GMO: Great Malnutrition Opponent or Grossly Mutated Organism?

Lauren Raskin, Honorbound

Genetically modified organisms. Some people are absolutely terrified by this concept while others are very supporting of it. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs for short, are basically what the name suggests: organisms whose genetic makeup has been modified to produce “better” qualities, like leaner meat, better quality fur or wool, early maturation, or a higher rate of production. Scientists accomplish this by using intricate methods and devices that carefully extract a specific gene from one organism and artificially force it into another organism’s DNA. The main argument for supporting GMOs is that they would increase food production. For example, the cold-resistant gene from an Arctic flounder could be artificially forced into the genetic makeup of a tomato to make the tomato resilient to cold weather and frost. This characteristic would allow tomatoes to be grown in climates they may not have survived in otherwise, thus increasing the production of tomatoes. GMOs can also help foods combat disease and insects; for example, BT Corn is traditional corn that has been modified to include a gene from bacteria that emits a toxin that only affects insects. Also, GMOs are used to help fruits and vegetables improve their ripening process. Traditional tomatoes are usually harvested while they are still green because soft, ripe tomatoes are generally crushed in the shipping process; when these green tomatoes safely reach their designated store, they are sprayed with ethylene to speed up the ripening process to make them ready for purchase. By using GMOs, the Flavr Savr tomato has genes that allow the tomatoes to remain firm after ripening on the vine, thus eliminating the need to artificially ripen tomatoes right before purchase.[1]

Those that support GMOs claim they lead to an increase in both the quality and quantity of products, as previously explained. These supporters argue an increase in both quality and quantity would lead to better a life quality for people all over the world. The supporters’ main argument for implementing GMOs on a larger scale is to end world hunger. Since GMOs could lead to a large increase in quantity of food, hungry, underdeveloped nations like Madagascar or Ethiopia would be supplied with more food until they eventually conquer the seemingly endless fight against malnutrition.[2] The previously made statements on why GMOs would promote life quality (especially for those starving to death) can be best proven by the teachings of English philosopher John Stuart Mill and Greek philosopher Aristotle.

To start, we must agree with the statement that people have better quality lives when they are happier. Aristotle’s entire argument about the function and happiness of man in the first book of Nicomachean Ethics is that a man’s end is his happiness (or vice versa), and both a man’s end and his happiness are the result of his function.[3] In other words, a man will have a good life if he is happy, and to be happy he needs to perform his life function well.  Now that we have established that a good life is a happy life, we can continue with the discussion about GMOs and how it relates to life quality.

With regard to GMOs and the potential to end world hunger, supporters could use John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism as an argument to support their stance on GMOs and how it leads to a better life quality. One of Mill’s stances is on sacrificing and its effects on one’s happiness. Utilitarianism is a doctrine that defines actions as right if they benefit the whole of society. Mill expands on this idea by stating that he “… recognize[s] in human beings the power of sacrificing their own greatest good for the good of others…. The sacrifice is itself a good.”[4] In other words, an action is good if it reaps many benefits for a great number of people even if the action was actually a sacrifice for said person; also, the sacrifice actually creates a good in itself because the happiness of the donor increases from the good deed. For example, if someone were to donate $100 to a poor family, it would be considered a good action. Even though the donation technically negatively affected the donor by decreasing his wealth, his overall happiness and quality of life would be better since he knew he helped a family eat for the next week or two. This doctrine can again be applied to world hunger and GMOs. If people across the globe sacrifice their belief that GMOs are harmful and wrong, GMOs could be much more widely used by producers since they wouldn’t have to worry about demand decreasing if GMOs were used. Thus, an increase in food (by using GMOs to boost production) would allow a larger flow of food to circulate across the world. This larger flow would in turn give more food to the people in those underdeveloped, hungry nations. With more food, less and less people would die daily from malnutrition until it is no longer a problem. Thus, if people sacrificed the idea of eating only organic, traditionally-grown food, societies across the world would reap the benefits, therefore increasing the happiness and life quality of both parties.

Supporters of GMOs could use Mill’s definition of happiness to further prove their point.  In Utilitarianism, Mill defines happiness as “intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.”[5] How does this relate to world hunger? According to Mill, in order to achieve this happiness, one must be free of pain. Hunger is an agonizing pain; therefore, the hundreds of millions of starving people across the globe are not happy. As proven earlier by Aristotle, happiness leads to a better end. Thus, if GMOs are used to produce more food to relieve these victims from their hunger, their life quality would improve significantly since the pain associated with hunger would diminish.

As previously proven by Aristotle, the function of man leads to happiness and a better quality life. Man must complete his function to accomplish this. For obvious reasons, the starving people are unable to complete their life function because they do not have the energy to even try. What if a doctor could be saving lives, but he was forced to focus on finding food for his family because it was hard to come by? What if someone physically cannot fulfill their function because he or she can hardly even walk with the nutrition he or she lives off of? When people are focusing on maintaining the seemingly easy parts of life like eating, they have no choice but to abandon their life function just to survive. If GMOs were used to mass produce food, these people could return to their life functions. By carrying out their functions, their lives would improve significantly.

As for the opposition’s stance, they argue GMOs decrease life quality because it hurts the consumer. Thus far, no scientific research has proven GMOs harm the human body. “Many of the most influential regulatory agencies and organizations that study the safety of the food supply, including the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization,…and the Nation Academy of Sciences, have found genetically modified food ingredients are safe and there have no negative healthy effects with their use.”[6] To be fair, GMOs are a very new invention in the scientific world, so more research still needs to be carried out to further prove this notion. If this were to be disproven, the stance against GMOs could change completely. But as of today, the opposition cannot logically or statistically prove their position against GMOs.

In close, GMOs are our solution to correcting life quality worldwide. They could potentially solve the pressing issue of world hunger and the deaths associated with it. Furthermore, they amplify the quality of other products. From personal experience, I believe GMOs are fantastic inventions for society. Until GMOs are proven to be harmful to the body, I will have no problem eating food that has been genetically modified. I personally see it as a perfect solution to the pressing issue of world hunger. I can understand why society is scared of the phrase “genetically modified organisms”, but if people were simply taught about the benefits they offer, I’m confident the fear would fade until GMOs became largely accepted. The moral standpoint this blog offers paired with the research of highly trained scientists would certainly convince society to accept GMOs. Overall, GMOs need to replace the less productive, traditional methods of food production in order to better the lives of people across the world!

[1] Kasbarian, Hillary. “Genetic Engineering.” PowerPoint, Ursuline Academy, Dallas, TX, April, 2016.

[2] Clea Guy-Allen. “The World’s 10 Hungriest Countries.” Global Citizen. March 10, 2014. May 2, 2014. http://www.globalcitizen.org

[3] Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Ed. Aparicio, Bernardo. Dallas: Ursuline Academy, 2016.

[4] John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism. Ed. Aparicio, Bernardo. Dallas: Ursuline Academy, 2016.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Get the Facts About GMOs.” The Facts About GMOs. May 4, 2016. http://www.factsaboutgmos.org/

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[7] PragerU. “Are GMOs Good or Bad?” Youtube. May 5, 2016. http://www.youtube.com

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