A founder of the anti-GM food movement on how he got it wrong

Mark Lynas in conversation with Charlie Gillis

 

A founder of the anti-GM food movement explains how he got it wrong—all wrong

Photographs by Randy Quan

Mark Lynas used to be the kind of fire-breathing activist who sneaked onto test farms and destroyed genetically modified (GM) crops. Today, he’s one of Britain’s most respected science writers and an influential voice in the battle against climate change—winner of a coveted Royal Society Prize for his 2008 book, Six Degrees. In January, Lynas sent shockwaves through environmental circles by publicly apologizing for his role in launching the anti-GM movement. (GM is also referred to as to GMO, for “genetically modified organisms.”) “The GM debate is over,” he told Oxford University’s annual farming conference. “Three trillion meals eaten and there has never been a single substantiated case of harm.” Video of his speech went viral, and he’s been living with the backlash ever since.

Q: You’ve disavowed a cause you were identified with for decades. How are you feeling about your decision?

A: It’s been traumatic, but it’s also been something of a liberation. I’ve obviously been inconsistent in my life, but so are we all. In my view, it’s better to be inconsistent and half-right, than to be consistently wrong. Even the pope doesn’t claim these days to be infallible, yet that’s what most environmental groups do.

Q: Still, you’ve offended your former allies, a lot of whom are now trying to discredit you. Some say you exaggerated your part in founding the anti-GM movement to start with. What’s that been like on a personal level?

A: My whole social scene has been characterized by my environmentalism. I’m in a situation where I can go to a party and I don’t know who’s currently not speaking to me.

Q: On Twitter, Vandana Shiva, a prominent environmentalist in India, likened your calls for farmers to be able to plant GMOs to saying rapists should have the freedom to rape.

A: That was simply astonishing, and frankly, hurtful to people who have actually suffered the trauma of rape. Look, these attacks on me are obviously done in the interests of damage limitation. It’s sort of an emperor’s-new-clothes thing. I have helped expose the fact most people’s concerns about GM foods are based on mythology. Once you can get past the idea that there’s something inherently dangerous about GM foods, it’s a whole different conversation. We actually can tell whether GM foods are safe. They have been extensively tested hundreds and hundreds of times, using different techniques. Many of the tests were conducted independently. The jury is entirely in on this issue.

Q: Why did you choose this time and place to make your mea culpa?

A: I live in Oxford and I was invited. It wasn’t choreographed or preplanned in any way. I just got some ideas together and was asked to speak in a slot that emphasizes some freedom of thought and is meant to be provocative. It wasn’t as if I had a road-to-Damascus conversion, either. I have been developing these themes for several years, and I think this caught media headlines around the world because people [outside the U.K.] hadn’t heard of me before.

Q: You say this wasn’t an epiphany. Describe the intellectual and moral process that brought you to this point.

A: The process was really about familiarizing myself with the scientific evidence, and in fact, with an evidence-based world view in general. I got to that point by becoming less an environmental activist and more of a science writer through my work on climate change and having written two books on global warming. I’d been involved in countless debates with climate skeptics where I would be saying scientific evidence has to be the gold standard. Well, you don’t have to be a complete genius to figure out that scientific evidence is not with the anti-GM lobby. There is this mischaracterization of science, a sort of circular myth-building, at the heart of the anti-GMO cant.

Q: People are going to ask, though: if you admit you were massaging the truth then, how do we know you’re not massaging it now?

A. What I’ve done is difficult, and it’s why so few political leaders ever admit making a U-turn. They need to build up an aura of invincibility, and people’s belief in other people as leaders depends on this mirage. Fortunately that’s not something I’m interested in. This isn’t about me. It’s about the evidence and the truth.

Q. You argue that opposing GMOs is actually anti-environmental.

A. That was the realization that changed my mind. That recombinant DNA is actually a potentially very powerful technology for designing crop plants that can help humanity tackle our food-supply shortages, and also reduce our environmental footprint. They can help us use less fertilizer, and dramatically reduce pesticide applications. We can reduce our exposure to climate change through drought and heat-tolerant crops. So the potential is enormous.

Q: But even if one accepts that GMOs pose no threat to human health, is it not reasonable to worry about unintended consequences? If you make a crop that can’t be choked off by other plants, what might be the impact on the crop land or ecology of a given area?

A: It’s not reasonable, because all of those concerns would apply to any crop plant developed by humans—whether it’s done by genetic modification or conventional breeding. What’s so natural about mutagenesis, which creates a higher level of mutation of the genome through exposure to gamma radiation or mutagenic chemicals—then selects the mutations that confer a cultivation advantage? Conventional [plant] breeders have no idea what the impact is on the rest of the genome, or what allergens might have been created, because the results are not tested. They go straight into the food supply.

Q: You draw an interesting parallel between the denialism over global warming and denialism as it relates to GMOs. Both causes had been close to your heart. Did you reach a point where you had to choose between the two?

