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Founder of the anti-genetically modified crops movement repudiates all past claims

yllus

Elite Member & Lifer
Aug 20, 2000
20,583
431
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This is a blockbuster speech - in the link, there is a video of Mark Lynas making a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference confessing that he's been quite wrong on opposing genetically modified crops for reasons of not much more than being obstinately anti-science/progress.

It's an incredible eye opener, and peaks the hopes that environmentalists who deride others for being anti-science when it comes to climate change indulge in some humility and take a good look at if they themselves are being anti-science in another sphere (anti-GMO).

Mark Lynas - Lecture to Oxford Farming Conference, 3 January 2013

I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.

These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.

This was also explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it.

...

So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.

I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.

But this was still only the beginning. So in my third book The God Species I junked all the environmentalist orthodoxy at the outset and tried to look at the bigger picture on a planetary scale.

And this is the challenge that faces us today: we are going to have to feed 9.5 billion hopefully much less poor people by 2050 on about the same land area as we use today, using limited fertiliser, water and pesticides and in the context of a rapidly-changing climate.

...

It now costs tens of millions to get a crop through the regulatory systems in different countries. In fact the latest figures I’ve just seen from CropLife suggest it costs $139 million to move from discovering a new crop trait to full commercialisation, so open-source or public sector biotech really does not stand a chance.

There is a depressing irony here that the anti-biotech campaigners complain about GM crops only being marketed by big corporations when this is a situation they have done more than anyone to help bring about.

...

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough. So my conclusion here today is very clear: the GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.

Just as I did 10 years ago, Greenpeace and the Soil Association claim to be guided by consensus science, as on climate change. Yet on GM there is a rock-solid scientific consensus, backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, health institutes and national science academies around the world. Yet this inconvenient truth is ignored because it conflicts with their ideology.

One final example is the sad story of the GM blight-resistant potato. This was being developed by both the Sainsbury Lab and Teagasc, a publicly-funded institute in Ireland – but the Irish Green Party, whose leader often attends this very conference, was so opposed that they even took out a court case against it.

This is despite the fact that the blight-resistant potato would save farmers from doing 15 fungicide sprays per season, that pollen transfer is not an issue because potatoes are clonally propagated and that the offending gene came from a wild relative of the potato.

There would have been a nice historical resonance to having a blight-resistant potato developed in Ireland, given the million or more who died due to the potato famine in the mid 19th century. It would have been a wonderful thing for Ireland to be the country that defeated blight. But thanks to the Irish Green Party, this is not to be.

And unfortunately the antis now have the bureaucrats on their side. Wales and Scotland are officially GM free, taking medieval superstition as a strategic imperative for devolved governments supposedly guided by science.
 

techs

Lifer
Sep 26, 2000
28,567
3
0
Yeah, I don't listen much to the "science" put forth by Mark Lynas is not a scientist. The very fact he said he changed his mind after learning basic facts about GMO farming shows what a nut case he is.

And, not only does he think he learned that GMO don't use as much pesticides, but doesn't understand that pests are adapting to the pesticides GMO's use and the amount that has to be uses is increasing dramatically.
 

dmcowen674

No Lifer
Oct 13, 1999
54,912
46
91
www.alienbabeltech.com
This is a blockbuster speech - in the link, there is a video of Mark Lynas making a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference confessing that he's been quite wrong on opposing genetically modified crops for reasons of not much more than being obstinately anti-science/progress.
110% Bullshit

It's not the Science of it that is bad, it's the Politics of it.

Just Google what Monsanto has done forcing Farmers to use their seeds only and sueing farmers that had seeds blow onto their fields.

It's always the money not the Science.
 

lotus503

Diamond Member
Feb 12, 2005
6,502
1
76
Dude has integrity and brass balls for admitting the science and benefit outweigh the cons.

Just label it, no reason not to.
 
Dec 10, 2005
20,892
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And, not only does he think he learned that GMO don't use as much pesticides, but doesn't understand that pests are adapting to the pesticides GMO's use and the amount that has to be uses is increasing dramatically.
That's going to happen regardless of whether the crops being sprayed are GMO or not-GMO.

Just label it, no reason not to.
I don't have a problem with labeling, but the anti-GMO nuts have largely succeeded in branding GMO as a scary thing, so putting a label on foods will help to further drive a spike into the distribution of GMO foods.
 

yllus

Elite Member & Lifer
Aug 20, 2000
20,583
431
126
Yeah, I don't listen much to the "science" put forth by Mark Lynas is not a scientist. The very fact he said he changed his mind after learning basic facts about GMO farming shows what a nut case he is.

And, not only does he think he learned that GMO don't use as much pesticides, but doesn't understand that pests are adapting to the pesticides GMO's use and the amount that has to be uses is increasing dramatically.
I can see why you'd think that changing your mind after reading the cold hard facts would constitute being a nutcase.
 

soundforbjt

Lifer
Feb 15, 2002
16,191
3,830
136
I do not have a dog in this fight, but I'd like to see if his finances have changed dramatically recently.
 

lotus503

Diamond Member
Feb 12, 2005
6,502
1
76
That's going to happen regardless of whether the crops being sprayed are GMO or not-GMO.



I don't have a problem with labeling, but the anti-GMO nuts have largely succeeded in branding GMO as a scary thing, so putting a label on foods will help to further drive a spike into the distribution of GMO foods.
Thing is labeling it does nothing but provide choice to the consumer. If based on bad data they don't want to buy GMO that their right to be stupid.

Personally I avoid GMO but not because I think it's unsafe, rather I don't want to support companies who engage in some of the practices of GMO companies -see India.

