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Arguments For and Against Genetically Modified Organisms

GMOs From an Animal Rights and Vegan Perspective


Cons - Arguments Against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

  • Studies have already shown that GMOs are dangerous to rats. A review of 19 studies in which genetically modified soy and corn were fed to mammals found that a GMO diet often led to liver and kidney problems. While results on rats may or may not be relevant to humans, these results show that GMOs may have unintended effects on wildlife and livestock.
  • GMOs have not been tested thoroughly. GMO safety tests are sometimes as short as 90 days, which is not long enough to prove that a substance is safe for long-term, multi-generational human consumption.
  • GMOs are transferring genes in a much more unpredicatble way compared to natural breeding. One of the built-in safeguards of natural breeding is that a member of one species will not produce fertile offspring with a member of another species. With transgenic technology, scientists are transferring genes not just across species but even across kingdoms, inserting animal genes into microbes or plants. This produces genotypes that could never exist in nature. This is far more unpredictable than crossing a Macintosh apple with a Red Delicious apple.
  • Genetically modified products contain novel proteins that could trigger allergic reactions in people who are either allergice to one of the components of the GMO or in people who are allergic only to the new substance.
  • Genetically modified plants or animals could interbreed with wild populations, creating problems such as population explosions or crashes, problems with corresponding predator or prey species, or offspring with dangerous traits.
  • Food additives that are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) do not have to undergo rigorous toxicity testing to prove their safety. Instead, their safety is generally based on published past toxicity studies. The FDA has awarded GRAS status to 95% of the GMOs that have been submitted.
  • Even if some GMOs are safe for human consumption, this does not mean that all GMOs are safe. Each new GMO has its own benefits and risks.
  • GMOs have led to more herbicides (weed killer) being used. Herbicide-resistant GMO crops were developed so that the desired crop plants could survive higher amounts of herbicides to kill weeds.
  • GMOs will inevitably lead to more monoculture, which is dangerous because it threatens the biological diversity of our food supply.

GMO opponents and consumer advocates want GMO products to be labeled as such, so that consumers can choose whether to buy GMOs. Such labels will not be seen as warnings any more than ingredients lists or nutrition information can be viewed as warnings.

GMOs and Animal Rights

Animal rights is the belief that animals have an intrinsic value separate from any value they have to humans, and have a right to be free of human use, oppression, confinement and exploitation.

On the plus side, GMOs can make agriculture more efficient, thereby reducing our impact on wildlife and wild habitats.

However, genetically modified organisms raise some specific animal rights concerns.

On the minus side, GMO technology often involves experimenting on animals. The animal can be the source of the genetic material, or the recipient of genetic material. Genetic material from jellyfish and coral has been used to create genetically modified mice, fish, and rabbits as glowing pets for the novelty pet trade.

The patenting of genetically modified animals is also a concern to animal rights activists. Patenting animals treats the animals more like property instead of sentient, living beings. While animal advocates want animals treated less like property and more like sentient beings with their own interests, patenting animals is a step in the opposite direction.

GMOs are also a concern because they are tested on animals.

GMOs and Safety Testing

Under the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, new food additives must be proven safe. While there are no required tests, the FDA offers Guidelines for Toxicity Studies that include rodents and non-rodents, usually dogs. Although some opponents of GMOs are demanding more long-term tests, animal advocates should refrain from doing so. More tests will mean more animals suffering in laboratories.

Regardless of whether any government agency requires or prefers animal testing of GMOs, biotech companies will test their new products on animals to try to protect themselves from lawsuits.


Doris Lin, Esq. is an animal rights attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the Animal Protection League of NJ.

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