A: My overall effort has been to try to crash out an environmentalist perspective that is fully supported by evidence where there’s a scientific consensus. It’s interesting: the GM denialism seems to come from the left, and is particularly motivated by an anti-corporate world view; the climate-change denialism tends to come from the right and is motivated by suspicion of government.

Q: It strikes me that this is very much a story about the power of ideology—how it can blind people to the facts.

A: I agree, but you have to look at where the ideology is coming from, and why it’s so powerful and self-supporting. To my mind, anti-GM is a backward-looking, reactionary ideology, where you have a mythological, romanticized view of pre-industrialized agriculture being taken as the ideal. GM is seen as the opposite of that because it’s the epitome of technological and human progress in agriculture. So you have this collision of world views, where people who are fixated on doing things the old way simply cannot accept that you can even understand DNA, let alone work with it precisely and intentionally.

Q. The organic movement has staked a lot to anti-GM. Can it survive if the global public embraces GMOs?

A. The organic movement itself should embrace GM. The best applications of it mean that crops can be entirely pest-resistant by working in harmony with nature, which is after all what the organic movement is supposed to want. I don’t see any a priori reason why the organic movement accepts mutagenic crops and not GM crops. Ultimately it comes down to an aesthetic or even spiritual preference. We’re beyond a conversation where you can employ logic and science.

Q: So how do you think the organic movement should respond?

A: It’s a key test for them. Remember that most of what the organic movement has claimed is not true. Their food is not more nutritious. It’s not better for the environment. It’s not safer for human health. So what is left? You’re paying a premium for foods which, as Nina Fedoroff said on my blog, is a massive scam. That’s the recent board chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science talking.

Q: Maybe it’s just a matter of time before you have a splinter group of organic farmers willing work with GM crops.

A: I don’t know. My father is an organic farmer in north Wales and has been asking the Soil Association, the U.K.’s organic certification body, why he can’t grow a blight-resistant GM potato. It wouldn’t need to be sprayed with fungicide, and he could grow potatoes in wet years and not lose the entire crop. They can’t come up with any logical reason why.

Q: Do you eat organic food?

A: I try to avoid it, but my wife keeps buying it.

Q. Why do you avoid it?

A. Partly through bloody-mindedness. Partly because I object to paying more for something that is worse for the environment. And partly because I was shocked about the food contamination and health impacts—you know, the E.coli outbreak in Germany in 2011. I wouldn’t eat organic bean sprouts without giving them a thorough boiling.

Q. It would be easy for you to become a poster boy for genetically modified agriculture.

A. I’m no one’s poster boy, and I’m very careful about distinguishing myself from any industry lobbies. I don’t even speak on the same panels as industry people. For me this is a much wider struggle to reconcile environmentalism, which has so much good about it, with the reality of scientific evidence.




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A founder of the anti-GM food movement on how he got it wrong

  1. Great interview.

    • Beware of people who changes their minds like that, I can smell $$$$$…..

      • Or perhaps they are simply exposed to new information.

        That’s kinda how “reason” works.

  2. If he’s staking out a position that contradicts what he was saying at an earlier stage in his development, then maybe he and Patrick Moore should start corresponding.

  3. It’s always amazed me that the left gets hysterical about GMO, yet understands and accepts climate change…..while the right gets hysterical about climate change, yet goes along with GMO.

    Both are science, both are proven, both are necessary….and all that is different is politics.

    • Climate change is necessary?

      Inevitable it is, but humans will manage pretty well irrespective of changes in climate, especially if we are able to make use of advanced genetic techniques to speed the development of new crops.

      • No, dealing with it is necessary. And it doesn’t involve developing ‘new’ crops.

        If we HAD advanced genetic techniques we could grow gills.

        • It has become more and more evident that our influence on the climate is minimal, or even trivial. Rather than waste staggering amounts of time, energy, and other resources on the AGW panic mongery we need to invest in methods to reduce actual pollutants and in ways to make our lives better.

          • You can repeat your nonsense as many times as you want, but it doesn’t change reality Glynn.

            I know one has to pry open your change purse with a crow bar, and moths fly out…..but stop kidding yourself. It’s a very serious problem, and it has to be fixed, and it’s going to cost money. Get used to it.

          • The currently observed warming rate of zero degrees per decade is hardly a “serious problem”.

          • Not interested in talking to liars….sorry. Ciao

          • Glynn, you say that there is not global warming problem but what would your response be to ships travelling through the summer months if that was to happen in the next decade in the north pole? Currently there is travel but my understanding that is not done on a regular basis. What is the evidence that would change your mind that because of climate change the result would be global warming in the summer.

    • I’m a leftist that supports both climate change and GMO, Anything that pushes science forward and betters mankind on a whole.

      • Great! There is a huge political divide on it in the US, and yet it’s all science.

      • So you support climate change? I have met many nuts who think we should destroy ourselves economically before climate change does it for us. I have met many people who understand that climate change is a money grab, but never met anyone who actually supports it.

    • Ideology. Because of ideology.

  4. one of Britain’s most respected science writers and an influential voice in the battle against climate change

    from one farce to another.

