‘I was wrong about GMOs,’ environmentalist tells UK conference

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Perhaps nothing is more telling about one’s intellect and character than changing one’s mind.

After all, changing your mind about something suggests you have given it thought and that maybe, just maybe, your first thoughts were incorrect.

Mark Lynas has given a lot of thought to genetically modified (GMO) corn. And he’s changed his mind.

Lynas, author of three books, including  Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, is generally recognized as one of the founders of the anti-GMO movement in the mid-1990s and a vocal critic of GM technology. He now says he was wrong.

Last week at the Oxford Farming Conference in the United Kingdom, Lynas delivered remarks that began with an astonishing apology

“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 demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment,” Lynas said.

“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 all 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.”

That’s a startling admission from one who is at least partially responsible for many countries either banning or squelching GMO production and research. Unfortunately, the backlash against Lynas has been predictable. His website was crashed with comments from around the globe, mostly from critics. In short, he went from a founding father of the anti-GMO movement to a Benedict Arnold.

But that’s just a knee-jerk reaction from those who fail to read beyond the headlines of Lynas' apology. Certainly no one with Lynas' credentials and commitment to a cause as important as environmental activism would make such a reversal in ideology without careful consideration. Indeed, Lynas’ mind was changed by studying the facts about GMO and accepting the science. Here’s what he said:

“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.”

Lynas’ embrace of peer-reviewed science is heartening for those of us hoping for a more logical and less emotional debate about agriculture on this side of the Atlantic.

“The GM debate is over,” Lynas said. “It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe…You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food.”

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Gabriel Calderon    
Hermiston  |  January, 09, 2013 at 09:29 AM

This guy and his affiliated organizations are not liable for all the damage they did over the years?...just a silly question.

NM  |  January, 09, 2013 at 11:07 AM

It goes to show, everyone has their price $$$$$$$

John Stenger    
West Virginia  |  January, 09, 2013 at 12:47 PM

This guy lynas is a lacky for Monsanto and Corporate agriculture. He is not a scientists and he is paid to promote the most blatent LIES. This guy is a nut case for global warming. He is a self promoting opportunist and a fraud. John

Dan Volker    
Lake Worth, fl  |  January, 09, 2013 at 01:01 PM

Greg, The story reads like an advertorial. For this story and this Lynas guy to have ANY credibility, there needs to be actual reference to the SCIENCE that he sees as having changed from what HE THOUGHT the science was a decade ago. Why do stories like this get printed on Drovers/Cattlenework.... I assume many people visit here hoping to get the "real story", somthing impossible to glean from the "Entertainment sources" like the National TV News Networks.... Here you have a audience that has the interest, and the ability, to follow a real scientific issue..not at a 7th grade level like the National News, but at a college level. How about writing the story over again, and this time include the events and the references, and the studies that supposedly made this "Environmentalist" change his mind....And please include some "vetting" to determine if he is being paid by Monsanto or similar interests, to have such an Epiphany.

D W Masterson    
Berkley, CA  |  January, 09, 2013 at 06:17 PM

Gee look at the Link in the story http://www.ofc.org.uk/files/ofc/papers/mark-lynas-lecture-oxford-farming-conference.pdf Then open your minds and let in some knowledge. He has got me doing my own research as well, the more I find out from real scientific resources the more I agree with his conclusion.

Texas  |  January, 09, 2013 at 08:25 PM

DW, you are from Berkley. Your weirdo world view isn't welcome, much less believable.

Dieter Harle    
Bettendorf, IA 52722-6100  |  January, 10, 2013 at 10:50 AM

It is amazing that this scientist quotes in your report only his reading of scientific evidence. Wonder if he read also what has been brewing with much less support on side effects in these United States of America and Europe or for that matter also in India and globally by caring people. Watch what you are feeding your animals and your family, observe and compare and notice while crediting your "management improvements" (and the increased expense of "band-aids"). Then look for some of the "economical reasoning" justification for unexpected and or "questionably explained" answers why bad things still happen to good people and animals!

Dr. Don    
USA  |  January, 10, 2013 at 09:14 PM

This is just more propaganda - to the detriment of pork producers and consumers everywhere. Peer-reviewed SCIENCE does not support Lynas new conversion to the GMO 'religion'!

pa  |  January, 12, 2013 at 09:23 AM

It takes #@&&* to go on the record to admit an err in ideology after so publicly opposing such an emotional hot topic. I respect that. I would like to see the science he refers to referenced and rule out his reversal in ideology to financial compensation as well - just to be sure we are not listening to another Al Gore hypocrite, however, what he says is true. The science that I reviewed supports everything he has admitted and I have not seen peer reviewed objective scientific data that supports the anti-GMO claims. How long do we have to disapprove something that does not exist before the technology will become acceptable? That question was posed to me by a UK dairy farmer at an international ag leaders syposium 2 years ago. I didn't have an answer then and I don't now. Maybe someone from the anti-GMO crowd can provide us an answer?

Woodstock  |  January, 21, 2013 at 02:12 PM

The problem with GMO crops is not the yield, but the negative impact on the health of the people ingesting them. The countries that don't use them have less illnesses. People that ingest them have a higher incidence of the flu , pneumonia etc. This has been documented. You can't manipulate DNA without consequences.

USA  |  July, 24, 2013 at 08:45 PM

His life and wife have probably been threatened. It's not like it has happened before. Of course no one would admit it.

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