Resolved: On balance, the benefits of genetically modified foods outweigh the harms.

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Resolved: On balance, the benefits of genetically modified foods outweigh the harms.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more boring debate topic. The racial quality of NFL uniforms comes close, but man, this one definitely takes the cake. I get it, genetically modified foods are a hot topic right now because a lot of butterflies died because of genetically modified corn. But really, we’ve been eating genetically modified everything for ages. Most Americans wouldn’t even recognize the taste of natural food anymore. Alas, we must conduct boring cost benefit analysis and debate this topic, so let’s do it!

Definitions

On Balance – Same as the last resolution, this means “overall” or “all things considered.” Look at the whole picture. Anecdotal evidence won’t cut it here.

Genetically modified foods – This term is pretty self explanatory. Scientists, in labs, manipulate the genetics of food to get the type of food they want. For example, if there’s a gene in a plant that makes it resilient to droughts, that gene can be taken and put into another plant. These genetic modifications create genetically modified foods which are enhanced for the qualities that people want.

Case Positions

Pro

1. Benefits to Human Life – GM foods are resilient. Foods can be engineered to grow, and even thrive, in otherwise desolate climates and parts of the world. This is an invaluable benefit to third world nations, societies suffering from drought, and cold regions of the world where crops do not easily grow. The benefit of promoting human life by feeding people is basically outweighed by anything else.

2. Sustainability – Because genes are passed down as plants reproduce, GM foods are sustainable. You only need to create one generation of super-cucumber, and then it will continue to exist. Sustainable, reliable crops are necessary in a world in which agriculture is quickly dying. GM foods are a great replacement from processed pre-packaged food which is becoming increasingly popular in the modern world. What could be better than sustainable agriculture?

Con

1. Gene Transfer Risks – We don’t know what the results of gene transfer could do. We could create new allergens, inadvertently kill someone, or many other things. The problem here isn’t that the risk is a harm, but that the potential for harm is the harm. It’s unnecessary. We need to know and understand what GM foods will actually do before they’re allowed in the public marketplace. What if a kid with a peanut allergy eats a carrot with peanut genes and suffers an allergic reaction?

2. Unintended Consequences to Nature – Nature, and agriculture, depend on sustained ecosystems. As the example of the monarch butterflies demonstrates, we don’t know what impact these genetic modifications will have on these ecosystems. Although unintentional, GM foods could very well end up destroying the ecosystems upon which farmers depend. What will we do without the butterflies?!

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4 responses to “Resolved: On balance, the benefits of genetically modified foods outweigh the harms.

  1. Your thoughts on a Con analysis line noting that GMO’s move us toward a world where the power of food production is increasingly becoming the monopoly of a small cadre of corporations and that this is not a good thing?

    • I like this argument as well, although it would be difficult to provide evidence for it. A GMO monopoly hasn’t been established yet, and to argue that we’re at risk for one might be a bit of a stretch. I also question the impact. Why is this a specific danger of GMOs, and not a danger with any innovation?

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