VALPARAISO | Students from Valparaiso and Chesterton high schools displayed debating talents Monday at the Porter County Administration Center as they went head to head over genetically modified organisms.
“The benefits of genetically modified food outweigh the cost,” was the topic with senior Troy Borlick and junior Luma Khabbaz, of Valparaiso High, on the affirmative and seniors Jessica Ratel-Khan and Hannah Vasquez, of Chesterton High, arguing the negative.
Chriselle Waters, head debate coach from Valparaiso High, and Chris Lowery, the Chesterton High coach, organized the event -- hosted and sponsored by the Valparaiso Chain of Lakes Watershed Group as a way to showcase the talent of the local students.
Khabbaz opened by arguing GMOs are safe and their use in agriculture represents no harm to humans. They are among the most extensively studied foods in history and GMOs create a multitude of benefits to the environment.
Ratel-Khan opened for the negative team by arguing GMO safety studies are inconclusive, GMOs lead to obesity and they have triggered a massive environmental cascade of extinction.
Borlick said, “GMOs are in almost everything we eat now and have been used since 1995 and since then the FDA has reviewed almost everything that has come into the market. They’re not like drugs. They have to go through rigorous tests to enter the marketplace.”
He argued the harms to the environment and honeybee extinction don’t come from the GMO crops, but rather the pesticides sprayed on the crops. Obesity is caused from overeating and other factors and a reduction in insect predators doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment, he said.
Vasquez said the studies cited by the affirmative were inconclusive and not credible since they are funded by the GMOs themselves, and that none of the studies are long term. She said such dangers might take years to see, as in the case of DDT.
During cross-examination, questions centered on the validity of testing, other countries banning GMOs, cross-pollination of GMO and natural crops and the causes of obesity.
Audience members questioned debaters after the event and weighed in on their experiences, some of which were scientific, some of which were historical.