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Leading Activist Apologizes For Starting Anti-GMO Movement

Interesting read. It still doesn't justify the Monsanto Protection Act or any kind of special state protection, however I believe it should be up to the individual to decide what they put in their bodies, not a regulatory board. I went to an anti-Monsanto/gmo protest earlier this year and there was a lot of mis-information and exaggeration... As well as communists saying we need to join one big union and we're be able to ban GMOs after we seized all the private property or something insane..


By Mark Lynas - 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 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.
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.
When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.
These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.
This was also 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.
For me this anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change. I published my first book on global warming in 2004, and I was determined to make it scientifically credible rather than just a collection of anecdotes.
So I had to back up the story of my trip to Alaska with satellite data on sea ice, and I had to justify my pictures of disappearing glaciers in the Andes with long-term records of mass balance of mountain glaciers. That meant I had to learn how to read scientific papers, understand basic statistics and become literate in very different fields from oceanography to paleoclimate, none of which my degree in politics and modern history helped me with a great deal.
I found myself arguing constantly with people who I considered to be incorrigibly anti-science, because they wouldn’t listen to the climatologists and denied the scientific reality of climate change. So I lectured them about the value of peer-review, about the importance of scientific consensus and how the only facts that mattered were the ones published in the most distinguished scholarly journals.
My second climate book, Six Degrees, was so sciency that it even won the Royal Society science books prize, and climate scientists I had become friendly with would joke that I knew more about the subject than them. And yet, incredibly, at this time in 2008 I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM – even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding. I don’t think I’d ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science even at this late stage.
Obviously this contradiction was untenable. What really threw me were some of the comments underneath my final anti-GM Guardian article. In particular one critic said to me: so you’re opposed to GM on the basis that it is marketed by big corporations. Are you also opposed to the wheel because because it is marketed by the big auto companies?
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.
But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow....

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I appreciate your point of exercizing scepticism of one's own beliefs.

Like you said:

"It still doesn't justify the Monsanto Protection Act or any kind of special state protection,"

So what's your or his point then? He wants people to make their own minds if they want GMO? That is not possible unless we are allowed to know if crops are GMO or not. And now he says that GMOs are safer than natural? I smell BS.

This sounds like some disinformation crap to me. I wonder how much Monsanto paid him to write this?

My point is

A lot of people hate GMOs without knowing anything about them. They just assume it's evil because Monsanto is involved and they think they're eating frankenfood.

My question to you is what is your goal with GMOs? Would you like the state to tax them? Set up a new regulatory board? Prohibit their study, consumption, production or sale? How about state labeling?

It would seem like the anti-gmo side is more associated with more state control. The free market can take care of companies like Monsanto. Fight to free the market, no to set up more regulatory boards and beaurocrats.

Edit (just had to add): And you smell BS? Do you know he was paid or lying or are you literally making the bs up?

And I'm all for labeling, but only through the free market and self regulation. Whole Foods has been doing it for decades. By forcing firms to put labels on all of their products, the good firms who would have succeeded by providing their customers with safe labeled food would not be able to compete. Again, let the free market work.

do you have any idea how much time it takes . . .

to study biotechnology?

While trying to survive economically, raise a family, have a life--?

Some people can do it, I am sure. But most cannot.

This reminds me of the complications of trying to understand international finance--

while the 'little guy' is trying to survive, he/she has little time for understanding what is happening, much less trying to change things for the betterment of 'little people'--

experts/professionals/people with a LOT of money know this and take advantage of it--

I'm not getting on the bandwagon of any wealthy conglomerate. I will remain skeptical until I have time to understand new technologies--

in the meantime, the old ways do work; they have always worked--

monoculture has never worked well, and monoculture happens with agribusiness and with industrial greed; 'nature' doesn't work well with greed--

insects invade; diseases flourish with monoculture--

you have an option; you can choose possible occasional famine (which can be countered with an attitude of provident living/putting things by) or chemical/genetic contamination and the ensuing not even yet heard of diseases that will come--

knowing that cancer has increased because of engineered poisons and diseases (chemicals out of control)--

I will opt for occasional crop failure--

God designed nature to work; it is when man messes with nature that bad things happen--

it's hard to be awake; it's easier to dream--

How would you know?

You claim: "knowing that cancer has increased because of engineered poisons and diseases..."

...with no evidence whatsoever. In addition, the causes of cancer are myriad. You'd be hard-pressed to be able to link increased cancer rates to anything beyond direct radiation exposure or the simple fact that there are more aging and dying people (see "US demographics").


I know firsthand, but I won't try to convince you.

