Solution Proposal Michael Hanson
  • I found this part of my paper to be particularly interesting:

I really enjoyed learning more about GMOs and their potential/risks. I am a biology major and chemistry minor so this went straight into my interest department and I really put a lot of research into it because of this.

  • This part was surprisingly difficult:

I had a really tough time just with the length of this paper. This was my first paper that was over 5 pages and it was different for me to have to convey this much information in an essay. It ended up going fine but it was still a change to what I was used to.

  • Next time I would do this differently:

Next time I would probably give more respect to how long this paper was actually going to be. I went into it expecting it to be like all of the other papers I had written in previous classes, but I found that a 10-12 page paper needs exponentially more time and effort than a 5-6 page paper. It was really nice to have my previous works to use as references.

An End to Ignorance: GMO Labeling

The goal of a sustainable and reliable food source has been a concern for as long as mankind has existed. It is one of the few things that everyone in every part of the world can agree on. People need food. With this goal and this common belief, many different strategies have taken shape in order to provide the most food in the most effective way. Early man discovered planting and agriculture, it then progressed to humans selectively breeding the best livestock in order to produce better offspring in the next generation. People learned to rotate crops on their farms to prevent the nutrients in the soil from being depleted. People then advanced to altering the elements by watering crops when they were too dry and digging trenches to drain the fields when crops had encountered some sort of heavy rain. Humans are adaptive and it has been proven time and time again in our efforts in creating more successful food sources and practices.

We now spray crops to keep away pests and other unwanted pathogens and we alter our foods all the way down to a genetic level. Genetically Modified Organisms, which will from this point on be primarily referred to as GMOs, are defined as "An organism whose genetic characteristics have been altered by the insertion of a modified gene or a gene from another organism using the techniques of genetic engineering" ("genetically modified organism"). In simple terms, this is talking about any animal or food that has been tampered with by the addition of some sort of gene from another source. With this process, it is possible to take the best characteristics from certain sources and put them into other plants and animals. This is where the debate starts and has created many people in strong approval and disapproval of this new technology.

The people in favor of the use of GMOs claim that they are the future of agriculture and that not using them would be a step backwards in a society that craves perfection and a reliable food source. The faction of people against the use of GMOs claim that while GMOs may be able to provide more food for people and may help keep the organisms alive, which are fair arguments, not enough studies have been done to see if these affected organisms are completely safe to consume. Although both groups seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum, it seems that a compromise may be reached without too much recoil. The compromise to this debate that makes the most sense is requiring the labeling of all genetically modified organisms.

The labeling of genetically modified organisms has been debated nearly as much as the use of GMOs at all. Many people in favor of GMOs think that this would be too extreme and an unnecessary thing to do while the group against GMOs state that this is not enough and GMOs should be taken off the shelves altogether. Both sides have fair arguments for their position that must be taken into account and reviewed before making any sort of final decision on what is to be done about GMOs.

Many companies are against GMO labeling and have spent an extreme amount of money to prevent the requirement of labeling all genetically modified organisms. Companies in California and Washington alone have already spent almost $70 million to defeat bills and resolutions that would require the labeling of GMOs according to a study referred to by National Geographic (Parker). This is a clear indication that companies and corporations are afraid of having the general public know about the use of GMOs and would rather keep everyone in a happy state of ignorance on the issue. The National Geographic article goes on to say that the companies’ reasoning for spending so much money to keep GMOs from being labeled is to avoid unnecessary fear among consumers (Parker). They state that it would be redundant since about 90% of commodity crops have already been genetically treated in some way.

The argument that they feel that labeling would be redundant seems to be a very weak argument for the millions of dollars that they have spent to defeat legislation that they have spent to defeat these bills. Any business person who wants to succeed would not spend that kind of money unless they are afraid of something. They are quite obviously afraid of the general public knowing that GMOs are in their food.