  5. He is a sellout and he is intellectually dishonest.

    “That was the realization that changed my mind. That recombinant DNA is actually a potentially very powerful technology for designing crop plants that can help humanity tackle our food-supply shortages, and also reduce our environmental footprint. They can help us use less fertilizer, and dramatically reduce pesticide applications. We can reduce our exposure to climate change through drought and heat-tolerant crops. So the potential is enormous.”

    Meanwhile, the evidence betrays the lie. GMOs require more fertlizers and pesticides. They have not reduced hunger, The problem of hunger is money. People can’t afford to eat. GMOs reduce biodiversity. Forests, which do mitigate against climate change, are being cut for GMO crops.

    Follow the money. Who pays him to speak?

    • That’s systematic, Marks always gets accused of being a sell out. If GMO don’t work, why do you think Indian farmers have massively stolen seeds to use them without paying Monsanto ? They have reduced hunger in Indian, certainly not removed it completely but there’s no silver bullet, GMO help a bit, but don’t do miracle.

      About pesticides resistance, that starts to appear, that’s true, but it didn’t happen faster than when using non GMO seeds. Should we give-up on using antibiotics, because there’s a risk one day the germs will adapt to them ? Just like for antibiotics, they are techniques to lower the risk of weeds growing a resistance.

      • It’s more about how the GMO’s, lead by Monsanto, Dupont, etc., have gone about manipulating the market that’s in question. The intimidation, the lawsuits, the harassment of poor independant farmers, seed cleaners, and grain handlers, not wanting to buy into what the ‘unintended consequences’ might be from using them, that’s at play in all this. The food chain has been contaminated with the residual effects from the use of sub therapeutic antibiotics and genetically altered plants for some time now. Do a comprehensive blood check and you’ll find that you’re endocrine system is just as poisoned as the soil that grows the crops and livestock that we harvest and process for consumption. You are what you eat.

      • Just a thought, how India has reached 1.3 bill population if they had lack of food.

        • There still are enough rural farmers in India to supply the urban centers with foodstocks, what they are in desperate need of is water.

    • There is one more issue with all of this… Where ever people plan GMO crops and seeds there is nothing that can grow there anymore… Due to pesticides and so called fertilizers that are being used, only crop that can grow there is in fact their own man made garbage that is causing more issues and diseases than its “helping”. Sad to say money hungry individuals are killing everything good in this world… Nature has given us everything we need to cure I really mean cure us of diseases but problem with that is cannot patten nature grown cures… Plus a healthy person will not spend money on medication…

      • “Where ever people plan (which I’m guessing is suppose to be plant) GMO crop and seeds there is nothing that can grow there anymore” WOW where do you get your information from? Have you ever heard of wheat? oats? hay? barley? conventional soybeans? none of these crops are genetically modified and a typical crop rotation has all of these crop being grown on the same ground that previously grew corn (of which 90% of the corn acres grown are GM) If what you say is true then once a farmer planted corn that field would be stuck in corn or GM soys forever, which is not the case. Pick a field and watch what gets planted in it for the next 5 years, you’ll prove yourself wrong.

      • The telling part of the anti-GM side is that the majority of them will agree with everything you wrote because they don’t know enough to realize that not one word of it is true.

  6. Now he just has to come to the same realization for the ‘climate change’ fear-mongery.

    With no sign of a return to the halcyon days of rapid temperature increases typical of the late 20th century, more and more people of the 21st century are waking up to the fact that CO2 has never been the Great Boogeyman it has been made out to be.

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/

    • He’s going with the science….not the denial BS….time for you to do the same..

      • The observations are telling us that the globe is not warming.

        That’s actual science. look to the observations rather than the models and assumptions.

        • Then observe the Arctic….which is melting.

          The science….real science, not your psychic readings….is telling us the globe is warming.

          • Ice is a terribly poor proxy for temperature, especially when we have the instrumental record upon which to rely.

          • No, it’s not. No we aren’t.

            I’m not going to argue this with a denier whackdoodle, sorry.

          • Just look at the observations, and compare them with the predictions made by the AGW theorizing and modeling.

            Prediction:
            http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/ar4-wg1/jpg/fig-10-4.jpg

            Reality:
            http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/global-land-ocean-mntp-anom/201101-201112.png

            In Science, actual Science, theories are tested against their predictions.

            When the predictions FAIL, theories are normally revised, re-evaluated, reconsidered, re-examined, recalculated, or just plain re-jected.

            The only forces keeping the AGW alarmism theory from being abandoned are those of political correctness.

          • Your link clearly shows that the warming of the late 20th century has stopped.

          • We aren’t IN the 20th century

            And whackdoodle friends won’t help.

            Dismissed.

          • Yeah, and we also do not have that 20th century warming rate.

            We’re now in the 21st century, and the warming rate is statistically indistinguishable from zero.

          • No, sorry.

            Now either stop being a whackdoodle….or stop posting me. I’m not interested in talking to Luddites.

            Ciao.

          • GlynnMhor, I think that EmilyOne invested her RRSP in GMO businesses. She can’t bare with the loss :-)

          • Don’t have an RRSP, don’t invest in businesses…..and GMO refers to Genetically Modified Organisms which has nothing whatever to do with climate change.

