Safe for Us and the Environment?

Carman, Judy and Natalie Parletta. “Is Genetically Modified Food Safe for Us and the Environment?.” Nutridate May 2017: 3-8. Print.

 

This article comes from a magazine based on nutrition and human health.

 

Purpose and Thesis: to give an overview of how these crops are genetically modified, the benefits and risks, considerations for assessing their safety, and how they are regulated. The article discusses the two main proteins that GM crops are made to produce: one to increase its resistance to herbicides so that when it is sprayed, the crop will survive while the weeds surrounding it will die, and the other to regulate insects by creating Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) proteins within themselves so that bugs die when they eat the crop. It also states the various concerns with GM foods such as the lack of scientific technology or knowledge to understand the complexities of inserting a single gene that could cause many non-intended effects, and the unforeseen future of potential genes shifting and mutating that can produce toxic material after going through many generations, as well as the likelihood of concentrations of herbicides present in the food that we eat.

The authors use a good amount of logos and pathos to persuade the reader to be concerned with the safety and unknown future of genetically modified foods. The writers break down the legal regulatory systems being used to monitor GM foods, and reveal that many of these tests are not sufficient enough to be counted as evidence (like testing GM foods on chickens when they have a completely different physiology than humans). Some pathos attributed to this article comes from the urgency and dissatisfaction with the system being used to regulate GM foods. For example, “I didn’t see a single animal study investigating allergic reactions or reproductive health or cancer. I only saw some animal studies measuring toxicology” (5).

 

This connects to my research probe because it sheds light on the safety of genetically modified foods by poking holes in the system used to produce and sell them. It shows many of the tests and laws are too lax for the public to be content enough to continue eating GMOs without knowing the future risks.

Consumer Awareness

Naik, Anil, et al. “Consumer Awareness, Attitude Towards Exercising Their Rights: Genetically Modified Foods.” Aweshkar Research Journal 19.1 (2015): 109-116. Galileo at Georgia State University. Web. 25 June 2017.

 

This publication comes from a research journal.

Its purpose is to focus on awareness of consumers of food they purchase, attitude towards exercising rights, willingness to pay premium for G.M Foods and whether they exercised their rights or not.

 

Thesis: Consumers have a right to choose whether or not to buy food produced from a genetically modified organism. A consumer must be aware of their rights as consumers as well as having awareness regarding GM foods and risks and benefits of genetic engineering. A few studies were conducted to understand the level of consumer awareness of GM foods and to understand the respondents perception towards exercising their rights as consumers.

 

This argument is supported through scientific research and studies done on citizens in India where 7.3 million GM crops are accounted for and there is a mandatory but very loose food labelling system. There are many graphs that show percentages regarding the participants’ awareness of GM foods after completing a survey such as this one:

 

The overall results concluded that citizens in India have relatively low awareness of GM foods as well as their rights as consumers. Only 8% of consumers with GMF awareness exercised their rights by asking for the bill, checking the expiry date, demanding an exchange of goods sold past expiry date, and reading the contents.

 

This connects to my research probe by showing that the public, to an extent, does have a lack of awareness regarding GM foods and the safety of them. In order to have a better regulatory system and to avoid governments and corporations taking advantage of the profits of GMOs, the people have to become educated about the risks and benefits of GM foods, and push for a better regulatory system.

Mandatory Labelling

Zainol, Zinatul, et al. “Mandatory Labelling of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods.” International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law & Economics 15.2 (2015): 199-216. Galileo at Georgia State University. Web. 27 June 2017.

 

This publication comes from a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal.

Its purpose is to determine whether a labelling system be used for GM foods.

 

Thesis: GM foods are “credence goods” and they may have health hazards that we are unaware of yet due to the present scientific knowledge of them, therefore they should be labeled. Arguments against GM labelling only consist of economic reasons and refuse to acknowledge the potential health risks associated with them. The argument is supported with references to Malaysia’s and the European Union’s mandatory labelling system, and the United States’ and Canada’s voluntary labelling system to compare the success of both sides. The article also includes evidence of genetic modification and the development of GM foods in the past three decades. The authors consider the opposing arguments at present regarding GM labelling and uses the evidence and references listed above to analyze those opinions.

 

Logos is riddled throughout the article. It contains mostly facts about the history of GM food processing and statistics such as: “13.3 million farmers in 25 countries were involved in cultivating various GM crops” (201). A section in the article focuses more on ethos which offers a historical account of past labelling laws which helped shed light on the present labelling debate. Some pathos is used to show how absurd some of the opposing arguments can be: “Even more disturbing is MacDonald and Whellams’ further assertion that consumers have no right to know what they are taking as food” (207).

