There I was, sitting at home over spring break bored out of my mind. All week thoughts of completing school work crossed my mind, instead I pushed these brilliant ideas away. My week long break was coming to a close. Instead of feeling refreshed and relaxed, a part of me was stressing. What would I choose for my exploratory topic? I found myself struggling to think of a complex and intriguing question to explore. In an attempt to avoid the frustration that followed my inability to brainstorm any ideas, I flipped on the television.
Luckily, my parents had been watching the news before they left for work. My first instincts were to change the channel to sports or something more entertaining. Instead, the current head lining story grabbed my attention, genetically modified food labeling. This stemming from a controversial political issue that the senate was about to decide on. As I read over the head line my exploratory paper popped back into my mind. It was a perfect topic; intriguing, current, and complex. Not to mention, it complimented nicely with my interest in becoming a biological engineer.
I decided to turn the idea of GMOs into a question and narrow exactly what I would be researching and exploring: Should the government be required to label foods that contain genetically modified or engineered ingredients? In order to gain background knowledge on the topic of food labeling and the controversy behind it, I did a quick google search. To find a broad array of information and sources I simply searched for “GMO food labeling”. As I expected a large number of links appeared.
The one that most intrigued me was one by the New York Times, “U. S. Senate to Vote on GMO Food Labeling Bill”, co-written by Jennifer Steinhauer and Stefanie Strom. As I read the article, it became apparent that this had developed into quite the political controversy. A modern day republican versus democrat debate. The democrats, against the idea of food labeling, were worried that the labeling would cause food prices to rise dramatically. On the other hand, republicans claimed that they “had gone out of their way to give concessions to pro-labeling factions” (Steinhauer and Strom).
From just one article, I was on the fence. My morals were clashing with my inner economist. Both ideas appeared to have potential flaws, yet the topic of genetically modified foods is so controversial and important, especially in today’s advanced society. At this point in my research, I am still not fully aware of what a genetically modified organism is or how it can effect health or the environment. To further my knowledge, I read the article “The Fight against GMOs” by Jeffery M. Smith, a self-proclaimed author and former politician.
Initially, I was skeptical about using this source because of the possible bias within the title. However, after thoroughly reading through the article | discovered that it was filled with credible facts about GMOs. This is a great source to become aware of what genetically modified means and how it can be potentially harmful. Smith begins the article by giving an overview of what genetically modifying means and involves, “taking genes from a completely different species and inserting them into the DNA of a plant or an animal” (Smith 1).
The long term effects to our health and to the environment are still unknown. The American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) describes that the potential harm from GMOs could “dwarf’ other food related medical issues, including food allergies and addiction. Smith reports that the major problem are the eight genetically modified foods most abundant; soy, corn, oils, and sugar to name a few. These eight basic foods alone account for more than 70% of the foods on supermarket shelves. However, the real world dangers of GMOs are hard to trace since there are no human clinical trials.
Allergies, obesity, diabetes, and autism are among the conditions that are “skyrocketing” in the U. S. and genetically modified foods are being blamed. Although the cause for this increase has yet to be determined, scientists and researchers are convinced. They suggest kicking out genetically modified organisms to reduce possible food related harm to the general public. Smith’s tactic of using quotes from the AAEM and the Food and Drug Administration bolsters the credibility of his claims. In the beginning of his article he uses factual details regarding what GMOs are and what types of foods they are found in.
However, the major flaw I see in this article is when he starts to mention the harmful effect of these genetically engineered foods. He used the knowledge of doctors and researchers to support his claims, but even they seem to be guessing. Within the whole controversy of GMOs it seems that because these foods are not grown “all natural” that critics automatically label them as harmful. In the long run, genetically modified foods could have an impact on our health, but until further research is done it is not appropriate to label them as harmful.
In the scholarly article, “Labeling for better or worse”, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, NASW (National Association of Scientific Writers) member Jim Kling displays a variety of arguments over the idea of GMO food labeling. Kling does not directly pick a stance as he offers valid reasons both for and against the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Twenty-five states have already debated bills revolving around the idea of government mandates on food labeling. Colorado, Oregon, California, and Washington have all failed to pass these bills into law.
Vermont has been the only state to pass legislature requiring the labeling of foods containing GMOs. Kling highlights a few possible flaws behind only one state having legislation. The biggest concern being violating interstate commerce due to state agreeing not to discriminate commerce with other states. Labeling could be consider discriminating and therefore would be a violation. The only way around this dilemma would be to formulate a federal bill. Currently there are two federal bills in the works. One would keep labeling voluntary while the other would mandate labeling for foods with genetically modified ingredients.
Kling also brings up the argument against labeling by saying “consumers already have plenty of choices” (Kling 1182). Adding that they can buy foods that are certified organic or even shopping at GMO free stores such as Trader Joe’s. However, Kling argues that non-GMO foods are much more expensive than their counter part, “victimizing the poor”. Continuing his anti-labeling argument, the key issue of threshold (percentage of GMOs by weight) is brought up. Kling argues that the lower the threshold the greater the cost of the food, ‘a threshold of 0. % increases segregation cost by 20%” (Kling 1182). More products will be rejected if the threshold is lower. However, Kling debates that even a dramatic increase in the cost of a main ingredient would slightly increase a products selling price, “if the cost of corn increase by 50%, the cost of corn flakes would increase by just 1. 6 cents” (Kling 1183). This is due to the majority cost of the product comes from processing, advertising, and distribution. From a rhetorical stand point, I think Jim Kling’s article was shaky.
I found myself guessing and ultimately clueless to his stance on the topic. Kling made a few valid arguments about food labeling, only to counter himself with another effective argument. To me, this took away a great deal of meaning within his ideas. On the other hand, Kling used ethos to enhance his credibility. He quoted insightful researchers, including Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, director of the Economics and Management of Agro biotechnology Center at the University of Missouri. When Kling mentioned Trader Joe’s I immediately connected to the store.
Memories of when I was younger, shopping with my mom for healthy snacks. My ability to connect to parts of Labeling for better or worse and the outstanding ethos used heightened Kling’s arguments. However, the article as a whole could have been more effective if he chose to remain consistent with his ideas and perspectives. Looking back on my research, I think that the potential dangers behind genetically modified organisms are clear; obesity, autism, diabetes, and even cancer. However, the search for a connection between GMOs and these diseases continues.
There is no factual data that shows the long term effects of genetically engineering food. Also while researching, I discovered that there are many options when it comes to food. Not everything has GMOs. Just because the government does mandate food labeling doesn’t mean you have to eat potentially harmful foods, go organic if you feel at risk. Currently, GMOs help our economy. It makes food more accessible and cheap. I think that when it comes to genetically modified foods it comes down to a personal decision, weighing your own options, and picking what is best for you and your life.