Mark Lynas has had a long history of anti-GMO activism, sometimes in affiliation with well-known anti-science NGOs like Greenpeace. He admitted, in the op-ed, that he had participated in the vandalism inherent in tearing up experimental plantings of GMO crops a practice for which he now apologizes and condemns. His particular expertise over the past decade has been in advocating for measures to rein in climate change, or man-made global warming, as it s also known.
Once he undertook a self-education mission to get evidence-based information about GMOs, he basically did an about face, and now has become a forceful advocate for increased use of this technology to help feed the malnourished and impoverished in the third world. That is the focus of his op-ed, How I Got Converted to G.M.O. Food. He wrote the article while attending a biotechnology conference in Nairobi, Kenya (more on that later), but the focus of his piece is on a farmer in Bangladesh, one of only 108 farmers (in a country of about 150 million people) allowed to plant and harvest Bt brinjal (eggplant). This GMO crop has miraculously enhanced his and his family s living conditions, while reducing standard pesticide inputs. On the other hand, neighboring India effectively banned the crop via moratorium, thanks to activist pressure, in 2010.
Lynas summarizes in a few horrifying paragraphs the opposition to this lifesaving agricultural technology, noting with anger and sadness how many countries in nearly all parts of the globe have erected stringent barriers or outright bans on GMOs (Hungary has immortalized No GMOs in its constitution, he asserts).
As for the Kenyan conference, he mentions his conversations with agricultural and biotechnology experts in countries including the host nation, Ghana, Uganda and Peru, who expressed indignation that their countries each suffering from nutritional deficiencies of significance have effectively banned this methodology. The reasons why amount to caving in to pressure from environmental groups whose broadsides and demonstrations are based on exploiting mindless fears as well as actual intimidation.
In his own words: The environmental movement s war against genetic engineering has led to a deepening rift with the scientific community. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science showed a greater gap between scientists and the public on G.M.O.s than on any other scientific controversy: While 88 percent of association scientists agreed it was safe to eat genetically modified foods, only 37 percent of the public did a gap in perceptions of 51 points.
He concludes thusly:
I am working to amplify the voices of farmers and scientists in a more informed conversation about what biotechnology can bring to food security and environmental protection.
No one claims that biotech is a silver bullet. The technology of genetic modification can t make the rains come on time or ensure that farmers in Africa have stronger land rights. But improved seed genetics can make a contribution in all sorts of ways: It can increase disease resistance and drought tolerance, which are especially important as climate change continues to bite; and it can help tackle hidden malnutritional problems like vitamin A deficiency.
We need this technology. We must not let the green movement stand in its way.
ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this comment: We applaud Mr. Lynas change of heart, and can only hope that his cri de coeur will be heeded by many of his former colleagues in the anti-science environmental camp. He alludes to vitamin A deficiency, a clear reference to Golden Rice, held hostage by Greenpeace-led hostility to this vision- and life-saving staple crop for over a decade now.
ACSH has several peer-reviewed publications on the science of Ag-Biotech-GMOs.