Genetically Modified Organisms
#1
Genetically Modified Insignificant Organisms

Just about everything we eat comes from some form of life, whether it be the meat of an animal, the leaves of a plant, or something more processed like grain. The genetic composition of these lifeforms is extremely important - every chemical that they produce could have positive or negative affects on our health and well being. As such, food that is genetically engineered to be more nutritious, or easier to grow, has many benefits in a widely malnourished and hungry society. On the other hand, altering genetics is considered a risky endeavor since it is relatively new. This places fear into many people about genetically modified food, since it isn't entirely clear whether there are health and other major drawbacks.

The bottom line:

Are the benefits worth the risks? Should we as humans refrain from messing with nature and prohibit the use of GMOs in food, or should they be used to their full potential to enhance both our food and society as a whole?

When discussing, please cite any specific evidence used.
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#2
In my opinion the risk is worth taking, albeit slowly. If we don't know about certain health issues then that also means that potentially we don't know all the health benefits.
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#3
I'd imagine that some of the fear comes from the idea that GMOs aren't being tested as thoroughly as some would like. It's easy to detect some changes, though there are always long-term side effects that are not always apparent. However, the ability to control food is definitely worth investing resources into, especially since we do not have enough resources to sustain the current world population.

The most dangerous thing is probably that GMOs can spread just as any genetic information can, and we can't fully control that. They can contaminate the gene pool of a species, which could have disastrous effects on entire populations. Also, it seems as though GMOs don't ultimately alleviate world hunger in any significant way.

http://www.responsibletechnology.org/10-...Avoid-GMOs

The health benefits are something that we could definitely use though. Being able to control what is in food while raising sounds like a good idea in though, but not in practice. I'm thinking that it may be better to focus on things like in vitro meat instead, since lab-synthesized meat would have a much smaller impact on life and would likely be easier to control.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_vitro_meat
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#4
Well, I don't know much about this stuff but I agree with Dagger; the risks are worth taking in my opinion but the slower the better. If we rush into something, we could cause more harm then good. I think that if they take the time to test what certain modifications to food do to our body and eliminate the bad before it gets out of hand, then I think it's good. Of course, I'd eat anything if I was starving. Even if it wasn't healthy for me. Plus, it's not like there isn't already plenty of unhealthy stuff out there right now (McDonalds, Donuts, Cake, Cereals Like Nesquik, etc.) that most people still eat even though they know it's unhealthy. A lot of people eat, me included, not mainly or just because they're hungry but also because stuff tastes good.
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#5
I never thought about the fast food part. That's a really good point. There are a lot of foods that really aren't good for us and this is fine with the public and these foods typically are eaten more then their healthy counterparts.
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#6
...not that that makes it a good thing that companies continue to produce that kind of food.

For what it's worth, the potential negative consequences of genetically modified organisms, as used in food, are less "if you eat too much of this stuff you'll get diabetes" and more along the lines of "oops we accidentally created a breed of superweeds that are destroying our ability to grow actual crops." Slightly more severe.

Personally, I think that GMO themselves are fine (we've been making them, and dealing with the consequences, for tens of thousands of years--just somewhat more slowly), but they certainly can and have been used for evil. It's important that their use and creation be carefully monitored, if only because the companies that usually set out to develop them don't exactly have the consumers' interests at heart when they do so, generally speaking.
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#7
I'm not sure if this could really happen but in a book I read the villains got patents on GMOs which crossbred with natural species which they also got patents on and eventually got control of the entire world food market. Not sure if you CAN patent GMOs but that's just a scary possibility for me.
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#8
You can patent GMOs (you can patent individual genes, for that matter), but as far as I know you don't have any legal control over any random plant that happens to hybridize with your product. I don't think corporations getting control of the world food market in that way is likely. On the other hand, Monsanto is evil and has tons of money, and I'm sure they'd try it if they thought there was any chance at all of success.

Though IMO it's stupid to be able to patent synthetic DNA in the first place, but wahey. I'm optimistic that patent laws are going to be shaken up pretty thoroughly in the near future anyway; perhaps something more reasonable will emerge from that.
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#9
(07-12-2013, 10:40 PM)Negrek Wrote: (we've been making them, and dealing with the consequences, for tens of thousands of years--just somewhat more slowly)

That's a very good point, and one that few people recognize when worrying about GMOs.

[Image: CornProgression.jpg]

We've sped up evolution with corn. Somewhere along the line, natives in North America began selectively breeding maize based on what they needed, and that became the modern cob of corn.

GMO's are a more conscious way to do this over shorter times. It's an extremely powerful technology, like an atomic bomb or the goto function in C languages (though the applications are clearly different). Mess up and the consequences are both serious and irreversible. Handle things in a more gradual way, like with the corn, and you have a slower, but safer method of change.

That being said, having the ability to engineer genetics is something that has a lot of potential, but is obviously dangerous if misused. Despite this, the tests themselves seem relatively close to fool proof. They test every characteristic that could be different between a questionable GMO and a safe non-GMO product of the same species, and while it is probably not perfect, having a side-by-side comparison certainly makes determining safety more accurate. Even things like Cancer risk increasing our predictable to some degree. RNA and DNA changes alone do not cause cancer. Unless the chemical composition of a crop is changed as a result, there doesn't seem to be any risk.

http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/...afety.aspx
This is a clearly biased source from an agricultural company defending GMOs, but I do feel that it makes an important point: people tend to freak out over risks that might actually not exist, or at least exist in the magnitude that opponents would like us to believe.

So to be clear, I'd say they are worth using, though only where needed. If we can grow some essential genetically modified crops that help sustain populations, while at the same time allowing for more gradual evolution to change our food, then we should be relatively safe.
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