            Your ‘scientific opinions’ are as worthless as Glynns

          • EmilyOne, Please spend some time learning about HAAR systems and also if you want to hear different opinions about GMO, please watch the movie Genetic roulette on YouTube. Once you are finished watching we can discuss about your and my ‘scientific opinions. All I can say about Mark Lynas is that I feel sorry for him. He is probably in a very tough situation. I never heard about Einstein denying his Theory of relativity.

          • I’m not discussing GMO with you, as you have no idea what we’re even talking about. Human beings have been modifying organisms since day one.

          • You probably count day one when you were born, not long ago :-)

          • Now I get it. You hgye recently graduated and can’t find job in this field :-)

          • HebrewNot and Guest…..

            We need some kind of organization for the anti-fluoride people, the anti-wifi people, the anti-climate change people, the anti-vaccine people, the anti-evolution people, the anti-GM people etc…..so you can all hold meetings and be wacko together.

            Wait…I know. We can call it the Flat Earth Society!

          • You can be a member of the cancer club, how’s that? Gotta love the ad hominem attacks.

          • What would be useful is if we learned how to cure it, instead of stupid people blaming it on stupid things.

          • Yes, because why prevent it when we can pay Big Pharma for a drug to fix it right? We already do know how to cure it (Google Rick Simpson, Charlotte Gerson, Royal Rife if you dare!!!), but you’re have so much blind faith in the same institutions that have been screwing you over since the day you were born you won’t let yourself believe it. And I’m done with you, I can’t believe I’ve invested this much time in arguing with what might as well be a child.

          • Why do you want to take drugs?

            What makes you think I do?

            You’ve spent your time here on ideology, and not on science…..so if this is the end of you, I’m very happy.

          • Yep, its the end of me Emily, you won. I finally decided to abondon my foolish desire for reasoned debate and common sense. Where should I send your gold star?

          • I don’t ‘debate’ things that are already accepted science….it’s not a matter of opinion ya know.

            The anti-GMO people are the same as the climate-deniers and I don’t waste time on brick walls.

          • Keep on keepin’ on Emily.

          • You speak as if science was something defined, not changing. It’s not a cult. Science is based on theory backed by facts. If facts changes… so does science.
            Science is not about belief or opinions. It has no political agenda.

          • Science m’dear is knowledge, and the pursuit thereof I didn’t make it political, the deniers did.

          • Science is based on facts….not belief or opinions. And it has no political agenda.

            Yup, I’ve said that for years.

          • @GlynnMhor, if you would just look at the time scale on those two graphs, you would see that they are completely consistent with each other. Almost bizarrely consistent if you look at the A2 model which is the only one you can see clearly at such a small time scale.

          • The models predict a warming rate of some 0.17 degrees per decade.

            The observations show zero.

            That’s completely different.

          • No amount of insults and name-calling is going to change the realities, nor will it bring back the global warming for which you alarmists are pining.

          • Funny, I just read the other day that it is pointless to argue with the self-righteous. EmilyOne, check out what GlynMhor is saying before you do the whoa, whoa, whackadoodle, eye roll thingy. Ten thousand years ago Nova Scotia was covered in twenty feet of ice. Whose CO2 emissions melted that?

          • Yawn.

          • Pointless as it is, I’ll still point out that you are not just self-righteous, you are also narrow-minded and a bit rude.

          • ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

          • Emilyone; looking for love in all the wrong places. LOL

          • ok, it is true

          • You’re right, @disqus_F9het8aj0w:disqus , we should use the instrumental record when possible. The instrumental record clearly shows warming. This nonsense about “no warming for the last 16 years” is grossly misleading and relies on the especially warm 1998 and complete ignorance of anything before. Zoom out on the graph and the picture is clear. 8 of the 10 warmest years on record were in the last 10 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_temperature_record#Warmest_years http://youtu.be/u_0JZRIHFtk

  7. It’s a shame this interview doesn’t hit on the economic question of GMO, of patents, cross polination, fertilisation monopolies, and some of the ethical sides away from the ‘purely environmental’ question. I would like to have heard his oint of view on those topics

    • Surely the whole issue is not about GO Good/GMO Bad, or climate change happening/not, but about a rational approach to the science and the evidence. Some GMOs may be bad, some may be good – take them one at a time.

      And on climate change – we know CO2 and other gases absorb outgoing radiation – have known it for 100 years. What we are unsure of is what the short term outcome is – long term if you trap radiation it is difficult to get rid of the heat. So I don’t actually care if the temperature this year is up or down – timescale is too short. However we are either heading into a crisis if all the climate models are right, or if they aren’t we are playing an almighty uncontrolled experiment with the only atmosphere we’ve got. Neither is pretty.

      Our situation is a bit like a guy jumping off the Empire State Building, and as he goes past the thirtieth floor, saying “seems OK so far”. And of course there’s uncertainty about whether he lands head first or feet first but so what. The end result is the same. You wouldn’t get on a plane that had the same risk of crashing as the climate system – so why would you risk an entire planet.

