are doing fully. They just do what they do without really thinking about the end result too far ahead. It is a hard decision because we could always say "no" but if you really get down to it that's just cause we are so used to having food everywhere that we can't really see when it's gone. But also we don't know if these GMO's are the best they could be and there's a lot of money going into it that's, well... monopolizing it for the company's own benefits. I can't really say I rule on either side for now, but I do know that if we can work on better GMO's that are known to be safer and better for the environment that it should happen.

Coytch said...

I think that there is enough scientific evidence to show that consuming GMO’s have no damaging health effects and can actually be used to improve the quality of foods and lessen the carbon footprint of milk production and the yielding of crops. GMO’s have been successful in areas like Ethiopia where they are struggling with the question of how to feed the masses where organic traditional methods of farming are failing and in Hawaii where they have successfully saved a species of papaya that was dying out using GMO technology. That said, if we look beyond the propaganda of GMO producers, where they insist that the primary motive is to help combat world hunger and contribute to saving the environment (this being a company that produced toxic herbicides and industrial PCB), its is hard to believe that their motives are altruistic. Their dealings in India being the most insidious and parasitic of operations is actually akin to a feudal enterprise more than anything else, brutally lording over the lives of millions of people who see no other way out their situations other than to take their own lives. On that note, I would like to raise one very specific question: "how can it be possible, that the condition of life of whole sections of humanity be in the hands of so few?"

In this class we have looked at food on a molecular level, but more importantly in terms of nutrition, environmental impact, production and distribution. Put all this under one umbrella and we see that the nature of this system is the driving force behind all of these issues. If we look at what is happening to the farmers in India and Jamaica we see that these situations are microcosms of what this system does and has been doing for centauries. The principle of “expand or die” (the same propulsion of cancer cells) underlying the entire history of capitalism, is what is responsible for the dire situation humanity finds itself in. These seemingly separate issues being fought left right and center cannot be won in any fundamental sense without seriously questioning our own lives and our relationship to the rest of humanity and nature itself. The most prevailing world outlook of most Americans proceeds from individualism and relativism. Although now, after the banking and housing crisis’s happening throughout the world, the questioning of ‘capitalism’ itself amongst people and in the media, for the first time in my life that I can remember, is actually being approached as a ‘life and death’ question more broadly. That said, capitalism, because of the resources and wealth yielded by it, is argued to be the reason why we have been exponentially advancing in science and technology. But now people need to aware at what cost, on a human and environmental level that this wealth has been gained… and that now we are at a point that we need all of these resources to be reoriented towards redefining how we live and interact with every aspect of this world being: human relations and the increasingly urgent need to care for this planet.

~ Coytch.

Stephanie said...

I think the idea of GMOs are great... I don't think how they are being handled is. But I guess that's what happens when you come up with an idea that sounds like it will solve all your problems. Someone will come along and abuse it. The concept of GMOs seem to be noble: a crop that is safe and better for the environment. At the same time being affordable and feeding hungry mouths. And so far there hasn't been any evidence that shows GMOs having negative affect on people's health. The only problem is how people are abusing them (selling/taking advantage/etc). I think the reasons why they have a negative connottion is due to lack of information. If they were explained more thoroughly, it might help the situation... Either way I guess I'm pro GMOs but I feel like this isn't a black and white discussion. There's too much grey area.

Rachel said...

Saying one is for or against GMOs is a very difficult argument. I can say that I am not against genetically modifying crops as long as this power isn't being abused. I feel that in similar cases like the papaya, where food can over come a specific ailment is an advancement, but the moment large corporations are involved and it is about making more money, instead of helping people, the subject gets pretty iffy. Over the past classes I have been appalled by actions of Green Peace and their violent ways to prove a point (which never really gets proven). People like this make me want to take the other side. People who now handle the majority of GMO research also give the subject a bad name, like Monsanto. When it comes down to it, its not the subject that is bad, it's the people who are involved.

Yuki said...

I don't agree with monopolizing companies like Monsanto for taking over the market of GMOs but I am not against GMOs at all. I do understand the risks of what could come with incorporating GMOs in a regular diet since it hasn't been studied for as long as something that has been naturally/artificially selected and bred. But this isn't about GMOs becoming the sole source of food for everyone in the world. That would never happen seeing that there is market demand for non-GMOs. I am a part of that demand since I like organic foods and tend to look at them for both because of my stigma and for safety reasons but if GMOs can contribute to decreasing world hunger, why not? In the documentary we saw, it was obvious that the people who said no to GMOs (particularly Green Peace) have their own innocent biases that they seem to misunderstand for the good being of everyone on the planet. If countries need it to sustain the livelihood of their people, I don't see the point of wasting energy and resources just so that the current food sources can be redistributed. It's easier said than done and the food distribution plan that the U.S. has as one of "more developed countries" took years and years to come up with. It would take an even longer time for "less developed countries." It makes sense what the lady from Africa said. It would cost something by the time it got around to the people who can't afford it. All food costs something at some point nowadays. I don't know how else to change what people see in GMOs other than gathering more information and education about it. I wish I had more evidence about why or why not GMOs are good and not just what people think about them. It seems that there's far too much bias involved in discussing about GMOs now and it's not helping anyone, especially those who need it.

