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On the following pages, you will be asked the same question seven times: "Based on what you now know, do you think we should raise genetically modified (GM) crops?" Each time, you must answer Yes or No to that question, and each time, depending on how you responded, you will be presented with a new counterargument meant to challenge your stance. Thus, this feature presents six arguments for growing GM crops and six against, but whenever you answer yes or no, you will only see one side of the argument -- the one meant to challenge your position. However, before answering the question for the seventh and final time, you will be shown all 12 arguments for and against. At that point, you may choose Yes, No, or Undecided and then see where your vote stands vis-à-vis those of others.
Industry, government, and many academic scientists tout the benefits of genetically modified (GM) foods for agriculture, ecosystems, and human health and well-being, including feeding a world population bursting at the seams. With equal passion, consumer groups, environmental activists, religious organizations, and some scientists warn of unforeseen health, environmental, and socioeconomic consequences.
The debate concerns something very personal to each of us: what we and our children are eating. And whether you realize it or not, you've been consuming GM foods for some time. GM ingredients, in the form of modified enzymes, are found in virtually all breads, cheeses, sodas, and beers, and farmers have been raising GM food crops such as corn, soybeans, and potatoes since the mid-1990s. While you'll find few GM whole fruits or vegetables in your supermarket today, highly processed foods like breakfast cereals and vegetable oils very likely contain varying amounts of GM ingredients, because food companies pool raw materials like soy and corn from many sources into a single processing stream.
GM crop farming is expanding rapidly around the world. Global acreage of GM crops has risen 25-fold in just four years, from approximately 4.3 million acres in 1996 to about 100 million acres in 1999. Worldwide sales of GM foods rocketed from an estimated $75 million in 1995 to a staggering $2.3 billion in 1999.
It's too early to know which of the aids or ills foreseen for GM foods will materialize. In the meantime, GM technology raises thorny questions of science, ethics, law, and economics that need to be thoroughly debated.
Note: View all 12 arguments for and against GM foods at once or readers' opinions on the subject.
Peter Tyson is editor in chief of NOVA Online.