Are there any real advantages to genetically engineered food?

We could be tampering with something that we really don’t understand enough to use in everyday life. Sure, there are many good things about such foods, such as manipulating the DNA of plants to keep bugs from eating them, or to make them larger and increase nutrient content. But couldn’t genetic engineering be considered ‘playing God’?:confused:

I play God all the time. I have the voice for it.

The “real advantages” would be pretty obvious if you lived in an area that suffered the occasional famine. If someone offered you a way to get two crops a year out of your hardscrabble Ethiopian family farm instead of one, suddenly GM foods wouldn’t look so bad.

The advantages to genetically engineered food are, in general, the same as the advantages to selectively bred food. Selective breeding, which has been going on for many thousands of years, has produced all sorts of freaks of nature, including organisms which can’t reproduce themselves without human intervention. Humans have been “playing God” with other forms of life, hijacking their most basic biological processes (such as reproduction) to fulfill human needs since the dawn of agriculture.

agreed. but I see GMOs as a lot more dangerous than just selective breeding. kind of like, there has been weaponry from the beginning of time to fulfill human needs, but b/c of the advancement of technology the a-bomb is much more dangerous than the spear or even rifle.

I know GMOs can be useful, especially when trying to grow veggies in hostile climates or when trying to feed a lot of people adequately and quickly.

but, I (and my vegan friends) would argue, there is plenty of farmland to grow enough food for everyone if we stopped using so much land for raising cattle and factory farms. it is simple primary producer vs. secondary producer logic. The amount of food we put into the animals that we eat compared to what we get back from them in meat/eggs/dairy is completely unbalanced. (despite the fact that factory farms are completely dependent upon low grade feed and large amounts of steroids to pump as much “product” out of animals as possible).


Typical advantages include - longer shelf-life for produce, improved nutritional content, resistence to crop disease/insects, ability to grow in poor soil, better yields.

The jury’s still out on unintended consequences. There’s no health risk to consumers (though people like Greenpeace have tried to spread disinformation on this). But in theory (to take an example) enhanced resistence to insects in a particular crop could reduce the number of insects and disrupt the food chain. But if it’s an alternative to using insecticide, it might actually be a big help to wildlife.

I’m no expert, but I don’t see much to worry about. As MEBuckner says, it’s in the same human tradition of selective breeding over the centuries.

EG: a cob of corn 5,000 years ago would have been 1 inch long. Today, we assume it should be 10 times that size, at least. Most breeds of dogs that we’re familiar with are the result of humans selectively breeding them for size, hunting skills, cuteness, etc over the last few thousand years. Humans play God.

Exactly how, though? Sure, a specific example of genetic modification could be dangerous. So could a specific example of selective breeding. But what is it about the technology itself which makes it inherently dangerous?


How many of your vegan friends are farmers or have a background in agriculture? I assure you that there is plenty of farmland even with factory farms and cattle. And in fact we currently have plenty of food in the United States with or without meat.

The potential for genetically modified foods are certainly worth looking into regardless of the actual amount of farmland we currently have. For example we might be able to have crops which are more resistant to insects which means less pesticide being used. Or we might be able to make rice that has a lot of Vitamin C or extra Calcium.

I’m sure you and your vegan friends will bring up organic farming. But organic farming is expensive and for the near future will only serve a niche market.


What’s the Story on Genetically Engineered Foods? by Cecil.

There are plenty of naturally-occuring germs and viruses that can kill people in large numbers, so I’m not exactly losing sleep over a potential superbug.

In contrast to possible future epidemics, examples of starving and suffering populations are pretty easy to find. I’m not sure how feeding locusts and potato beetles is somehow “nobler” than breaking out the test tubes.

“Playing God” strikes me as just an alarmist cliché.

Another kind of cool example of just how radical selective breeding is already:

Cabbage, broccolli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, Kale, and one other vegetable I can’t remember are all the result of selective human breeding of one type of wild mustard plant. It’s not just a matter of making corncobs bigger.

This site has the story. Anyone like those bizarre-looking green cauliflowers?