  8. The independent science (as in not paid for by Monsanto or Dupont) has shown that GMO crops are a disaster — they do not produce higher yields, do not require less fertilizer, Roundup pesticide drift is causing cancer and the destruction of non-GMO crops. At first they claimed Roundup was biodegradable — oops! Not so.
    GMOs cause grotesque tumors in rats fed the stuff for more than a few weeks… Now they’ve created mutant vegetables that produce their own pesticide. Who in their right mind wants to consume pesticides, never mind the prospect that it’s a gift that keeps on giving inside the body?
    Over 80% of consumers don’t want to eat GMO crap and want it labelled so they can avoid it. Monsanto is fighting tooth and nail to prevent GMO labelling. They have the nerve to sue farmers whose fields their products have contaminated for patent infringement.
    Welcome to the 21st century. The status quo used to claim they had “god” on their side. Now it’s supposedly “science”.

    • Can you quote sources for this ‘independent science’?
      I fear you are simply perpetuating rumours without any concrete facts. I suggest you look for valid scientific sources for your claims before you tout them as facts. These simply are not true.

      • I’m sure you can find them for yourself as by now they’re so widely referenced as to be common knowledge.

        • It was “common knowledge” that the earth was the centre of the universe and that heavier things fall faster than slow things. I’d rather have the citations too, please.

          • It would be nice if the person interviewed supplied citations for his views, but he doesn’t. If you agree with him, then suppose you supply citations to support him (that don’t come from Monsanto or Dupont).

      • lauriej NEVER provides sources. She is also a vaccine hater.

  9. The reason why I buy organic food is because I don’t want to eat pesticides and herbicides, not because I have a problem with GMOs (beyond some of the insane legal issues around patents and companies like Monsanto suing farmers, etc.). That said, I’ve done some research on what foods have higher or lower concentrations, and I only buy organic in the case of the former.

    • The vast majority of plants produce their own pesticides and herbicides in order to boost their survivability.

      Just because they’re natural doesn’t make them any more wholesome.

      • Dead wrong. Plants do not produce any non-biodegradeable toxins. And the plants we eat, for food (i.e. non-poisonous ones) are certainly wholesome. That’s why we’ve been eating them for thousands of years with no ill effects. Comer on.

  10. A lot of hooplah about what GM can do for food.
    Very little about what it actually does.

    Sure, it can reduce the need to use pesticides. In practice, however, what it does is allow for greater pesticide use.

    Sure, it can be used to address food supply issues. In practice, however, what it does is it’s used to control food supply — by specifically requiring farmers to purchase seed every year instead of being able to keep crop for seed.

    Also, he rather seems to dodge the point about organic food when it comes to the unintended consequences law — arguing that we shouldn’t worry about it for GM foods because it’s fine to use radiation or chemical mutagens to modify organic foods as well. However, I would be willing to place a large wager that if you actually asked people who are against GM foods, and in favor of organic ones whether those mutagenic practices were okay, 90% or more would tell you “Hell no!” That the practice is done in organic farming doesn’t make it right, so the argument about unintended consequences stands… and apparently stands unanswered. At least in this interview.

    I mean, I’m with him in that blind rejection of GMO foods isn’t the right way to go. Yeah, I get squeamish when I hear about fish DNA mixed into my tomatoes, but that’s just the hind-brain talking. Still, blind acceptance, which is what he seems to be advocating now, is no better.

  11. I’m surprised to see Macleans give this self interested pathological liar so much coverage. His talking points are taken straight from the GMO PR book. Heard them a thousand times but it still doesn’t make them true.
    The fact is that the few GM crops with resistance to pests have worked initially but then resistance builds up quickly in insects and weeds resulting in an ever increasing amount of toxic agricultural chemicals needed to grow the GM crop. This of course makes sense if you know the industry, because GM crops and chemical inputs are manufactured by the very same companies resulting in increased profit.
    But even if we ignore all the health and environmental concerns we ought to ask ourselves if it can be in the best interest of food security to have 3 international companies patent and control the majority of our food producing plants.
    As a farmer I have never seen a benefit (environmental nor economical) with GM crops. The opposite has been the case: I have to worry about unwanted GMO contamination, mega corporations trying to stop me from saving my own seed and of course spending time an energy to reply to misinformation spread by the likes of “Mark Lynas”. May he eat a lot of GM food so that the rest of us will not have to stomach it for much longer.

    • You eat GMO everyday. You have done so all your life.

      • Emily, you must be assuming this farmer is under the age of 17, because GMO crops weren’t produced commerically until 1996. I realize you can be rather dense, but please don’t tell me you’re still confusing a transgenic organism with one that has arisen from selective breeding. There is a world of difference.

          • From the first GD line of your source:

            “Human directed genetic modification has been occurring since we first domesticated organisms in 12 000 BC. GENETIC ENGINEERING (emphasis mine) as the direct transfer of DNA from one organism to another was first accomplished by Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen in 1973.”

