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Genetically Modified Organisms as a Major Topic of Debate

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I chose to write my paper about GMOs because it is the most scientific topic I was allowed to choose. I started off by conducting research and using that to build several research questions. After this I chose one and developed interview questions. I then reached out to my interviewee and scheduled our interview. The interview went smoothly and I learned a lot about my topic. After my Interview I wrote my transcript first so I could reflect on the quality of my interview before moving onto my introduction. After I finished my transcript I wrote my introduction, reviewed my paper and then finished it. As I did not receive peer review I have nothing to add here.

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Interview Assignment

Genetically modified organisms are a major topic of debate now in days. They are in almost all the food we eat and it is hard to get accurate information regarding their effects. Many people believe GMOs are negative to one’s health based on biased and false information spread by media and anti GMO advocates. For this reason I chose to research GMOs in Hawaii with a more specific question of “what are the affects of GMOs on Hawaii and why shouldn’t they be banned”. The first source I utilized to help me understand my argument was the about GMOs page from hawaiiseed.org. This was written by a credible anti GMO advocate and gave me a lot of insight into that side of the argument. In addition I used this source to help understand some of the science behind GMOs. When the author says “The technology of genetic engineering is currently very crude. It is not possible to insert a new gene with any accuracy, and the transfer of new genes can disrupt the finely controlled network of DNA in an organism” (Anderson) it helped me understand further the current state of GMO technology. I used it to help develop questions about the anti GMO movement. The second source I utilized was an article from the New York Times that was full of helpful facts and statistics on GMOs in Hawaii. I used this to help create more broad questions about the use of GMOs in general as well as their uses in Hawaii. This is also a helpful source for confirming information I find from other less credible sources. A quote that showed some of the more controversial and less credible information from this source is as follows “Public hearings were dominated by recitations of the ills often attributed to genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s: cancer in rats, a rise in childhood allergies, out-of-control superweeds, genetic contamination, overuse of pesticides, the disappearance of butterflies and bees” (Harmon). Though this is not confirmed this kind of information will assist in developing my interview questions. The third source I utilized for my paper was an article from Huffpost Green about who should regulate GMOs in Hawaii. This source was important because it talked more about GMO policy than the science. It was unique amongst my sources for doing this. As such I used it to craft my questions regarding GMO legislation in Hawaii. The source helped bring up questions of philosophy as well when it says “The question of whether or not counties have the authority to regulate pesticide use and genetically engineered crops was at the center of a federal court hearing on Wednesday challenging Kauai County’s new ordinance imposing buffer zones and disclosure requirements on biotechnology firms” (Hofschneider). This was useful in me developing questions regarding legality/philosophy of banning a crop. My Fourth source of information for this assignment was an exert from a journal entitled “The Safety of Genetically Modified Foods Produced through Biotechnology.” This source was crucial in confirming information from my other sources as it is a scientific journal. The authors are clearly informed when they say “The potential toxicity of the transgene product must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Particular attention must be paid if the transgene produces a known toxin (such as the Bacillus thuringiensis [Bt] endotoxins) or a protein with allergenic properties” (Oxford Journals) which just shows the credibility of the source. I also used it to help craft some of my more specific science questions and also become well versed in the Genetic sciences. The last source I utilized was Labelithawaii.org. This source speaks more strictly to the legislation behind the labeling of GMO food. In addition to discussing a small amount of the science of GMOs the authors discuss the political issues as well. A lot of the information provided by this page is factual and political. The website used many helpful political statistics such as “ the U.S. has no laws requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods. Yet polls have repeatedly shown that the vast majority of Americans, – over 90% in most studies – believe GE foods should be labeled” (Goodman). Information like this helped me sculpt my political GMO questions.

I chose to GMOs as my topic as none of the classes other topics even pertained to my field of interest. As a prospective scientist many of the social issues we discussed in class this year were boring. That being said there is a large amount of science associated with GMOs even if it is more of a social issue. I chose to interview Anthony because he gave an enticing lecture on GMOs last semester is his ethnobotany class. He is also a botanist so he was clearly a credible source of information on this topic. The interview went well in my mind. It ran really short because I thought Anthony would talk for langer regarding some of my questions. I am also an awkward person so this interview definitely took me away from my comfort zone. All and all though I would say it was a successful interview. I chose to write my transcript verbatim because I believe it should be up to the reader to interpret the interview and not up to me.

