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clayton Debates an AI


Score: 0

Difficulty: Easy

Mode: Sudden Death

Debate History
Should genetically modified foods be labeled transparently?
Winner: AI
AI Judge's Decision:

The AI articulated their points more concisely and effectively. Both participants brought up valid points in their arguments, carefully examining the pros and cons of labeling genetically modified foods. However, the AI's argument had more focus and clarity with a clear rationale on consumer awareness, ethical considerations, and market response. On the other hand, the human's argument was rather unstructured and long-winded, making it difficult for a listener to follow the flow of their points. Furthermore, much of the human's argument was grounded in hypothetical scenarios and they also recycled conventional arguments about misconceptions, which were not as thoroughly explained as they could've been. The AI’s argument, while similar on surface levels, was more concrete and effectively articulated, demonstrating a greater command of the topic at hand.

Human's Argument:

Labeling food that has GMO ingredients has become a very controversial and heated topic in todays society. Especially with more people wanting to go organic and wanting to be more careful about what they eat. GMO labeling could lead to many pros and cons so figuring out what the best choice is for both consumers and producers is very hard. First the pros, labeling which products have GMOs will allow consumers to have knowledge and be able to choose a product they feel is best for their lifestyle and values. Today consumers are all about transparency, GMO labeling will allow for a stronger relationship between producer and consumer. A stronger relationship will allow the trust of farmers by consumers to continue to grow. Also, producers with a niche can squeeze their way into the market. Consumers are willing to pay higher prices so industry will benefit and new players will emerge. Second the cons, the big word here is misinterpretation. Labels could become very confusing for consumers, things such as “natural” mean little to nothing but consumers start to believe its more. Consumers tend to have not enough knowledge when looking at labels. As soon as consumers sees “GMO ingredients” they’ll put it back on the shelf and reach for the organic choice which in reality may not be the better choice. Organic is another word with much misinterpretation due to nothing actually proving its better for your health or the environment. Lastly, the effects on the poor. GMO ingredients are perceived to be unsafe when in reality thats not true. The poor will become food insecure and end up spending money on food because labels scare them awayThere’s an old saying that goes, “Once in your life, you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, or a preacher. But everyday, three times a day, you need a farmer.” It’s true, everyone must eat. But it’s becoming harder to feed the world’s population, which is expected to reach more than nine billion people by 2050. With more people to feed, farmers need to grow more food on less land. How can this be done? Many scientists believe agricultural technology — like using genetically modified organisms— is the answer. But, consumer demands for more information and transparency about where their food comes from has generated controversy over whether GMO food products should carry special labels to inform consumers. The History and Science of GMOs A GMO is a plant or animal whose genetic material has been altered in a laboratory so that its DNA contains one or more beneficial genes that do not normally exist. For example, genetic modifications to GMO corn and soybeans have allowed those crops to be less susceptible to disease and pests and more drought tolerant. This reduces the need for chemicals or water for the crop to successfully grow. Genetically modified crops, which primarily include corn, soybeans, canola, and sugar beets, have been grown in the United States for 20 years, and they have FDA approval. Today, as much as 75 percent of the food Americans buy at their local grocery store, from cereals to soups, include genetically modified ingredients. However, most consumers are not aware that the foods they are eating include these ingredients. Individuals opposed to the use of GMO technology argue that foods produced with GMO ingredients are not safe nor natural and should not be in our food supply. Many hope that GMO food labels would alert consumers and help them avoid purchasing such items. Proponents for GMO technology, meanwhile, point to over 2,000 credible scientific studies that indicate that GMO-derived foods are safe. As Steven Novella, a neurologist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine, writes, “Like many public controversies, the debate can be better informed by scientific evidence; however, there is no legitimate scientific controversy over the safety of GMOs.” The Food Fight: Controversies in Food Labeling There is, however, a debate amongst GMO supporters about whether GMO foods should be labeled. Some supporters believe GMO food labels are costly and unnecessary, while others advocate for transparency by using labels. The latter group believes that consumers have a right to know what is in their food. To address this food fight, Congress passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which President Obama signed into law in July 2016. That bill established national standards for mandatory labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was given two years to determine the exact rules and regulations for the GMO labels. With a new administration, Trump’s new Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has changed the course of the labeling proposal. Instead of requiring the labels to use now more-widely known words like “GMO” and “genetically engineered,” Perdue’s Department of Agriculture has created label proposals using less familiar terms like “BE” and “bioengineered.” Some of the labels also use qualifying words like “may be bioengineered” which further reduces consumer clarity. A sample of proposed labels. A sample of labels proposed by Perdue’s Department of Agriculture. It appears that Perdue’s Department of Agriculture is attempting to avoid or “tiptoe” around the words “GMO” and “genetically engineered.” But should they be so afraid? Probably not. That’s because the two most notable examples of transparency about GMOs suggest increased transparency leads to increased support for GMO foods. The first prominent example is the 2016 decision by the Campbell Soup Company to label all of their U.S. food products that contain GMO ingredients. The company began the process of labeling their foods in the spring of 2016 — before the national law was passed in July. As a Campbell spokesman told the HPR, “We committed to print clear and simple language about the GMO ingredients in our food on the labels of our U.S. products that contained them because we believe consumers have a right to know how their food is grown and made.” The Campbell spokesman continued, “Our purpose, ‘Real food that matters for life’s moments,’ has had a profound impact on Campbell. Our aim is to be transparent and honest about what’s in our food, beyond prior industry norms. Families of all kinds use our products every day and they rely on us to