Weighing the Positives and Negatives in GMOs

Article Written by Kelly Choy
Illustration by Pocholo Mikael Santos
Posted 19 November 2021

When I was first introduced to veganism, I immediately gained a sense of respect for everyone living a vegan lifestyle. Meat and poultry had been ingrained in society as essential for survival, so I knew how difficult the lifestyle change must have been. In line with this, I respect everyone’s lifestyle choices and understand that our living conditions are largely influenced by our own beliefs and preferences. The purpose of this article is to simply explore the common arguments against veganism and nothing more. 

Veganism is often confused with vegetarianism, and while both lifestyles heavily depend on plant-based diets, a vegan lifestyle is much stricter and constrained. Veganism prohibits the use of animal products in all aspects of life while vegetarians are only restricted by their diets. [1] Over the past years, vegans have gained both positive and negative attention due to their constant preaching and strong beliefs against slaughtering, which led to people wondering: If killing animals is unethical, why are vegans alright with killing plants? Aren’t plants living things, too?

Most vegans would argue that plants are unable to feel pain the same way animals do, but studies have shown that plants are able to feel and react against attacks, most notably through vibrations. Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, was shown to respond to the sounds and vibrations of a chewing caterpillar made by producing mustard oils, which can repel them. Moreover, the study discovered that plants can differentiate between the vibrations made by natural occurrences (e.g. a gentle breeze) and vibrations made by insects, which allow them to defend themselves appropriately. [2]

While plants may indeed react to their predators, this argument is often rebuffed by vegans who claim that plants are already dead by the time they are on our plates. However, contrary to popular belief, harvesting plants from their soil does not kill them. In fact, a potato left on a counter will grow sprouts within a few days. Similarly, scallion stalks will continue to grow roots when placed in water. [3] 

If you think about it, vegans are technically butchers themselves. While carnivores and vegans consume different species, the process of raising them for slaughter is still the same. Animal breeders raise cattle and other livestock until their prime before sending them to the slaughterhouse in the same way that crop farmers fertilize and tend to their plants before ultimately harvesting them and shipping them off to local markets. [3] 

The ethics regarding this notion of veganism may be confounding, but one thing is certain: We must kill other living things in order to survive. Humans are on top of the food chain, and our biologies require us to consume other living things in order to have enough energy to survive. [4] However, what we consume is completely up to us. Some of us may have the luxury to afford an omnivore diet, while others may opt for a carnivore, vegetarian, or vegan diet depending on their beliefs, religions, or preferences. Ultimately, our lifestyles can be up to us if we are privileged enough. 

While I am not a vegan myself, I actually advocate for veganism and admire its beliefs. Fewer plants are actually harmed by vegans compared to meat-eaters since they consume the plants directly rather than feeding them to animals that will eventually be killed for their flesh. For example, cows consume 16 pounds of vegetation to yield 1 pound of meat compared to a vegan’s consumption of 4 pounds of vegetation daily. Going vegan actually saves more plant lives compared to other dietary lifestyles. [5]

Moreover, going vegan also saves about 200 livestock per year and 625 gallons of water per beef patty. Studies have also shown that if farmland used to raise livestock were used to grow crops instead, an additional four billion people worldwide could be fed. [5] With more and more vegan options and alternatives available in the market, switching to a vegan lifestyle has become much more accessible to the general public — regardless of its slightly higher price tag.

With all that said, the ‘eating green’ contradiction may not be a valid argument against vegans considering that the accusers themselves most probably harm more plants and lives in general. We need to eat other living things in order to survive, and veganism ensures that we are able to live fulfilling lives while preserving as many lives as possible.

References

  1. The Insipid “Killing Plants” Argument [Internet]. Adaptt.org. [cited 13 November 2021]. Available from: https://www.adaptt.org/veganism/the-killing-plants-argument.html
  2. Sossamon J. Plants Respond To Leaf Vibrations Caused by Insects’ Chewing, MU Study Finds [Internet]. Munewsarchives.missouri.edu. 2014 [cited 13 November 2021]. Available from: https://munewsarchives.missouri.edu/news-releases/2014/0701-plants-respond-to-leaf-vibrations-caused-by-insects’-chewing-mu-study-finds/
  3. McFarland T. How Do Vegans Justify Killing Plants? [Deep Dive] – I Am Going Vegan [Internet]. Iamgoingvegan.com. 2020 [cited 13 November 2021]. Available from: https://www.iamgoingvegan.com/how-do-vegans-justify-killing-plants/
  4. Schriever T. Food Webs in Relation to Variation in the Environment and Species Assemblage: A Multivariate Approach. PLOS ONE. 2015;10(4):e0122719.
  5. Kiger P. Far More Plants Get Consumed Thanks to Meat Eaters, Not Vegetarians [Internet]. HowStuffWorks. [cited 13 November 2021]. Available from: https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/facts/meat-eaters-consume-more-plants-vegetarians.htm

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