            And, as I said, was first planted commerically in 1996.

            You are getting into semantics over the definition of GMO, when the accepted meaning in terms of the argument about our food supply is an organism that has had its DNA directly engineered in a lab by inserting DNA from another species. This is not an acceleration of traditional selective breeding as some with diminished mental capacity have argued – it could never happen in nature if we wait for thousands of years.

            In nature only very closely related animals can be crossed to produce viable offspring. Something so superficially similar as a donkey and a horse cannot produce a viable offspring (a mule, which is sterile). If you want to argue for GMOs in the food supply that’s fine, but please don’t be intellectually dishonest and play games with semantics. Given your posting history, I have a feeling you do know the difference and are just being difficult.

          • Yup….guesswork is okay with you, but accurate knowledge isn’t?

            Focus dude….we don’t go by ‘nature’….or people would still be dying in caves at 20

          • I don’t think you have processed the comment written by Ontario Farmer yet.
            The issue is not even on the GMO themselves but on patents, contamination and corporations going after independent farmers to force them to use their products.

  12. Would have love to know what the test said about GM foods? Who paid for the research who reviewed it? The article would have been better if the interviewer had asked for those references. For now it is just makes me wonder if this is a PR campaign for big agricultural companies.

  13. One can judge from the language of the anti-gm responses that science does not play a role in their opinion forming process. For example “GM crops use more fertilizer”. That can be true in absolute terms but if you ask a couple of follow up questions you quickly come to the conclusion that at the same time it is producing more product. For example conventional canola has a Nitrogen use efficiency of roughly 3.8 lbs/bu where as where as GM canola is closer to 3.2 lb/bu. The water use efficiencies improvements follow roughly the same increases. I deliberately used enough jargon to weed out the posers, so if you can’t figure it out try reading academic papers instead of propoganda published by Rodale. The rat cancer study was conducted on rats genetically altered to express cancer, and the only thing worse than the statistical analysis in that study was procedure quickly followed by the blatten bias and misinformation of the conclusion. As for global warming, does that term even get used anymore, water is the most prevalent green house gas and many land use practice has greatly more significant impact on CO2 emissions. Such practices include tillage which is a cornerstone in organic crop production.

  14. This article is weak (as an analytic piece) for the same reason many mainstream news/interviews fail. The content is limited – it neither cites any studies, nor approaches some of the contextual elements relevant to understanding GMOs not only as products for human and animal consumption, but as a key economic / political “game piece.” It maintains a simplistic and misleading “bad” vs. “good” analysis rather than, at minimum, breaking it into “bad in this way” but “good in these ways” points – there’s little discrimination within the issue – it’s actually a journalistic “low hanging fruit,” a human interest story, about the emotions associated with changing a public position, but it is wearing the garb of an interview about science. Whether intentionally or not, the interviewer and thus Macleans appear to be putting forward a position on GMOs based on the emotional appeal of a protagonist who has changed his personal viewpoint.

    The article sidesteps the real possibility that there are positive and negative aspects, both of GM foods themselves, and of the regulatory and economic framework in which they function. Journalists (including Charlie) also employ this “bad/good,” framework, often perpetuating positionalism and weak reasoning, rather than approaching the content with curiosity and discernment. I personally think it’s lazy journalism, and wouldn’t pay for it.

    Blanket “good/bad, right/left” analysis is superficial and it allows people in positions of power to swim on the surface during public policy discussions, not really take on the hard, nuanced, policy aspects of decision making.

    I am generally against GMOs, and definitely against the continued refusal to label them so consumers have the option to choose with their conscience (for whatever reason they choose, even irrational ones, or ones unproven by science – frankly, to force people to eat things, anything, is authoritarian. I may not agree that God wants us not to eat pork, but I certainly wouldn’t ask someone to eat it if it offended their beliefs).

    I think, based on what I have read, that there may be serious human health implications from GMOs. However, it’s true that our evidence is limited – in fact, this is one of the most troubling aspects of GMOs – there are very few independent studies because regulatory agencies use data provided by the producers, leaving few replications of tests and ample room to hide results. One source for studies citing health and other risks, produced before 2006 is the book “Genetic Roulette” by Jeffrey Smith. Another interesting point, raised in an article I read in 2006 (I forget which journal, it was peer-reviewed) is that we actually don’t have the ability to create scientific tests relevant to the potential risks we have created – for example, second generation effects of rBGH. I think the study by Árpád Pusztai in the Lancet which found direct and intergenerational impacts negative health impacts on rats fed GM potatoes is significant (I also note that Mark Lynas is now employed by the Royal Society, which is the organization that turfed Pustai (and his wife) when he publically discussed his study results – so its known this organization is hostile to negative findings). I am also surprised that, working in Britain, Lynas would claim no health impacts when there have been published studies linking the rapid increase in soy allergies in the UK to the introduction of GM soy – perhaps this is still open to scientific debate, but it is worth exploring, I think.

