Falling on a genetically modified sword

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In the “better late than never” category: A British activist who helped create the movement against genetic engineering technology and genetically modified foods in the 1990s has “discovered science” and realized he was very, very wrong.

Mark Lynas delivered a bombshell address at the Oxford Farming Conference last week, apologizing for how he “assisted in demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.”

He helped to coin the term “frankenfood,” and said the fears fomented by such campaigns “spread like wildfire” and essentially resulted in the banning of GMO food in Europe and much of Asia.  But after a comment on one of his columns in the Guardian in 2008 accused him of being anti-technology (“Are you also opposed to the wheel because because it is marketed by the big auto companies?”), Lynas decided to do a little research. He said he “discovered, 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 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.”

GM food is essential, Lynas says, in helping feed our growing global population. We urge everyone to read Lynas’ talk in full on his blog.

“This piece reads like the ACSH charter,” says ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom. “We deal with this kind of thing daily. Agenda-driven pseudoscience has polluted our collective thought processes so thoroughly that it is impossible for the average person to tell what is scientifically valid anymore. I have to give Lynas a load of credit: It must have been quite difficult to question and then refute his previous position on this issue.”

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