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Biotech Earth Science Politics

Anti-GMO Activist Recants 758

Freddybear writes "Former anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas, who opposed genetically modified food in the 1990s, said recently, at the Oxford Farming Conference: 'I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologize 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. 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.' To vilify GMOs is to be as anti-science as climate-change deniers, he says. To feed a growing world population (with an exploding middle class demanding more and better-quality food), we must take advantage of all the technology available to us, including GMOs. To insist on 'natural' agriculture and livestock is to doom people to starvation, and there’s no logical reason to prefer the old ways, either. Moreover, the reason why big companies dominate the industry is that anti-GMO activists and policymakers have made it too difficult for small startups to enter the field."
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Anti-GMO Activist Recants

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  • by cpm99352 ( 939350 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:00PM (#42480003)
    Cross contamination & subsequent loss of organic certification isn't an issue then?
    How about Monsanto dragging innocent farmers into court?
  • moving forward I see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:02PM (#42480031)

    To vilify GMOs is to be as anti-science as climate-change deniers, he says.

    Sounds like he has already found someone else to vilify.

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:04PM (#42480067)
    Burgeoning bourgeoisie: For the first time in history more than half the world is middle-class—thanks to rapid growth in emerging countries. John Parker (interviewed here) reports. []
  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:22PM (#42480347)

    A few years ago the closest grocery store to where I was living was a Coop. Which was great in the summer because it was stocked with a lot of fresh stuff from local farmers (it was a rural college town).

    Well one of my biggest sources of income is the family farms I've inherited along with my Dad that we lease out. We're semi involved helping the farmer with trying new methods on our farms trying to boost yields (Rice & Soybeans are the primary crop, some years corn). This is mainly my father as he's retired and it gives him something to do, but as he's gotten up into his 70's I've started to take a more involved role in things.

    One time I was at the Coop and commented about rice and lack of a particular brand that we sold our rice to which led to a conversation with one of the patrons who flipped out when I mentioned we had switched to a new hybrid seed. She went on this total anti-GMO rant at which point there were several people looking on and I said, "I said Hybrid. As in Rice A was bred with Rice B to produce the strain we plant. Farmers have been doing this for centuries now. Pretty much everything in your bag has been Genetically Modified using cross breeding."

    Then I left and went on about my business leaving her red in the face not exactly sure how to respond to that.

    And that's what I've never understood. To these people using cross breeding and classical Mendelian genetics to modify plants are fine. But go in scientifically and do the same thing in a sophisticated lab and suddenly it's evil.

  • I'm all for GMOs... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Andrio ( 2580551 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:36PM (#42480587)
    When they stop being the patented and wholly owned product of megacorperations simply trying to control the world's food supply.
  • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:00PM (#42480901)

    (plants that produce their own insecticide and which we're supposed to eat?)

    You mean like garlic? Or peppers? Cinnamon?
    Why do you think they tastes like that? It's only when you dilute them that they taste good. They evolved that way, modifying their own genes, to thwart the things that would eat them. They're trying their damned best to be poison, and failing deliciously.

    But yeah, snorting cinnamon or eating nothing but garlic will mess you up. Because when concentrated, they ARE poison. Dosage makes the drug. With all GMO food-stuffs, there's a need to test just what the hell is different about it. Which is... yeah... exactly what you said. But anyway, built-in insect repellant, not that crazy of an idea. There's prior art in nature.

  • by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:00PM (#42480907)

    Seriously, there is plenty of science that shows issues related to GMO crops. If not the crops themselves, the fact that a round up ready corn means several times more round up applied to the ground. This is scienfitically documented.

    Can you cite your sources? Peer reviewed papers from respectable sources?

    I don't ask to be dickish; I'm genuinely keen to read it. A cursory Google search found a French study that showed "Roundup ready corn to be toxic", which was then widely panned by the scientific establishment. Anything better?

