Are Bt (insect resistant) crops good for farmers and reducing world hunger and poverty?
Over the past few decades, Bt crops have had a tremendously positive impact on farmers in both developed and developing countries, enabling them to maximize their output by preventing pest insects from damaging their crops. With unfavorable natural phenomena such as droughts and floods becoming increasingly common as a result of climate change, Bt crops and genetically modified organisms in general have made it possible for farmers across the world to minimize their crops’ exposure to pests and plant diseases resulting from said phenomena. In view of these considerations, it is no wonder that Bt crops are widely perceived as an effective solution to world hunger and poverty.
1) List the all the benefits of your assigned GMO crops regarding your debate question. Put an asterisk next to the top 3 benefits.
a. Unlike traditional crops, Bt crops do not require farmers to use harmful pesticides that kill all insects, including beneficial ones.
b. Since farmers do not need to use large amounts of pesticides when growing Bt crops, their exposure to harmful chemicals is reduced. *
c. Lower production costs due to reduced pesticide use (very important to farmers in developing countries). *
d. Human beings have been consuming genetically modified food for many years now, without reporting any significant side effects. On top of that, consumers can easily minimize their exposure to Bacillus thuringiensis by washing Bt plants before eating them. *
e. Less environmental damage compared to traditional pesticides
2) List the all the negativities of your assigned GMO crops regarding your debate question. Put an asterisk next to the top 3 negativities.
a. Health risks – it is still unclear how Bt crops may affect the human body in the long term. *
b. Environmental risks – Bt produces a toxin that might contaminate water, thus having a negative impact on the environment. *
c. Cross-pollination: Bt is likely to contaminate other crops, thus making it nearly impossible for farmers to grow organic crops.
d. Some Bt strains tend to become less effective when exposed to direct sunlight. As a result, their potency may decrease within a few weeks. *
e. Insects may develop resistance to Bt after some time.
3) List all the concerns of your assigned GMO crops regarding your debate question. Put an asterisk next to the top 3 concerns.
a. Do the benefits of Bt crops outweigh their risks?
b. To what extent can Bt crops help fight world poverty?
5. Changing weather patterns are expected to have a devastating impact on agricultural production in the developing world, where hunger and poverty are already widespread. Bt crops can help tackle both issues by decreasing production costs and boosting food production.
6. With recent projections suggesting that the world population may reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, farmers will have to use multiple strategies to minimize their losses.
7. Even if Bt crops were found to have slightly negative effects on human beings and livestock, scientists may come up with new solutions to address the problem. While a large number of studies have demonstrated that Bt crops are perfectly suitable for human consumption, available statistics indicate that every year, millions of people die of hunger – and that is a certainty.
4) Regarding your assigned GMO debate question, which side do you think has the strongest case? Pro-GMO or anti-GMO?
In view of the above considerations, I believe it is clear that the pro-GMO side has a stronger case than the anti-GMO one.
5) Which side would you prefer to debate?
I would prefer debating the pro-GMO side as there are many recent studies that are worth exploring in greater depth. With Bt crops becoming increasingly common in developing countries, researchers have been trying to determine whether and to what extent Bt affects human beings, animals and the environment. In an attempt to address critics’ concerns, Monsanto as well as other companies that specialize in agricultural biotechnology have encouraged scientists to evaluate the short and long-term effects of GMO consumption on human beings (Koch et al., 2015). Despite my positive attitude towards GMO, I would love the opportunity to discuss their findings in an impartial and objective manner, taking into consideration the interests and goals of GMO seed sellers like Monsanto.
- Koch, M. S., Ward, J. M., Levine, S. L., Baum, J. A., Vicini, J. L., & Hammond, B. G. (2015). The food and environmental safety of Bt crops. Frontiers in Plant Science, 6, 283. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2015.00283