The Debate is NOT Over: GMOs and Why You Shouldn't Listen to Forbes
by Caskett on April 9, 2015 - 10:19pm
The GMO (i.e. genetically modified organism) debate has been going on for quite some time. Many object to the genetic modification of the food that we consume, fearing the adverse consequences it might have on the human body health-wise. While others, mostly big name brands that are particularly implicated in the GMO industry (*cough* Monsanto) defend the benefits of this new technology and refute any claims that they might not be 100% safe long term. Alarmingly enough, there are other people that believe that GM food is a-okay as well and they do not waste any time in trying to debunk the hundreds, if not thousands, of animal test studies that have been conducted since GMOs have hit the food market.
First, let’s go over a quick overview of what GMOs are and what the benefits/risks involved are. Genetic modification is a method that allows the introduction of a gene carrying a known trait into the cell of different types of organisms. This technique allows for alteration in the physical composition of the plant as well as the chemical composition, including its nutritional value. These modifications can help increase crop production by creating organisms that are resistant to droughts, pests, herbicides, diseases, and even insects. However, genetic engineering also has drawbacks. Most notable are the environmental hazards, such as potential harm to other neighboring organisms and gene transfer to non-target species (Verma et al. 3). So what’s the ethical issue here? And how is the media involved?
The problem is that people (i.e. the consumers of these GM foods) are not getting the full story. Or at least it seems as though the media is trying to hide or discredit some pertinent information, which is where the ethical issue comes into play. There has been an incredible amount of testing done where mice or rats were fed GMOs and the results have not really been encouraging, what with all the increased death rate, the tumors, the stunted growth, etc. Meanwhile, countless media outlets, ranging from WHO ("Frequently Asked...") to Forbes to Monsanto’s CAQ ("Commonly Asked..."), are continuously pushing the idea that these tests are one-off studies, that the results were tampered with, that it didn’t comply with GMO safety analysis standards (whatever that means; WHO says in its FAQ for food technologies that regulation for the safety of GMOs is based on The Codex Alimentarius Commission), etc. But, honestly, that’s not the real problem. Obviously, if there actually is a health risk we still haven’t seen any effects on humans or cattle so clearly it’s not the biggest concern. In this post, I’d like to focus on the ethical issue involved when pro GMO articles are published and focus on the fact that the health risks are minimal (if they even exist) while they usually choose to ignore other major drawbacks of GM food. The environment is a major player, yet it gets overlooked all too often.
There is a disturbing article on the Forbes website titled “The Debate About GMO Safety Is Over, Thanks To A New Trillion-Meal Study” by Jon Entine. Yes, he is that brazen and is saying straight up that the debate is over (i.e. don’t bother forming your own opinion). I won’t lie, I completely believe that GMOs have potential health risks that need to be further analysed. I might not be deathly afraid of monstrous tumors the size of half my body weight suddenly developing in my body like some people are, but there is definitely some merit to a lot of the concerns scientists and regular people alike bring up. However, Forbes cannot simply claim that the debate is over and only debunk that one argument. The entire article focuses on how GM food is not a health risk and that we can eat it with no worries. But do they even mention the environment? No. This is unethical because the media’s job is to provide the facts - all the facts - so that the viewer/reader can form an opinion on the subject. In this case, the framing the author uses (i.e. ignoring arguments that do not help his point) manipulates the reader into believing that not only is there just one concern about GMOs, but that it’s also an invalid concern.
Unfortunately, the Forbes article is only one of many that uses framing to its advantage when defending GMOs. Another argument that comes up frequently when praising GMOs is the fact that with gene technology, scientists are able to add nutrients to food, essentially creating a superfood out of something as bland as rice, for example. The problem here is that these articles usually don’t specify that this would be a great solution to feed countries suffering from malnutrition. The reason they don’t want to mention it is because those countries aren’t where the GM crops are going, and so bringing up that argument at all would just confuse the audience as to why that is the case. Basically, when it comes to the representation of GMOs in the media, beware of the framing that the article you’re reading is using. The media ethics code of providing an unbiased list of facts on an issue is practically ignored when it comes to this hot topic.
"Commonly Asked Questions about the Food Safety of GMOs." Monsanto. Monsanto Company, 2015. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.
Entine, Jon. "The Debate About GMO Safety Is Over, Thanks To A New Trillion-Meal Study." Forbes. Forbes, 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
- link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/09/17/the-debate-about-gmo-safety-is-over-thanks-to-a-new-trillion-meal-study/2/
"Frequently Asked Questions on Genetically Modified Foods." WHO. World Health Organization, 2015. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.
Verma, Chara, Surabhi Nanda, R.K. Singh, R.B. Singh, and Sanjay Mishra. "A Review on Impacts of Genetically Modified Food on Human Health." The Open Nutraceuticals Journal 11th ser. 4.3 (2011): 3-11. Acadamia. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.
- link: http://www.academia.edu/542384/A_Review_on_Impacts_of_Genetically_Modified_Food_on_Human_Health