    I also think the new evidence that RoundUp causes spontaneous abortion in mammals is of extreme concern. Even if the GMO doesn’t, say, produce new proteins with unknown allergenic effects, RoundUp is a nightmare pesticide, and the creation of super strains of bacteria and insects from it’s overuse is a serious hazard, isn’t it?

    I think if you wanted to make the argument that with three trillion meals eaten and there’s no substantiated cases of harm, you’d have to at least provide credible analysis to show that the epidemic of diet related illness (illnesses which can often be ameliorated with dietary changes) – cancer, mental health issues, diabetes, etc., etc.,) could not be related to GM food. I can think of at least one example which clearly invalidates Lynas’ assertion, and that is aspartame. Aspartame is created using genetically modified bacteria, and it is one the leading cause of complaints to the US FDA and within the last two weeks has been scientifically linked to type 2 diabetes, which comes as no surprise to people who have read outsider criticisms of this toxic substance – it’s just that it took a long time for anyone to actually risk proving what many widely suspected, because it has already been approved by the FDA and sold to hundreds of millions of people…ouch.

    On another note, the interviewer confuses food production, and access, as roots of hunger. There is little problem producing enough food – hunger is very much an economic issue, which has to do with prices and access. This failure to differentiate this alone suggests he doesn’t know a lot about food security as a field of study…neither does he address the issue of regulation based on company submitted data, when there are with a number of public known examples of fraud, and worse, serious criticisms from whistle blowers who challenge the politicization of science and health regulation.

    Maybe many GM foods are safe. Maybe many others are not. This article isn’t helping.

    Maybe I have written too much :)

    Anyway, suffice to say, I think it’s a really weak piece of journalism. I think there are probably significant reasons why Lynas might have changed his opinion, but the interviewer doesn’t ask much to help us understand Lynas own story, let alone anything about the safety and other considerations regarding GMOs.

    • Questions about Thoughts. Is there even GM soy in Britain? Last I heard there were still no GMOs there. I agree that much of the world’s hunger is related to economics. Maybe all western countries should put hefty taxes on iPads, cars, big homes and other discretionary spending and ship that cash to those who can’t afford to feed themselves elsewhere in the world. Regarding GMO labelling, how can we label products based on philosophy? Until GM ingredients are shown to be different from non-GM ones what is the basis for discriminaton? I often wonder why we only villify Monsanto and DuPont for funding research. Do Whole Foods and the organic establishment not have a vested economic interest in anti GM research? Most importantly it is easy to find correlations between health factors in our complex world but much more difficult to arrive at firm conclusions without sound independent study. Unfortunately there aren’t many funding options for the academics that don’t have at least the perception of strings attached.

      • Spelt isn’t much different than Kamut, so why don’t they just put “assorted grains” on the ingredients label? If GM soy weren’t any different that non-GM soy, how did they get a patent for it?

        Whole Foods does not have a patent of grocery stores. We villify Monsanto because they hold patents for their GM seeds, thus have zero competition in the marketplace. We also villify them because they have left a wake of chemical and economic destruction around the world for about a century. Talk about weak reasoning.

  15. Medical Documentary on Genetically Modified Foods:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZVRrbyGtos

    How the FDA ignored the recommendations of its own scientists AGAINST GMO’s due to safety concerns thanks to Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former lawyer and vice president…
    Yes, you’re eating pesticides folks, and they’re making us sick.

  16. and millions of people cannot digest the gmo wheats

    • There is no GMO wheat on the market yet. Today’s wheat is the result of conventional breeding techniques, with increased yield being the only goal. Yield, yield, yield, money, money, money. We have to get back to family farms as the basis for food production, regardless of what’s being grown (I’m anti-GMO for food, if you haven’t read my other posts).

      • canola– Genetically modified rapeseed is sometimes referred to as Rapeseed 00(the politically correct term is now canola)

      • Wheat has not been genetically modified, but it’s been “hybridized”,
        According to cardiologist dr.williams. He has written the book “wheat kills”. I invite you to check it out

  17. It takes a lot of courage to change one’s mind well done
    fall out inevitable I want to grow potatoes in water logged soil any ideas

    • Add sand…lots of sand to your soil, as well as some compost. You can change your soil’s composition. Also, is your plot in a low-lying spot? Maybe you can do something about the drainage situation…change the slope of something that is draining into it.

  18. Lynas has lost his marbles, his “turnaround” requires such cognitive dissonance its staggering.

    “They can help us use less fertilizer, and dramatically reduce pesticide applications.”

    Sure they can, but as long as Monsanto, is in charge of selling the seeds and the fertilizer and the pesticides, what do you think that chances of that are Mark? Monsanto is not a charity. Seeing the answer to this question only takes the critical thinking capacity of a 10 year old. Do people not find it disturbing that the same companies (Monsanto and Dow) that created Agent Orange, PCBs, and other deadly chemicals once deemed safe, but whose continued application and residue are wreaking havoc on the health of people and the environment around the world, are now claiming to have the solution to feeding the world’s hungry?

    “Partly because I object to paying more for something (organic food) that is worse for the environment.”

