Risks and Benefits of Genetically Modified Foods

2415 Words10 Pages
Risks and Benefits of Genetically Modified Foods Ideally, the debate over whether or not to allow the widespread use of genetically modified products would take the form of a scientific cost-benefit analysis, in which the expected gains were weighed against the potential risks. In such a scenario, one would imagine that genetically modified products would then be divided into three categories: those whose proposed benefits clearly outweigh their possible dangers; those whose possible dangers clearly outweigh their proposed benefits; and those whose dangers and benefits are too closely matched to make a final determination based on anything more than guesswork. Unfortunately, the debate has too often strayed away from hard science into ideological certitude and emotional rhetoric: "At the one extreme is self-righteous panic, and at the other, smug optimism" (Ellestrand, xi). The companies that stand to profit from genetically modified products understandably wish to understate the risks those products might pose to the environment, while environmental groups all too often call for a blanket moratorium on genetic engineering regardless of the benefits particular products have to offer. A closer, more balanced look at the arguments, however, shows reason to be cautiously optimistic about genetic engineering. Before examining some of the risks and benefits of genetic engineering, one must first deal with the more metaphysical objections to it. The first of these takes the form of what might well be termed nature-worship, the idea that nature is somehow sacred, and not to be meddled with on any account. Sierra Club activist Wendell Berry provides us with one example of this line of thought : "For quite a while it has been possib... ... middle of paper ... ...Safety in the Contained Use and the Environmental Release of Transgenic Crop Plants." Genetically Modified Organisms. Ed. George Tzotzos, Wallingford: CAB International, 1995. 36-63 Desser, Chris. "Unnatural Choice or Bad Selection." Made Not Born: The Troubling World of Biotechnology. Ed. Cassey Walker. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2000. 16-26 Ellstrand, Norman Carl. Dangerous Liaisons? Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Powell, Don. "Safety in the Contained Use and Release of Transgenic Animals and Recombinant Proteins." Genetically Modified Organisms. Ed. George Tzotzos, Wallingford: CAB International, 1995. 110-146 Rand, Ayn. The Virtue of Selfishness. New York: Signet Books, 1964 Vestel, Leora Broydo. "The Next Pig Thing." Mother Jones. October 26, 2001
Open Document