  • by Lorien_the_first_one ( 1178397 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:17PM (#42481175)

    If GMOs are really so safe, why the tremendous resistance to putting a simple label on the food?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:28PM (#42481361)

    I understand Lynas' conversion.

    However, the environment [sic] of GMO crops is what is troubling, Monsanto being the focus of this, primarily.
    As nice as Lynas' worry about all of us having freedom to have access to foods, what about the freedom of farmers to continue to produce said food crops? If the only legal way for farmers to get seed is to buy it from Monsanto, every year, then we're all fucked. The farmers who try to raise crops w/o using Monsanto-infected products risk losing it all if Monsanto determines that these farmers somehow infringed on Monsanto's rights.

    Lynas catches himself between a rock and a hard place, however. There are all sorts of trade-offs we see get made in the longer term compared to short term benefits with Roundup-ready crops (increased selection of Roundup-resistant weeds), Bt crops (increased selection of Bt-resistant insects, unintended consequences for beneficial insects), etc.

    It is possible to create Roundup-resistant weeds, such as annual rye grass, in this case, w/o using Roundup-ready crops. I directly know a farmer who has this problem. Luckily, rye grass seed is cleaned easily enough from wheat... but it's a problem when the field is switched to perennial ryegrass or fescue...

    No-till cropping is also encouraging weeds resistant to mechanical cultivation.

  • by Lorien_the_first_one ( 1178397 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:34PM (#42481457)

    Now that's a different perspective that I didn't hear about in the news or other sources I've reviewed. I would like to see the law written in a way that makes it easy to determine what is labeled and where liability can be traced. Maybe there is a better way to do this.

    Thanks for the perspective on prop 37.

  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @07:17PM (#42482149) Homepage Journal

    Because "safe" and "perceived to be safe after this guy spent two decades badmouthing it" are very different things. Consumers will avoid GMO-labeled foods regardless.

    That, and the fact that there are some costs involved keeping the GMO and non-GMO streams completely separate. They've already had some notable failures in that regard.

    Personally, regardless of the benefits of GMOs, and their probable safety, I don't trust Monsanto as far as I can throw them. I don't have any faith that they've done their tests properly, and I believe they're completely willing to take a $5B fine if they can take in $40B in profits before they get called on it.

  • by Lorien_the_first_one ( 1178397 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @07:18PM (#42482157)

    So that's your justification for deceit? You're comparing food that people ingest with a medical diagnostic instrument. I fail to see the comparison.

  • by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @07:38PM (#42482417)
    Is the omission of 'nuclear' from MRI deceit? Maybe food should also be labelled if it has been bred selectively for certain traits, or is a monoculture with a risk of rapid extinction (e.g. the Gros Michel).
  • by Lorien_the_first_one ( 1178397 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @09:01PM (#42483623)

    Suit yourself. You can't tell consumers they don't get to know what's in their food without consequences.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @09:12PM (#42483733)


    We don't even label food as to genus and species, why bother with this level of detail?

    Food labels are there to serve a specific purpose: nutritional information.

    Labeling for superstition is simply wrong headed.
    And don't even get me started on "organic" labeling.

  • Mods (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @10:50PM (#42484481) Journal
    How is the parent post flamebait? What has happened to people's ability to comprehend a rephrasing the same question into a "cautionary tale"?

    Pointing out the fact that even people have been unjustly demonized by a label is both informative and insightful. It does not equate anyone's view with that of the Nazi's, but (for anyone who knows their history) it is a vivid description of the power a label can have over human behavior. The Irish did it differently, when the English forced them to wear green, they turned it into a symbol of pride.
  • by slashrio ( 2584709 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @07:01AM (#42486501)
    As long as there is no conclusive science telling us where all the 'modern' diseases (cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes) are coming from, to me the correlation with the introduction of processed and chemically grown, and even GMO, foods is too strong to state that the choice to fear GMO's (and processed food) is 'superstitious'.

    That's why my opinion is that everyone has the right to choose for 'organic' food, and to demand also labeling of the same.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.