Mark Lynas, a well-known science journalist, told the Oxford Farming Conference that he wanted to apologize for the several years he spent criticized GMO crops. Lynas was one of the founders of the anti-GMO movement in Europe in 1990s, and essentially leading to the banning of GMO foods in Europe.
Lynas is the author Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet (which received a science writing award) and more recently The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans both on human causes of climate change. In researching these books, he said that he learned how read scientific papers and understand the concept of peer-reviewed science.
However, he admits that until fairly recently he had read no scientific papers on biotechnology. When he did, he realized that most of the ideas he had had about GMO crops were nothing but “green urban myths,” and that the opposition to GMO crops “was essentially an anti-science movement.”
- He had assumed that GMO crops would increase the use of chemicals, when in fact pest-resistant crops needed less insecticide.
- He had assumed that GM primarily benefited big companies, when in fact farmers benefited substantially because of lower overall costs.
- He assumed that no one want GM seeds when in fact they were pirated into Brazil and India because farmers wanted to use them.
- And he learned that there was in fact no “GMO Terminator” technology that prevented farmers from saving seeds. Hybrid seeds did that long ago.
And he notes that
thanks to supposedly environmental campaigns spread from affluent countries, we are perilously close to this position now. Biotechnology has not been stopped, but it has been made prohibitively expensive to all but the very biggest corporations.
If one of the major early and vocal opponents of GMO crops has recanted his positions as unsupported by science, isn’t it time we drop this absurd opposition to new bio-engineered crops?