Food is a source of nutrition required by all vertebrates. To most humans, it’s a symbol of celebration or happiness. Many people cannot go a day without eating, and most of the time they are thinking about their next meal multiple times throughout the day. So if you’ve eaten anything today, chances are that you’ve snacked on GMOs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), GM seeds are used to plant more than 90 percent of corn, soybeans, and cotton in the United States.
Unless you consciously avoid them, GM foods likely find their way into many of your snacks and meals. So what are these mystery organisms that are so common, but unknown? GMOs are organisms that have been genetically modified to produce a certain trait for its advantage. The controversy comes from their lack of research of long-term health and environmental effects and their role in supporting the ever increasing world population. Within this essay, two sources about GMOs will be introduced, summarized and analyzed.
This includes Dr. Michael Eisen’s “How GMOs Can Save Civilization” posted on March 16th from Impossible Foods and William Moseley’s “Why GMOs won’t Feed the Hungry of the World” which was published by the American Geographical Society of New York in October 2017. While Eisen notes the positive benefits of GMOs and the risks if society rejects them, Moseley paints a bigger picture in addition to showing the scope of the issue and complexity of the solution and why, though they can be beneficial, GMOs are not the answer.
Although both sources are conceivable and well rounded, Moseley’s piece effectively shows the importance of the topic and gives credible data to back up his claims all while staying objective which helped appeal to logic and reason, whereas Dr. Eisen’s relies more on emotion, one-sided data and benefits, and simplicities of a complex issue which consequently distracts your focus from the purpose of his piece.
The purpose of Moseley’s paper is to prove that due to the lack of availability, unknown health effect, and financial risk, GMOs are not a solve all solution. He starts his paper by making known that most food-policy experts use the same format to explain the world hunger problem and that the solution is the “miracle” of GMOs. He states “until the 1980s, food-policy experts thought hunger was a food supply or availability problem. That hunger and famine would only happen when there was no food” (Moseley Par. 3). This reflected the United Nations policies causing them to have poor predictions of famines. But the African Sahel famine exposed that though food may be available on the market, poor people might not have access because of limited incomes. He then further examines the GMO and its shortcomings. Moseley expresses that genetically modified seeds play two roles in addressing global hunger. This is where he attends to the counter-argument. The first role is to increase agricultural production. He explains that by using local technologies and techniques, small farmers are inefficient. That farmers need to become more commercially oriented so they have the funds to buy the improved seeds. The second role is to create food crops that are more nutritious and resilient. Traits of GMOs seen as promising include drought tolerance, greater nitrogen use efﬁciency, and resistance. Two dominant traits that these commercialized GM crops offers are insect protection and herbicide tolerance. These traits allow farmers to use pesticides and herbicides without fear of harming the crop. He further reasons that, though this could temporarily help, this does not constrain insect populations from evolving resistance or other insects being impacted. He then brings up that GM crops are controlled by corporates and their cost put them out of reach. He then concludes by stating, “By smartly capitalizing on interactions within agroecosystems, farmers may be able to improve yields and manage pest problems through improved intercropping and agroforestry combinations, as well as more tightly integrated crop and livestock systems. (Moseley Par. 14)”. This gives an alternative to GMOs.
Throughout his essay, you can see his disagreement with the praise of GMOs being the only answer when they aren’t actually fixing the real problems. It emphasizes that GMOs are too expensive and depend on ideal settings. That real answer to the solution is better agricultural systems and practices. Though his tone was factual and straightforward, his use of rhetoric makes this a very effective paper for his argumentative and expository writing style. This includes his use of appropriate and correctly cited data establishes a credibility to the paper that appeals to logic and reason. As well as his acknowledgement of the counterargument and addressing that he knows there are benefits to GMOs. An example would be from paragraph nine where he states, “GMO traits seen as promising include drought tolerance, salinity tolerance, greater nitrogen use efﬁciency, resistance, and biofortiﬁcation”. His use of background information, as well as his use of both layman terms and scientific terms, helps bring an overall understanding to his ideas and purpose. The only thing that is missing is quantitative data from success in GMOs in everyday life.
