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January 4, 2013
Anti-GMO. Until This Week.
I wanted to take a moment to highlight this speech, given recently by environmentalist and anti-genetically modified organism activist Mark Lynas.
Let's make that former anti-GMO activist. As the speech makes clear, he's had a completely change of heart:
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.
. . .(This was) 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. . .
. . .desperately-needed agricultural innovation is being strangled by a suffocating avalanche of regulations which are not based on any rational scientific assessment of risk. The risk today is not that anyone will be harmed by GM food, but that millions will be harmed by not having enough food, because a vocal minority of people in rich countries want their meals to be what they consider natural.
As this post and this one make clear, I agree with this point of view wholeheartedly. I'm very glad to see this change of heart, and I hope that Lynas is able to get more people to thinking about this issue. He should be ready for a rough ride, though. . .
Update: well, not quite just this week. Lynas' recent book The God Species, which is referred to in the speech, marks his public break with his former views. He's also recently come to the defense of nuclear power - a view I also support - and this interview gives some of the reactions he's had so far to these turnabouts.
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