JH: Do you believe GMO crops are a crucial part of Hawaiian farming, and if so why? (0:03)

AA: Ugh, I do. Um, I think a great example is papaya [“where” inaudible] really the ringspot virus came and um wiped out all of our papayas. So without GMO papaya there just wouldn’t be any papaya farms on Hawaii. [“And just” inaudible] for the reason alone. I think there are other examples too but that’s probably the clearest. (0:06)

JH: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and do you think the cultural, like cause you’re an ethnobotanist, as you said do you think that would really affect Hawaii Culturally? Like would eliminate a lot of farming from the islands? And a lot of commerse? (0:25)

AA: Ugh, well so I mean, culturally. But I don’t think affect native Hawaiian culture is that what you mean? (0:37)

JH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No I just mean like as like a society does Hawaii Like rely heavily on Papaya farming? (0:48)

AA: Oh, I mean I don’t what. To what extent our gross domestic product comes from farming papaya specifically, but I know a lot of our land is tied up in agriculture, so we would have differential land use and I know food sustainability is becoming a bigger issue. [“Whereas” inaudible] the shipping costs increase. So, Yeah I think probably, I think probably our agriculture would be adversely affected if we were to ban all GMO crops (0:55)

JH: Okay, and then so my next question was um. There has been a lot of talk regarding banning GMOs, what is your stance on this and what do you think the affects would be? (1:13)

AA: Ugh, So I understand where people are coming from. I think a lot of people are concerned especially with pesticide use and with um influence of big um corporations like Monsanto and Pioneer that are big landowners. Um their, their disregard for surrounding communities. I think the ban on GMOs is, is maybe a little bit misguided because it’s not, from what I hear people talk about, It’s not GMOs that people have issues with. Its, its pesticide application and um sorta these big corporations owning a lot of land [“that’s why” inaudible] I’d sorta decouple those two things. And I think probably people are scared about pesticide applications that maybe they should target those um technologies specifically rather than GMOs. (1:23)

JH: And like as you were saying, so GMOs aren’t actually the problem, like there are no health associations with GMOs being bad right? (2:11)

AA: Ugh, Yeah there is no, there’s been no evidence to suggest that GMOs have any, [inaudible] cells have any sorta health implications. (2:17)

JH: Which is almost like kinda misconstrued by the media because it almost says like GMOs are bad in the way that they will label all their products. It’s like [inaudible] looking at it being a bad solution or. (2:26)

AA: Yeah, so I have either with people labeling GMOs or even passing laws to force people to label GMOs. I don’t think. It’s not something that I would really pay attention to, but if it’s other people care about I. You know why not have full disclosures just like people, [inaudible] maybe you and I know that Big Macs have a lot of calories but forcing Mcdonalds to post how many calories doesn’t have to be really hurt Mcdonalds. I mean it’s just the consumer’s right to know. So I would advocate for that if people are think it’s important to know what products have GMO um ingredients in them. And I think people will find that a lot of products have GMO ingredients in them because so many things have corn syrup or something corn and almost all our corn is GMO corn so. (2:35)

JH: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Alright, ugh do you have any insight into the negative stigma associated with GMOs? (3:15)

AA: Um, I mean yeah again I think, I think GMOs, ugh people have real negative attitudes towards GMOs one because they don’t necessarily understand the science behind them. Um and I think two because they’re associated with companies that have um negative associations for other reasons. Um so I think those are my insights and those are probably the two biggest reasons why people are so anti GMO. (3:21)

JH: So, yeah, exactly, It seems like GMOs are kinda like negatively assosiated with companies opposed to their actual health concerns (3:46)

AA: Mhm (3:54)

JH: Alrighty, Um if crops have genetically motified since early mankind what makes more recent advancements more suseptible to critics? (3:55)

AA: I think the biggest thing that freaks people out is this idea of taking genes from, from other unrelated organisms. Or even now we are just manufacturing them on a computer right and then insurting those into um other living organisms. And again like we taked about it in class that happens in nature. Already we have lots of you know viral DNA we have lost of insect DNA, plant DNA, even in our genome thats been shuttled there via microbes and viruses, right. But that idea like I think doesn’t sit very well with people it seems like, like we have crossed some some un unwritten rule or crossed some barrier where other people are no longer comfortable with that type of manipulation (4:03)

JH: Yeah and that’s kind of like the same with a lot of science right. Where like we will start to do something and people will get like mes, worried about it bu then as it goes on people get more accustumed to it. Even with like nuclear power and everythin else. (4:51)

AA: Yeah, I mean we we’ll see you know. And I think I understand the concern for you could you can genetically modify whatever you want however you want there is the potential that that could be used for some pretty horrendous things right. We haven’t seen that happen yet as far as I know. But there is potemtial that you could. (5:03)

JH: Weaponize it? (5:20)

AA: Weaponize it, sure. And we could start doing you know freaky gene therapy to other humans right or I mean have blue eyes intead of brown eyes you know. Maybe go do that. And lost od other weird things. So there is the potential there right it just hasn’t been realized. (5:21)

JH: Alrighty, Ugh, Do you believe the negative GMO argument stands on a poorly formed arguemnt? (5:38)

AA: Um, thats a though question becuase I think there is um. I dont think there is a singke GMO argument or or anti. I think there is a lot of different groups that are anti GMO for different reasons. (5:43)

JH: Yeah so its like advocating different sides of the ugh coin I guess. It’s kinda like uh a cubed die, a six sided dice. There are so many different arguments in so many different directions. (5:58)…

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