Tessa said...

This is a slippery slope to tiptoe upon, and I cannot choose a side. I believe it is necessary for us, as humans, to adapt and find answers to all our difficult questions and problems, especially when it comes to the subsistence of the people who grace this planet. As a globalized economy, it is of great benefit for us, as wealthy consumers, to have cheap food/goods and keep the people who produce them alive. So we should be putting our best foot forward in trying to keep our people, whether they are African, American, Thai, or whatever, in good health. And this is where it gets tricky, and we deal with ethics of business and consumption. I think it is about time we brush off our knowledge of Keynesian economics and veer away from allowing the private sector (i.e. MONSANTO) to make such large decisions in our economy and food system, because the outcomes can be truly disastrous. We cannot allow such large companies to create and monopolize the food of our country and our world, for it is too soon to dive in head first, when we do no know the depth of the swimming pool. It is life threatening for all of us, for we do not know the short or long-term effects of these crops. History is cyclical and we need to pay attention to the hazardous and unscrupulous choices we have made in the past. Take for example the DDT campaigns that AY explained to us. We had no idea about the incredibly negative aspects of these chemicals until Rachel Carson wrote the Silent Spring. Entire species of birds were dying out and children with birth defects were being born all over, and all it took was one charismatic nature writer to explain it to us. Are we so dim witted and “forward focused” to believe it cannot happen again? Shame on us, for our naivety.

Jessica said...

Based on our readings it seems to me that there is a lot of potential in GM foods, but the technology isn’t there yet. As of now the seeds require fertilizer and water resources that the some parts of the world (the ones that need it most) can’t afford. The seeds are also expensive. It’s a great to think of a future of farming in countries with starving people, but until GM crops require less resources, and cause less pollution, it doesn’t seem sustainable right now. As far as the “redistribution” of the food that is already available on the Earth, I’m not so sure about that either. Countries should be able to support their own populations (Life and Debt shows the consequences of this) and GM crops would seem to make this possible. I say “seem” because I don’t think GM foods are entirely the answer to issues of poverty and hunger. The suicides of the Indian farmers shows how the issues can be made complicated because of borrowed money, bad weather conditions, misinformation, and companies like Monsanto who want to “help” poor farmers with their seeds.

I don’t think the future of farming will be entirely organic, or GM. I think there is a place for both, but farming in general needs cause less pollution. Based on this I choose to shop organically when possible.

Ashlee said...

I guess I would be one of those people that are in the middle as well. I am not anti-GM, but I do not feel like GMOs are going to save the day.
From my understanding, the issue of people going hungry is both a problem with technology and economics. Of course there are problems of distribution and various markets are complicating that issue, but because I do not understand political and economical markets throughly I cannot think of solutions to the economic side of the issue.
So on the technology side, I agree with many of you that say that GMOs have potential. I also agree that they are something to be cautious of due to high risk factors involved.
Nevertheless, the world population is increasing and if the projected numbers are right, something has to be done about the distribution and production of food. I guess that since I cannot think of a way to solve distribution, I am more pro-GM than most in the sense that time is a precious commodity that is limited in reference to "long-term" testing of these technologies.

Mike W said...

I personally am all for GMO food products and the products that they help make. I don't like the way Monsanto runs their business, keeping everything very secretive and going patent-crazy on all these people who purchased their seeds and trying to fine them. Genetically modifying plants has been around for a very long time, even apples have long been genetically modified. When a delicious apple tree is grown, sapling or branches from that tree are grown into tree saplings to keep the better tasting apple. Just because Monsanto is diving deeper in and choosing which gene to replace, it's essentially the same technology. There's the question of whether it's taking science too far and creating "frankenfoods" by toying with nature. I believe that they're not abusing science, but using science to find solutions to starvation problems and hopefully the future of genetics. They're using all the technology that they have to create a solution to the problem that is world hunger. Though they're taking a very shady route to doing it in order to make a profit, I believe that they are doing great things with the advanced DNA technologies we have available. But patenting a gene? That's a little extreme.

Ethan said...