present accurate and easily understood information about the food and beverages we make.” This decision, though controversial at the time, has been a success for Campbell’s business and earned them free publicity from the media and activist groups that support the decision, like the U.S. Right To Know, Just Label It, and Environmental Working Group. Consumers have not boycotted Campbell Soup and their GMO products; food companies say that GMO labels have had no negative impact on sales. The Campbell Soup Company thus supports mandatory labeling of GMO food products. Mandatory Transparency and Voluntary (Mis)labeling The second major example of transparency about GMOs — and the research supporting it — expands this debate over mandatory labeling. In 2014, the state of Vermont passed a law requiring GMO foods be labeled in the state. After Vermont’s labeling law went into place, public opposition to GMOs fell by almost 20 percent. While the law has now been preempted by the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, Vermont’s law can be seen as an example of GMO transparency starting a conversation and changing minds about the necessity of GMOs. This statistic — that public opposition fell by almost 20 percent in response to this mandate — comes from research by Jayson Lusk of Purdue University and Jane Kolodinsky of the University of Vermont. In the research, Lusk and Kolodinsky find that, “simple disclosure, one of the suggestions for the standards being developed at the federal level, is not likely to signal to consumers that GE foods are more risky, unsafe, or otherwise harmful than before label exposure and might, in fact, do the opposite.” Additionally, according to Lusk, this potential causal link between mandatory labeling and a decrease in opposition could come from psychological sources. As Lusk, the department head and a distinguished professor of agricultural economics, told the HPR, “prior research shows that when people feel like they have more control over outcomes, their perception of risks tend to fall. So, it could be that the labels increase perceptions of control.” Lusk also suggests that another possible explanation for the increased trust in GMOs could be a “halo effect” from the GMO label appearing on well-trusted and well-known brands. While this research suggests mandatory labels have positive effects, Lusk said it is uncertain if mandatory labeling is necessary — thus introducing another facet of the debate. Lusk said, “The first thing to note is that if consumer demand is sufficiently high for GMO information, it is unclear that there are significant barriers to entry that would prohibit successful voluntary labeling, and indeed we’ve seen that market increase rapidly in the past few years.” However, voluntary-only labeling has its own issues that exacerbate consumer mistrust. For example, Tropicana Orange Juice voluntarily labels their juice as “non-GMO,” even when there are no genetically modified oranges. As Beth Kowitt of Fortune wrote, “There is currently no such thing as a genetically modified orange on the market. Any product that is 100% orange juice, including Tropicana Pure Premium, is automatically non-GMO. It’s a little bit like labeling oranges gluten-free.” This is not the first time this misleading voluntary labeling has occurred, as Hunt’s claimed in 2016 that their ketchup contained non-GMO tomatoes, even when no GMO tomatoes existed on the market at the time. This is why even companies that voluntarily started labeling their GMO food products, like Campbell, support mandatory GMO labeling — to prevent false or misleading food labels. The uniform standard of a national label is one reason that Gregory Jaffe, the biotechnology project director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and former senior counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, says that the CSPI supports mandatory disclosure. In an interview with the HPR, Jaffe stated, “We believe that there is a subset of consumers who wish to know whether the food they purchase contains genetically engineered ingredients and those consumers should be able to find out that information. When implemented, the Bioengineered Disclosure Law will provide that information to those consumers.” Jaffe continued, “We also support the voluntary disclosure of additional information about whether a food product contains or does not contain genetically engineered ingredients but believe that the federal government should set forth standards to ensure accuracy and uniformity of that voluntary information (such as defining what is allowed for a food to be labeled as ‘non-GMO’).” Since the vast majority of Americans self-identify as having little knowledge about GMOs, ensuring food labels carry accurate information for consumers is necessary to prevent misconceptions. Consumer Trust and Choices Still, in spite of this smaller debate over mandatory versus voluntary labeling, both the forward-thinking actions of the Campbell Soup Company and the mandatory GMO labeling in Vermont show that increasing food transparency around GMOs can help increase public awareness and support for GMOs, a necessary technology. As Mark Lynas, an environmental activist and opponent-turned-proponent of GMOs, stated, “People are increasingly scared of GMOs precisely because the industry is fighting a battle not to tell people which foodstuffs contain them.” Thus, Lynas believes putting GMO labels on foods — voluntarily or otherwise — will “get biotechnology out of the shadows and into the limelight where it belongs.” He adds, “If we truly believe that this technology has so much potential, we should be shouting about it from the rooftops. Labels can be our friend.” Ultimately, choice is foundational to consumer satisfaction. By labeling GMO and non-GMO food products, consumers have a choice. They do not have that choice when only GMO products or only non-GMO products are allowed; but they also do not have that choice when they don’t know which foods are which. As consumers demand more information, food companies and farmers will need to supply that information through greater transparency. Thus, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture is still determining the specifics of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and its mandatory labeling of GMO food products, it is becoming more clear that agriculture, consumers, food companies, and policy-makers should stop the food fight and instead embrace GMO technology and food labeling transparency

AI's Argument:

Transparency in food labeling, particularly for genetically modified (GM) foods, is imperative. This disclosure allows consumers to make more informed choices based on their dietary needs, personal tastes, and ethical or environmental concerns. It is not about declaring GM foods as hazardous but about acknowledging a consumer's right to know what they are eating. Such labeling rules are already in place for many food allergens, nutrients, and calorie contents, and genetic modifications should be no different. In addition, as long as GM foods are deemed safe by the relevant authorities, there should be no adverse impact on sales due to transparent labeling. However, should some consumers opt for non-GM foods due to visibility, it will simply allow the market to respond to consumer preferences, which is a fundamental principle of free-market economies.