Dr. Eisen’s thesis is that misplaced fears about GMOs use in agriculture will hinder our efforts to address climate change, food insecurity and the degradation of our natural environment. And that in the face of the existential threats it is too risky to reject biotechnology . He begins by telling the long history of genetic modification. Here he is trying to make a relation to how things naturally genetically change and how historically we’ve used these things to meet our needs (Eisen Par. 4). He then emphasizes on how agriculture is again at the center of challenges and there is a growing population. He believes that to solve the problem of hunger and health, we have to use all technology. That we need to perform the genetic modification instead of depending on nature. He expresses how he has used and helped modify organisms through his career. That now, instead of depending on inaccurate mutation, you can now have preciseness. He acknowledges that critics have argued that this process is humans playing God. Eisen then admits that, albeit more precise and specific, GMOs are not perfect. But even though it may not be completely known or perfect, it is still needed to help the present and save the future. What matters is not how organisms are created, but how it will benefit humanity. He then expresses the effect of engineered microbes in medicine and food. Drugs and vaccines that are used to treat heart attacks, cancer, arthritis, and serious infections are now produced by genetically modified bacteria and yeasts (Eisen Par. 17). He then brings up Impossible Foods. An organization that was founded to address climate change by eliminating the need for animal agriculture, the most environmentally destructive human activity and a major source of greenhouse gases. And how through GMOs, they can cultivate products to have the same taste and texture as meat, thus, providing a better opportunity at reducing animal agriculture (Eisen Par. 21).
Throughout his essay, you can see Eisen has a passion for GMOs and their endless opportunities unlike Moseley, who finds their praise a little unwarranted. Like Mosely, his use of background information gives a good message that benefits your understanding of the topic and his purpose. By bringing up the specific uses of GMOs in medicine and food, such as in paragraph 17 where he states “the strain of the bacteria E. coli that carried the human gene for insulin, allowed them to produce it for injection by diabetics”, he gives to his purpose that GMOs do have benefits. He does address the known fear from the public and that the science of GMOs is not completely perfect, but he doesn’t bring up the problems with GMOs though, such as their lack of availability, need of ideal conditions, unknown health effect, and financial risk. This shows a lack of an important specific counter argument which in addition to the lack of evidence or citation for any of his findings, takes away from some of the credibility of his paper. His tone was a little naïve and optimistic. And the inappropriate use of emotionally laden language took away from the effectiveness of his paper for his persuasive writing style. An example would be “Since Impossible Burgers made with leghemoglobin generate 87% less greenhouse gases, require 95% less land and use 75% less water to produce than burgers from cows it would be grossly irresponsible to the planet and its people not to pursue this path.” This biasness, which is throughout his paper, in a way can turn you off from what he is trying to persuade you about. This takes away from his purpose compared to Mosley whose objectivity strengthens his effectiveness within an academic scope.
GMOs are very controversial and have a lot of opinions around them. While Eisen presents the positive benefits of GMOs and risk of their rejection, Moseley paints a shows a bigger picture in addition to showing the scope of the issue and complexity of the solution and why GMOs aren’t the only answer. Although both sources are sound and well rounded, Moseley’s piece effectively shows the importance of the topic and gives credible data to back up his claims, whereas Dr. Eisen’s relies more on emotion, one-sided data, and simplicities of the issue of a complex issue which consequently distracts your focus from the purpose of his piece. This topic was academic in scope and very informative so far, but analyzing more sources would definitely broadened my comprehension. Specifically, research about the possibility of reducing the cost of GMOs to make them available to the poor or research on the loss of profit companies actually have from producing GMOs due to consumers avoiding them. Also considering that GMOs are relatively new the only thing that can show true knowledge of their effects is time.