The resolution that the risks of GM foods outweighing the purported benefits and that they should not be allowed to be sold and planted seems too harsh a condemnation of such a powerful tool for society. It is clear that the benefits of GM foods have the potential to do great things such as preventing starvation. There lies a massive gray area as to the responsibilities of wielding such a tool, however. While companies have the right to do business and profit from their hard work, the research and development of such tools have substantial global affects and should not be treated lightly. It is impossible to treat the issue of the production of food void of moral implications, because for many the matter of food is life and death. I would even argue that food is a matter of life and death for everyone. This being said, the “risks” of GM foods are in no way inconsequential. The government has the responsibility to acknowledge such risks and take the necessary steps to preventing them and regulating the delicate cause and effect relationship GM foods (all foods) have on society. It is my belief that the government is not being as engaged with the issue of GM foods as they should. This appears to be true by the unhealthy monopoly that Monsanto controls without any prevention by our government. GM foods are an incredibly powerful tool that should not be removed due to the fear of change; however, the government has the responsibility to wield this tool in such a way that does the most good for the most people.


percy said...

I am also undecided on where I stand in the GM debate. Our readings have had such a broad span of examples of the risks of GMs as well as the benefits. I think there is no doubt of the good that GM crops can do in solving the global food crisis. I would like to say that I am pro-GM, but like others have said I am not convinced that the risks of GM foods are worth the benefits. I really think that in order for GM crops to really have a benefit globally the problems and issues that surround them need to be resolved. As many comments above have mentioned and as shown with the bt cotton farmer in India, educating farmers on GMs is important. I think it equally important to educate consumers on both GMs and the global food crisis. I think there is a lot of confusion surrounding GMs and misguided information, especially regarding Monsanto. I feel this may a reason for a large amount of people being closed-minded towards the benefits of GMs and their negative conation.

Anonymous said...

After weighing the pros and cons of each side of this issue, I’ve come to the conclusion that, like most of you, I’m a GMO advocate, but feel it shouldn’t be the exclusive solution to our current food crisis. One of the things that was brought up during our in-class debate is that GMO developers try to apply blanket solutions that may or may not be appropriate for every community. I think this is a really significant notion and is very telling of how I feel about the issue: there is no easy solution, but there is hope if the powers that be adopt the mindset that specific and creative problem-solving is essential. I really like what Lauren said about how those who have the option of farming organically, should. Even though I’d love it if all food were organic (who wouldn’t?), as Jais brought up, we, as members of a wealthy, privileged society are blind to so many of the real, occurring problems at hand, and are in no place to rule out controversial, yet potentially life-saving technology. That being said, I will state again, as the majority of you have, that those farming and consuming GMOs need to be educated.


Sojung said...

Of course there are risks and negative aspects of GM foods, but I personally think that it has potentials to contributing the global food crisis. Not only in the field concerning food, but also in many different fields, history shows that developed technology has saved or advanced humans lives throughout. Even though organic food sound better than GM foods and is more preferable, the reality and the time period we live in right now I think has to depend in technology because it has come far. Companies like Monsanto and all the risks of GM food are disturbing but I believe more advancement and development will be brought from research, science, and technology.

bugs 4 eva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bugs 4 eva said...

I am still on the fence, and feeling very torn about the implications of GMO's. Instinctively I recoil at the possibility of GMO genetic material breaching the confines of the farmer's field and entering what is left of our natural ecosystems. Having worked for the forest service eliminating invasive plants from intact old growth forests, I have experienced first hand the devastation that invasive plant species can have on the biodiversity of entire biomes. Seeing the difference between a richly diverse natural ecology and one that has been ravaged and taken over by one or several non-native species, I have a heightened sensitivity and fear of GMO organisms spreading into wild stocks. If a plant is modified with a gene that gives it a genetic advantage and it out competes native species, its spread has the potential to throw entire ecosystems out of whack.

Even though this serious risk weighs heavily in my mind, the potential for GMO's to reduce land use and allow us to farm already depleted or salinated fields excites me for its possibility to reduce the conversion of virgin land for agriculture use.

I don't think that GMO's are in any way a silver bullet for solving hunger crises because we already grow enough food to feed everyone, the problems lay elsewhere than the amount of food that can be grown. Even so I do have a hard time coming up with any reasonable argument against the use of GMOs to aid sweet potato farmers in Kenya.

If we can find a socially responsible and environmentally beneficial way to utilize GMOs I would be a strong supporter, but the way they are currently being utilized by companies like Monsanto, I can only shake my head in disgust.


Anonymous said...

The concerns with GM foods are still unclear to me. I am not sure whether to fight for or against them. I admire the fact that researchers are trying to produce GM foods that would aid in places with poor soil, that the foods would be healthy, abundant, and easily grown for them. But I can't get over the fact that with the articles that we've read, they have shown that these GM foods need constant care, as in fixating on the herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers need to be used in order to maintain the plants. The plants would be triple in growth, but with this maximizing of biomass comes the issue with energy...water. Some of these places are experiencing droughts and their irrigation systems are failing. There would be no use for plants with those needs. So I am still unsure of where I stand on the GM issues.

- thom