The reverse is not labeling or trying to trick consumers at the benefit of corporations. Which I don't approve of.
 

yllus

Elite Member & Lifer
Aug 20, 2000
20,583
431
126
I do not have a dog in this fight, but I'd like to see if his finances have changed dramatically recently.
I am sure that he is planning on having a book out soon. But opportunism doesn't mean what he's saying is wrong.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
66,977
3,758
126
You will have insects and algae and you will be told to like it. It will be called Soylent Green.
 

lotus503

Diamond Member
Feb 12, 2005
6,502
1
76
You will have insects and algae and you will be told to like it. It will be called Soylent Green.
Some algae is highly nutritious spirulina for example. I suspect it will be a staple of future diets.
 

Hayabusa Rider

Admin Emeritus & Elite Member
Jan 26, 2000
50,880
4,212
126
Dude has integrity and brass balls for admitting the science and benefit outweigh the cons.

Just label it, no reason not to.
Unfortunately he's blown off a very serious issue, "gene flow". "It happens all the time"? Not really. Having a complete genome with a functional mutation is hardly the same.
 

Texashiker

Lifer
Dec 18, 2010
18,812
192
106
I do not have a dog in this fight, but I'd like to see if his finances have changed dramatically recently.
If you eat, then you have a dog in this fight.

Part of the anti-gmo movement blame should go to monzanto. When a company sues farmers, they get a bad reputation.

When a company does not want the public knowing what they are eating, something is wrong.
 

techs

Lifer
Sep 26, 2000
28,567
3
0
I can see why you'd think that changing your mind after reading the cold hard facts would constitute being a nutcase.
People who don't even know the basic facts about something like GMO's shouldn't have put themselves forth as experts both when he was against them and now when he is for them.
 

monovillage

Diamond Member
Jul 3, 2008
8,445
0
0
People who don't even know the basic facts about something like GMO's shouldn't have put themselves forth as experts both when he was against them and now when he is for them.
Absolutely true, including his 3 apocalyptic books on Catastrophic Global Warming. Oh wait!
That's different! derp a derp a derp.
 

Matt1970

Lifer
Mar 19, 2007
12,321
2
0
^^ Going by techs posts and especially his sig it's clear you are not allowed to change your mind despite all the facts in the world.
 

nehalem256

Lifer
Apr 13, 2012
15,670
6
0
I don't have a problem with labeling, but the anti-GMO nuts have largely succeeded in branding GMO as a scary thing, so putting a label on foods will help to further drive a spike into the distribution of GMO foods.
I have a problem with labeling because the whole point in labeling is to wrongly imply that there is something wrong with GMO foods.

EDIT: It is essentially no different than the Creationists who want to stick a special "The theory of evolution is a theory" sticker on all biology textbooks.
 

cwjerome

Diamond Member
Sep 30, 2004
4,294
0
76
The GM debate has been far worse than the global warming debate. Global warming has a million fuzzy edges and may or may not be doing this and may or may not be the cause of this and may or may not impact this, etc etc... while GM the evidence is here and now and clear and we know exactly what we face and we know exactly the impact, short and long term. The anti-GM crowd is the most anti-environmental and pro-starvation people on the planet. Kudos to this guy. Despite the sketchy actions of a company or two, he sees that the concept of GM foods and seed has amazing potential and our best hope for a bright future.
 

CottonRabbit

Golden Member
Apr 28, 2005
1,026
0
0
Great speech. It's amazing how people with scientific backgrounds can be anti-GM for reasons that have are plainly untrue or unsubstantiated.
 

Texashiker

Lifer
Dec 18, 2010
18,812
192
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Great speech. It's amazing how people with scientific backgrounds can be anti-GM for reasons that have are plainly untrue or unsubstantiated.
untrue or unsubstantiated, such as articles like this?

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57517377-10391704/study-says-genetically-modified-corn-causes-tumors-but-other-scientists-skeptical-about-research/

And we wonder why people are anti-GMO?

Then there are the strong handed tactics monsato uses. Why cant GMO foods be labeled?

monsanto adds fuel to the fire by filing lawsuits to restrict food labeling, and filing lawsuits over cross pollination in nearby fields,,, and so on.
 
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DrPizza

Administrator Elite Member Goat Whisperer
Administrator
Mar 5, 2001
49,619
162
111
www.slatebrookfarm.com
The GM debate has been far worse than the global warming debate. Global warming has a million fuzzy edges and may or may not be doing this and may or may not be the cause of this and may or may not impact this, etc etc... while GM the evidence is here and now and clear and we know exactly what we face and we know exactly the impact, short and long term. The anti-GM crowd is the most anti-environmental and pro-starvation people on the planet. Kudos to this guy. Despite the sketchy actions of a company or two, he sees that the concept of GM foods and seed has amazing potential and our best hope for a bright future.
"but, but, derp, they sued some farmers. Therefore, using some form of illogic, the conclusion is that GMO foods are evil."
/counterargument from facts.
 

Texashiker

Lifer
Dec 18, 2010
18,812
192
106
"but, but, derp, they sued some farmers. Therefore, using some form of illogic, the conclusion is that GMO foods are evil."
/counterargument from facts.
What is your excuse for monsanto fighting food labeling?

Should people have a basic right to know what we are eating?
 
Dec 10, 2005
20,892
2,338
126
What is your excuse for monsanto fighting food labeling?

Should people have a basic right to know what we are eating?
The people know what they are eating. They need only look at the ingredients list.

In the spirit of P&N and jumping to extremes, we should label everything. I don't want any corn coming from the farm of Joe Schmo in Indiana just because he's a dick.
 

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