It is also frustrating to see that companies state that labeling GMOs would cause unnecessary fear among consumers. This is not an attack against the idea of GMOs, but rather an attack on the entire American public. These big corporations are trying to say that people are better off not knowing what they are eating because they would overreact to the knowledge. This is a blatant lie. Companies are not afraid that the American public wouldn’t be able to handle the knowledge; they are afraid that the American public would finally be able to make a truly informed decision and would choose the option without the added GMOs.
It is insulting that they say that people don’t know what they should and shouldn’t know. This is corporations saying that since people cannot think for themselves, the corporations should think for them. This is big business saying that they know best and people should just fall into a line to listen to them. This is obviously a false statement and they know it. In fact, they contradict themselves by saying that they support voluntary labeling.

The National Geographic article states that the companies against mandatory labeling are proposing voluntary labeling (Parker). It states that companies that don’t use GMOs should simply label their own products so that they can attract the anti-GMO crowd. This seems like a fair approach to the issue, however, it would still cause confusion to the consumers to which other products truly do or do not have GMOs. It would allow some companies that label that they don’t use GMOs to get a slight edge, but companies that still use GMOs would still be able to prosper off of the ignorance of the American people.

Many people against GMO labeling argue that there is no fear factor in labeling GMOs because tests are already done to all altered foods before they are released to the general public. An example that Roxanne Palmer gives in her article is about nut allergies. She states that people that are allergic to nuts know to avoid eating them, but if a nut protein was injected into another food it could trigger a reaction that the consumer could have otherwise avoided (Palmer).

Because testing is done companies state that there is no needed concern for the use of GMOs, but if a person with a nut allergy was asked about the issue they would probably say that there is a cause for concern. It is very frightening to think that one faulty test could lead to allergic reactions among many American consumers. This could very easily be avoided by simply letting consumers know what genetic modifications have been done to their food through labeling.

This fear was very nearly a reality and goes to show that these fears are not simply overreactions. A soybean was combined with a Brazil nut gene and could have caused serious reactions among consumers, but the project was destroyed during development and the final product was never released (Palmer). It is safe to say that if this had been released to the public it would have caused many health risks and possibly caused many reactions, however, if this had been released in a world with GMO labeling then the people that it may have harmed would have been able to avoid being affected by the tampered product.

The two main arguments against GMO labeling are redundancy and unnecessary fear among consumers. In other words, companies against GMOs are saying that the American public is better off being ignorant and that informing them of what they are eating would cause unnecessary fear. Being told that it would cause unnecessary fear to see what people are eating seems to actually be a very valid cause for concern. It is never a good thing for people to not want consumers to know what they are ingesting into their body.

Many people for GMO labeling address these concerns and even mention other concerns that increased usage of genetically modified organisms have caused and could cause in the future. In fact, over 60 countries already have restrictions or bans on GMOs because of safety and ethical concerns (“GMO Facts: Frequently Asked Questions”). This same article goes on to say that the United States hasn’t taken many steps towards banning or limiting the usage of GMOs because of safety studies done by companies that would benefit by not requiring GMO labeling (“GMO Facts: Frequently Asked Questions”).

It may seem that people against GMO labeling are just making it appear that companies doing the studies are biased to help their own cause, but let’s not forget that big tobacco companies had the same sort of influence over the health studies done on cigarettes for a long period of time. History has a tendency to repeat itself and it seems to be doing just that now with these studies on genetically modified organisms. It is only when a reliable study is done by an unbiased source that all of the possible health risks will be revealed.

Health risks to people aren’t the only cause of concern with the increased use of GMOs, however. Genetically modified organisms are made to be more resistant to pesticides and herbicides to make it possible for people to spray their crops far more than they ever did in the past (“GMO Facts: Frequently Asked Questions”). This causes the increased pesticides and herbicides to run off into the surrounding landscape and negatively affect the native plants and animals around the fields. It has also increased the rate at which invasive plants and animals are able to adapt to the different sprays and we are now seeing weeds and insects that are even harder to spray for (GMO Facts: Frequently Asked Questions”).

Many people in the United States want to buy foods that are only produced from a natural environment. It is hard for them to distinguish between foods that are raised in a natural environment from foods that are sprayed if they don’t have to be labeled. This causes people not only to go through health risks, but also go against what they believe in and want to practice.