Are Greenpeace a bunch of idiots? Yes, according to this site

Selective breeding takes a lot longer, and is much more individualized. With GMOs once the technology is developed -boom!- it is available wherever the manufacturers want it, and it is available as soon as the manufactuers want it to be. Which, of course, is as many places as possible as soon as possible…

If a specific example of selective breeding did turn out to be dangerous/detrimental to wildlife, the ecosystem, environment, or us, it would be much more localized (making it easier to eradicate) and it would take much longer to develop in the first place, which would allow us time to determine its impact on the above things.

That is what I meant by the spears vs. warheads analogy. I do not doubt the potential benefits for GMOs, and I’m sure they are here to stay (for a while). Potential drawbacks include: damage to the environment, damage to the ecosystem/food chain, and possibly damage to us. It can cause quick resistance to pests (which means we’re constantly going to have to play catch up to keep the GMO food effective and who knows what the side effects to that are).

Keep in mind that GMOs have barely been around a decade. It is hard to ascertain what long term effects it will have on us and the world. And considering the fact that America in that decade has basically gone all-GMO (too large, too soon just as I said), and we have already seen damage (small damage, I concede) to the environment from this, who knows… aren’t we treading a little to quickly.

I for one am conservative (or is it liberal?) for a change… wait for further evidence. until then- don’t panic its organic!

oh, and is combining two somewhat similar things (tangerine and orange, or broccoli and cauliflower) the same as inserting a pig or fish genome into corn?

Here is a link on the subject:

Take it for what you may. I haven’t done any research to verify anything they say. I was just aware of the article at the link.

Some real advantages occur if you own the company creating genetically engineered seeds. You can patent the seed to keep farmers from saving it (Making seed saving ILLEGAL!). That way the growers have to come back to you year after year after year and keep buying the seed.$$$$$!

Or, you can genetically engineer the seeds to produce plants with sterile seed for the same profitable result. (However, when you’re sending out press releases about feeding the world, be sure to neglect to mention this!)

Another advantage to owning the seeds: You can genetically engineer the seeds to be resistant to the pesticide your company already makes. Therefore, you can sell the seeds AND more of the pesticide to the farmers. Of course, this may mean your farmer/customers will feel free to more liberally apply the pesticide. (Be sure not to mention this in your press releases about how genetically engineered seeds will reduce the needs for pesticides.)

Hate those pesky organic freaks who keep asking for non-GE foods. Let Congress pass strict standards for organic and then let your GE plants send pollen out and contaminate their crops. Suddenly for instance, almost all soybeans and corn are GE, even though some farmers are trying to grow without!

I actually talked to a class of some 200 students at the University of Virginia last year and asked just how many there had ever eaten genetically engineered foods. Only maybe 15 raised their hands. When I told them no, they probably all of them had during just the past week— they were very surprised. For a technology that has only been around for a few years its to me how much it not only has invaded our food supply, but how little the general public knows about it. Of course, if you ask those same benevolent companies to support labelling laws so that the consumer might at least have some knowledge that they’re eating GE foods, well…forget it.

GE foods and the companies that create them are not generous do-gooders out to save the planet. It’s about making money. We all here at least believe that…right?

The day our science and technology works like this, I will eat my hat. (And since I don’t have a hat, I will buy one just for eating)

Now, it seems to me we’ve been doing this for centuries. We introduce non-native animals all over the fricking place–doing scads of irreparable damage. But of course, “get the cute little fuzzy critters out of North America” doesn’t make as good a campaign as “no GMOs”…

Half the antibiotics around have barely been around a decade, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to try and tough-out a TB infection…


Point the first: I doubt anybody is going around inserting whole genomes into corn. I suppose it could be done, although I doubt you’d get much out of it other than dead corn. What’s being done is introducing a gene or two, or twenty.

Point the second: A gene does one thing (in the most reductionist terms); it encodes for a protein. Either that protein will do something useful or it won’t. These things are pretty specific, so it will probably do what it is being put in there to do, and not much else. If you eat pig, you’re already eating this protein, so it doesn’t sound too dire to my mind. Now, there could be some unforseen interactions, but that’s what the FDA is for.

I’m eagerly awaiting glow-in-the-dark pickles so I can find them when I feel like a midnight snack without having to turn on the lights.

What advantages are there? Happy Monsanto shareholders, mostly. :wink:

And c’mon, folks. Genetic engineering goes a little beyond selective breeding, unless farmers have somehow succeeded in getting frogs to romance tomatoes. Not saying that it’s this evil viral frankenfood, but those who want to avoid it should have the right and ability to do so.