 

This connects to my research probe because it shows why nations such as the United States have a voluntary GM food labelling system. Much of the reasons are purely economic and have nothing to do with consumer safety (which I believe is the number one priority) such as:

  1. Segregating GM foods from natural ones would be too complex and costly (different storage, processing, etc).
  2. Mandatory labelling needs accurate tracking which will increase costs and decrease profits.
  3. Some argue consumers do not care about food labels.

The article concludes that doubts continue to surround the claim that GM foods are as safe as their natural counterparts. It is described that GM foods can have benefits, but modern biotechnology should be used to not only address those benefits but to also include the hazards that research has yet to find. Labelling GM foods would be a great step towards that approach.

DON’T Eat THIS or ELSE…

Wadyka, Sally. “DON’T Eat THIS or ELSE…” Yoga Journal Sept. 2015: 63-69. Print.

 

This publication comes from a magazine.

It’s purpose is to discuss the harmful effects that foods such as rice, GMOs and carrageenan have on human health.

 

Thesis: Though there is no evidence that suggests that GMOs are harmful to human health, it is best to limit your exposure to them as much as possible. The only GE crops that are being commercially sold in the United States are soy, corn, sugar beets, alfalfa, papaya, canola, cotton and some amounts of summer squash. However, because majority of the processed foods contain some form of soy or corn in it, it is estimated that about 60 to 70 percent of those foods have genetically modified material. Opponents of GMOs are concerned with the pesticide RoundUp being used on GM crops, because it could be a possible carcinogen and harmful to human health. Other critics say that using RoundUp has given rise to pesticide-resistant superweeds, which can cause environmental issues.

 

The appeals used in this source use a mixture of logos and ethos to support the argument. The use of statistics such as the percentage of GMOs that make up processed foods shows a logical standpoint of just how common GMOs are in the food supply. Wadyka does a good job of acknowledging both sides of the spectrum of public attitude toward GMOs, and then using ethos by referring to Gregory Jaffe, director of the biotechnology project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, DC to show an expert’s opinion.

 

This connects to my probe because it addresses the safety of consuming GMOs as well as the potential health risks and environmental weaknesses with the regulatory system of producing GM crops. It describes that the lack of scientific evidence as well as dangerous chemicals such as pesticides and pesticide-resistant plants such as superweeds should make a person steer clear from GM foods for the time being.

Social Trust and Risk Perception

Lu, Xi, et al. “Social Trust and Risk Perception of Genetically Modified Food in Urban Areas of China: The Role of Salient Value Similarity.” Journal of Risk Research 18. 2 (2015): 199-214. Galileo at Georgia State University. Web. 28 June 2017.

The publication listed comes from a peer-reviewed academic journal.

Its purpose is to “explore the role of shared value in the process of trust judgment and risk perception of genetically modified (GM) foods” (199).

Thesis: Due to lack of information, it is more difficult for the public to assess the risk of GM foods technologically. Thus, people rely more on social trust. It is claimed that in order to compensate for their lack of information, people seek the opinion from sources that they socially trust, whether that be an institute or a friend. This is because “trust reduces the complexity of judgment and decision-making” (200). After conceptualizing the term “trust”, many scientific studies were conducted that further proved the importance of shared values. The results of a study indicated that “social trust was a mediator between shared value and risk perception” (199).

The appeals used in this work mostly consist of references to previous studies and discussions that strengthen the evidence produced from this particular study. Most of the article consists of ethos by referring to other published scientists that have also had their ideas accepted in the scientific community such as Cvetkovich and Siegrist. The scientific studies themselves establish a good grip from a logos standpoint with credible evidence to support their hypothesis.

The following chart was used to portray the relationship between shared values and risk perception as well as the breakdown of the two dimensions of trust.

The tone of the argument overall is very formal, however some sections show concern regarding how to build better trust between scientific institutes and the public like such:

If the public is concerned about the safety of GM foods, then the officials should show that the government cares about the health of the people who consume these, rather than convince them that GM foods can improve productivity and reduce farming costs (209).

This argument is crucial because it shows that many members of the public do not understand why they think GM foods are dangerous. Due to their reliance on social trust, people are misinformed about the actual risks and safety of genetically modified foods.