Another argument against the use of genetically modified organisms is a study done by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine which mentions health studies done on animals that show serious health risks with the consumption of GMOs (Palmer). This study was one of the few studies done that actually spoke out against the usage of GMOs, of course some people question the reliability and bias of this study just as the studies done in favor of GMOs have been questioned. However, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has been known to be a fairly reliable and trustworthy source in the past.

Other than research into the issue of GMOs, there is also a lot of public support for the required labeling of genetically modified organisms. According to National Geographic 9 out of 10 Americans say that they support the mandatory labeling of GMOs (Parker). This is the people speaking out and saying that they want to be informed of what they are eating. It is the people saying it’s not okay to tamper with our foods and then not tell us what has been done to the product that we want to purchase, and most of all it proves that consumer is king and people will buy the best product available for the best price.

Parker states that GMO labeling would help companies that don’t use GMOs and, if the companies that do use GMOs are correct, wouldn’t affect the companies that do use GMOs since they state that genetically modified organisms are in almost all foods anyway (Parker). It would simply be a way for people to make an informed choice on what they are eating and possibly convince some companies to change up how they prepare the food that they offer for sale. It doesn’t seem that this change would negatively affect many people, according to Parker.

Not having GMO labeling has become a real problem that needs to be addressed by the United States. Many other countries have already taken great strides to monitor the use of genetically modified organisms, and in some cases, have prohibited them completely. They chose to do this because of the many studies that they had done on the safety of the GMOs that were being done in their respective parts of the world.

Europe is an area that has extreme regulations on GMOs and has successfully maintained their food supply without the continuous addition of unnecessary products (Fresco). However, Louise Fresco does state that the regulations in Europe may be too harsh since it’s very hard for any genetically modified organisms to be authorized for consumption in Europe. This is what makes it seem that a true ban on GMOs or even limitations on GMOs would be too much of a step in the anti-GMO side of the argument. The truth is that GMOs are helpful in some respects and it could actually negatively impact people to limit them harshly, as we see in Europe.

This is why it would be beneficial to simply promote the idea of labeling GMOs. It would send a similar message to companies that Europe has with its extreme regulations, but it still allows for companies to use GMOs if they wish and doesn’t impede any progress and benefits that genetically modified organisms can bring to the world. Louise Fresco states that Europe is falling behind in the world because their regulations won’t allow for companies to make progress in the food industry and may actually hinder their abilities to stay a world player in food production (Fresco). It would truly be disheartening to see the side effect of GMO labeling to cause anyone to have to suffer their livelihood or to hurt America’s food production in any way.

It’s hard to understand why companies want to fight GMO labeling so much. It seems to actually be a solution that would deter GMO labeling while still letting them perform the practices that they have been doing for so long and don’t want to change. It’s understandable that they fear GMO labeling because of the possible affects it may have on their companies, but it has been clearly stated many times from many people that GMO labeling is a thing that people really want to happen and companies that step forward and make the strides to help the process could actually advertise that and increase their capital in the long run.

It’s true that GMOs aren’t all bad; in fact they are beneficial in many ways that many people don’t stop to consider. They are able to resist many things that would usually kill the organisms that they are protecting such as herbicides, disease, cold, and many other threats that used to easily destroy many crops (Whitman). An example of this being done is taking a gene from a fish and injecting it into a strawberry to help make it more frost tolerant and less susceptible to colder temperatures (Deakin University Australia). This has allowed for many farmers and other people in agriculture to be successful knowing that they don’t have to worry about their fields suffering from events outside of their control. This is especially beneficial to small farmers who can’t afford to have any of their crops go to waste. If a big farm loses some of their crop to bad weather they’ll probably be able to rebound from the tragedy, but if a small farm loses some of their fields it could mean that they will suffer for years to come trying to pay off the deficit.

It also helps the American public by keeping the prices of food down. It does this by creating more food than we were originally able to and avoiding many food shortages. This allows for distributors to pay less for the food they receive and those savings are passed on to the consumers. In this way GMOs are able to help the economy and also help keep the people of the world fed.