Many varieties of non-GM vegetables that have been available for years were bred by hybridizing two varieties to combine their strengths. These hybrids generally produce seeds that don’t produce useful crops, so (you can see it coming) the growers have to come back year after year to keep buying the seed.$$$$! Sorry if I missed it, but I didn’t hear you or anyone else complaining about this.

I think you’re talking about Roundup-ready crops, which are resistant to Roundup. Roundup is an absolutely wonderful herbicide, killing plants it contacts quickly and then breaking down into something harmless quickly. This allows farmers to treat their crops with a fewer very effective doses (maybe a single dose) of Roundup, instead of having to come back multiple times to use another specific kind of herbicide. If you can see something wrong with this, please tell me about it.

I agree. If you want to pay more for food which has been labelled that it has no GM, I’m all for your right to do so. Some people have instead asked that GM foods should be labelled, which is a whole nother thing. The government forces warning labels on things that have risks, not just because some people would like to know. Some people want to know where their produce was grown, or when it was harvested, or whether it was picked by union labor, or what what was the ethnic background of the person who grew and picked it. You might want to know any of that, but the growers can’t be forced to put a label on it telling you that stuff. If there’s a market for people wanting to know, the market will address this by allowing them to pay for their choices.

GMOs are no more dangerous than other types of technology. Do you recommend that we should not have medical research because drugs can cause dangerous side effects?

This is bad logic, and I’m speaking as a vegetarian. Even if I conceded that there would be enough land to grow food for everyone if we didn’t raise cattle (which I don’t have enough evidence for), there are two problems: first, problems of hunger are because of distribution and not because of lack of resources, and second, having a plan that only works if the world changes radically to suit your personal views is just plain silly.

GMOs do very positive things. I’ll get out of the way right now that I’m biased, because a member of my family works in research at a seed company. However, I think it’s given me a bit of insight on how the process really works.

As an environmentalist, I am stauchly pro-GMO research. Why? GMOs, like selective breeding, are ways for us to improve our agriculture. Using GMOs, we can engineer plants that don’t need as many insecticides. I would much rather have corn that has been engineered in a lab rather than corn that has been doused with chemicals!

I have not seen a lot of reasonable responses by anti-GMO individuals. Usually it just boils down to discomfort with a process you don’t understand. GMOs are not the same as the use of hormones in cattle. GMOs are no different than other ways humans alter our environment (like houses, highways, and irrigation).

The one issue that concerns me is the right to legally protect genetic material, and the issues that it causes. I simply don’t see why GMOs are an environmental issue when they are, quite simply, a technological issue.

Not bad logic. Although I’ll concede that problems are not only with distribution, but the actual want to use surpluses for helping other people/countries (as the US has a substantial amount of farmland and a pretty friendly climate in many parts of the country, quite a bit of burden would fall on us), I’m not sure why you would even want to argue that, given that there is a need/want to help other countries, that ending factory farms (but not necessarily ending eating meat and dairy) would not substantially improve our ability to help end world hunger.

Not enough evidence for? It is pretty simple to realize that there would be a hell of a lot more food if we were all primary consumers. I don’t have any facts in front of me, and don’t feel the need to find them as nobody has contested them and I don’t feel anybody will (unless they are grossly uninformed), but I guess I will rummage through my books if pressed.

Second: I never said that I was trying to turn everyone vegan, nor was I saying it was the only option. I was just pointing out that there was an option…an alternative. To suit my personal views? Pretty lame my friend, especially coming from a vegetarian, who should atleast to some extent realize some of the issues. I feel very strongly about veganism, but this is not the thread for it. I will say, however, that there is alot more than just me that rides on veganism. The environment in quite a few ways. Millions and millions of animals a year. Even in the context I was referring to (world hunger), it wasn’t my self-interest that I was caring about. Shit, I’m fine as long as I have lots and lots of organic soy and other organic veggies. It is things beyond me that I care about, which makes my argument not so silly.

GMOs being no different than houses and irrigation…now that is bad logic. Plants need water to survive, and thus irrigation is an improvement on supplying that natural need. Plants do not need pesticides. Sure, they can help immensely at times (at a high cost to our health), but I think thousands of years of farming has shown that, unlike water, pesticides are not necessary to plants’ survival.