    I would seriously love to see the mental gymnastics required to defend this position. Food that is grown in mixed farming operations based on the focus of building soil, adding organic matter and improving soil health is somehow worse for the environment than monocrops do nothing but deplete soil, and require irrigation, herbicides and massive amounts of fertilizer? Seriously? This is talk of the clinically insane, not a scientist. The last gasps of the “better living through chemistry” corporate whores are becoming so desperate its sad.

    “Their food is not more nutritious.”

    This is a lie, regardless of what one industry-funded Stanford study “proved”, and doesn’t even make sense. Plants need more than N, P and K to be healthy, just like we need more than protein, carbs and fat. To suggest that crops grown on soil that has only ever had nitrogen added to it (as is the case of corn – they use liquid ammonia derived from petroleum), depleting it of every essential micronutrient (magnesium, calcium, selenium, zinc, beneficial bacteria, fungi and mycorrhizae) can grow a plant that’s as fully nutritious as one grown on living, complete soil is utter foolishness.

    As for his comment about organic sprouts, that’s what happens when corporations only looking out for their bottom line get involved in organic food production. Corners get cut, and people suffer. Corporations are good at making people suffer.

    Look, GM-technology can be a good thing. I think goats with the spider gene, whose milk can be spun into synthetic spider silk, could be great. Its very simple to confine these goats so they don’t escape and breed with wild populations, and their milk isn’t for human or animal consumption. Pollen on the other hand is impossible to contain. If we continue to let GMOs proliferate, future generations will look back on us with as much disdain as we have when we watch videos city workers in the 50′s spraying little kids with DDT on the side of the street. The shortsightedness of humanity will eventually catch up with us.

  19. Sean Hurley is correct. Mark Lynas sounds like a sell-out to the profit-driven, monopolistic gmo industry. Consumer sentiment is overwhelmingly opposed to poisonous, unnatural elements in the food supply or elsewhere in the natural environment. Pope Benedict has renounced adulteration of the natural world–giving it the status of a new sin.

  20. IMHO, Lynas has sold out, which is sad, and is spouting the biochem talking points now (1/ anyone opposing GMO is ‘nonscientific’, and/or 2/ we cannot ‘feed the world’ without GMO, so to oppose it is (pick one–unethical–unpatriotic–etc). However, it is precisely because of the science, the lack of observation of the precautionary principle by the biochem industries, and the questionable ethics by same, worldwide, that I have grave concerns about this technology. I will quote Professor John Vandermeer: ‘Mark Lynas has now discovered science and it is now up to all of us to
    encourage him to continue his education. Some of the things I suspect he will
    find will not sit well with his current handlers, but we can only hope that his
    boyish enthusiasm for science as an ideology, will carry over to a more serious
    study of science’s complications. We can only hope that he is not just one of
    those publicity-seeking conversionistas, well-versed in the politically
    compelling “I once was against X, but now I love it (oh by the way, it makes
    more sense for my bottom line to be for it)”. He has discovered high school
    biology. Now it’s time to go to college.’ Full article at http://www.foodfirst.org/en/GMO+uproar+in+EU

  21. I am unable to find any evidence that Mark Lynas was a “founder” of the anti-GM movement. Genetic Engineering is an infant (and powerful) technology – to say that “the jury is entirely in on this issue” is a political statement, not a scientific one. To a good scientist, the jury is never entirely in on anything.

  22. I also find this article weak. Some questions have not been I am at a loss to understand the point of it. I am not able to make an informed opinion on what has been stated. Is this article a platform in disguise?

  23. Read dr. Williams’ book: “wheat kills” , it’s good info. (Coming from someone who knows what he is talking about)

  24. You mean in order to understand the world you have to remove your ideological filters and strictly deal in facts? Censor this article immediately before Canada becomes a one party system…!

  25. Beware of people who DON’T or WON’T change their minds! Kudos to Mark Lynas for learning and sharing!

  26. Beware.
    This guy.
    Is a paid Monsanto shill.

  27. We don’t know yet if GMO foods harm us. It may take a generation or 2 to find out. Some believe GMO modified grains are responsible for the obesity epidemic we have in North America. As with any scientific progress there are always unintended consequences which are not apparent right away

  28. “Remember that most of what the organic movement has claimed is not true. Their food is not more nutritious. It’s not better for the environment. It’s not safer for human health. ”

    this guy is for real? wtf? that afirmation denies thousands of years of agriculture.

    i rest my case.

  29. Pretty sad if you ask me. Gmo bill gates founding world wide spraying on going geo-enginerring of earth. David keath giving away many to any company who chemtrails earth. Dam

  30. He touches on the fact that no research has been completed opposing GMO’s. No research has been released because of the findings. Every single scientist who published anything lost their job, and was hushed. The studies completed resulted in multiple deaths from eating GMO’s. “Three trillion meals eaten and there has never been a single substantiated case of harm.” This is astounding to read. Look at our children, look at the livestock fed GMO’s, even look at ourselves. Notice any trends with allergies, autism, G.I track infections? Did anyone ever stop to think it might be what we are eating? If they are so proud to say this why not Label GMO’s? ?

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