Malnutrition is something that many third world countries suffer from since many of them have to rely on a one crop to be their main food source, such as rice (Whitman). GMOs are able to put nutrients into the rice that were originally foreign to the crop. This allows people to take in more nutrients and be able to live healthier life styles. In fact, this type of nutrient addition was once done on rice to create rice with a high amount of vitamin A in it (Whitman). This was done because vitamin A is necessary to prevent blindness and people without access to the vitamin were losing their eyesight because of the lack of access to this vitamin. It was funded through the “Rockefeller Foundation” and was developed to be distributed to third world countries that needed the extra elements (Whitman).

GMOs are now being developed to have vaccines and other medicines inside of them to give to people in underdeveloped countries (Whitman). They are doing this because many of these medicines are costly to produce and require storage conditions that some countries may not have at their disposal (Whitman). These would be beneficial because it gives a cost effective way to transport and administer different drugs that people all around the world need. It would also provide a cheaper and more effective way to administer drugs to the American public, but, with every advancement, a certain level of fear and uncertainty is sure to follow.

GMOs already contain certain adaptations that people consider unnatural and possibly dangerous. The fact that experiments are being done to add different medicines into food is another reason to be concerned about the usage of GMOs. It used to be that using GMOs had the threats of allergies and having other foods that people didn’t want to eat. The future may hold foods that contain medicines that people are not aware of and don’t want to have. Requiring labeling before the science reaches this point would avoid this problem before it even happens.

These show two more very strong benefits to GMOs: they can be used to feed multitudes of people and prevent malnutrition, and they may be able to be used in the future to spread medications. This is why it would be very unfortunate to completely ban GMOs or to even try and limit them extensively. That would cause people to lose opportunities at preventing malnutrition and it may stop people from trying to develop foods that could have beneficial medicines in them. The only fear with unknown medicines in foods could easily be avoided with the mandatory labeling of products with GMOs, which is why this compromised solution is the best option for this problem.

GMOs have been used for too long without any adequate research or information given out about them. It has got to the point where people are demanding that they be informed about GMOs, but their voices still aren’t being heard. Genetically modified organisms do have plenty of benefits, but with those benefits come a fair amount of risks and these haven’t been told to the public or advertised very thoroughly. A system with GMOs that are labeled would give people the knowledge of what they are buying along with giving companies the benefits of still keeping their business practices and making the benefits that may help society as a whole.

People want to know what they are buying and what they are eating. It is a basic fact that people strive to learn more about the world around them and want to understand things in their environment. The same sorts of principles apply to the issue of GMOs. It’s not that most people hate the concept of GMOs, but people want to know what they are eating and how it could affect them. People don’t hate GMOs, they hate ignorance.

Works Cited

"Genetically Modified Organism" The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 2013. 5 March 2014.

"GMO Facts: Frequently Asked Questions." The Non-GMO Project. 2014. Web. 7 February 2014.

Whitman, Deborah B. "Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?" Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? ProQuest, Apr. 2000. Web. 19 Apr. 2014.

Parker, Laura. "The GMO Battle is Heating Up-Here's Why." National Geographic 11 Jan. 2014. 11 Feb. 2014.

Palmer, Roxanne. "GMO Health Risks: What The Scientific Evidence Says." International Business Times 30 March 2013. 11 Feb. 2014.

Fresco, Louise. "The GMO Stalemate in Europe." Science Feb. 2013. 10 Feb. 2014.

Deakin University Australia. "Genetically Modified (GM) Foods." Better Health Channel. July 2011. 7 February 2014.

At the bottom of your peer review page, spend a couple of minutes reflecting in writing about the feedback you received.

  • Does it help you re-vision your proposal?
  • If so, how? If not, why not?

I used some of the feedback to edit my paper. I did find some grammatical errors that I spent some time revising and I added a small section about small farmers that one of my reviewers suggested.

  • Did you incorporate any of these comments into your revision of your draft?

Yes I did. A few edits were made and then a few sections were added to address the concerns my reviewers had.

*Solution Proposal Peer Review Michael Hanson

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