The increase in birth defects and deformities in Iraq where there has been DU should certainly be easy enough to prove; I haven't been there and seen it firsthand, but I have read about it--
Agent orange and Viet Nam vets and people who lived in the area--not hard to find the increase in cancer there--

a person can experience this firsthand (deformities from chemicals/cancer from chemicals/illness from chemicals) and spend the rest of his/her life trying to persuade people who won't listen--

I don't expect you to listen, but I hope it doesn't happen to you.

it's hard to be awake; it's easier to dream--

TwelveOhOne's picture

That, and/or William Randolph Hearst

With cannabis illegal, fewer people partake in this cancer-healing substance.

"What if Cannabis Cured Cancer?"


I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
http://fija.org - Fully Informed Jury Association
http://jsjinc.net - Jin Shin Jyutsu (energy healing)

The FREE MARKET argument is disingenuous.

Monsanto is not a Free Market Corporation. We do not live in a free market. And as we all know markets are manipulated which is the reason for regulation in the first place.

You people want your cake and eat it too. But I am done with your circular logic and ignorance. You have let your hate of corrupt government cloud your thinking.

Case in point: "By forcing firms to put labels on all of their products, the good firms who would have succeeded by providing their customers with safe labeled food would not be able to compete."

Your thinking and supposed "free market" is why natural food costs more and gives Monsanto free reign. Not because GMO is cheaper but because of the labeling requirements YOUR Free Market puts on organic and natural food suppliers.

And the phrase "I smell BS" is the same as "I smell something fishy" or "Something doesn't sound right". Why do I have to give you a lesson on this. It denotes that something is askew but you don't KNOW what it is. If you can't understand the "suggestion" that the guy was paid off then I don't know what to tell you.

Let go ahead

And support gun control measures and a national ID as well because we don't have liberty just yet and people can't be trusted to make their own decisions! The path forward is more liberty, less state control, more emphasis on property rights. Not stop gap measures until we get there.


That's all I got to say to this argument.

We don't live in a free market

And we never will with your mindset. There will always be another rule or regulation, another form of human behavior that needs altering. Are you arguing against free markets in general? There are better forms of regulation than what the state provides.

Maybe he did get paid to write it by Monsanto. I have no idea, and neither do you. How could we? You just don't like his conclusions because they conflict with your emotionally found beliefs.

Yes, natural food is more expensive. Have you ever tried to farm organically compared to using chemical fertilizer and pesticides? Let me tell you organic takes much more effort and time and is not nearly as efficient. It's completely logical that food that takes more time and energy to produce costs more. Not just because Monsanto says so.

Just to clarify, I'm no fan of Monsanto. I just don't let that "cloud my judgement"

If you were at war

and desired peace I guess you would just quit for the cause of peace and let your enemy win.

That pretty much sums up your argument. You can't have it both ways.

No clouds in my judgement.


This argument is

a lot like the left-right paradigm. It's amazing that Liberty minded people can come down on the side of Monsanto et. al., because of the strawman (perhaps real enough) of the uninformed, anti-GMOer. It's kind of like dismissing the tea party as racist.

I'm anti-GMO because of the way the multi-nationals do science, falsify field trials, deceive with marketing, control and manipulate regulatory agencies, intimidate small farmers, destroy neutral academicians, swallow competitive companies with notional money, pervert legal theories of life and property, plunder genetic heritage.

You couldn't dream up a more tyrannical system than the multi-national GMO companies. It's bizarre to hear liberty arguments in support of them.

TwelveOhOne's picture

I am also anti-GMO; however

The current iteration of GMOs seems to have been created by the NWO/Agenda 21 with viruses that deplete our vitality.

However, it is possible to engineer a plant such that it increases our vitality.

That second plant should not necessarily be banned (of course, the good might come with some side effects, like most drugs).

I would prefer a better form of testing. Something similar to the liberty-oriented approach that one should not be charged with a crime for something that one possesses (like those Jolly Rancher arrests by NYPD) -- one should rather only be liable for an action that one performs which harms the person or property of another.

But at the moment, there are two issues: that type of testing needs further development; and, there do not appear to be vitality-enhancing companies. So I am personally anti-GMO, and I would also support efforts to ban it because of cross-pollination.

I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
http://fija.org - Fully Informed Jury Association
http://jsjinc.net - Jin Shin Jyutsu (energy healing)

No one

That I can tell is supporting them (Monsanto, etc). Including me, OP. I'm against the military industrial complex, but I don't think we should ban fighter jets. I want a fighter jet.

Then what's the problem with

using the legal system to combat a monopoly on food, especially if it is corrupt? Are the anti-competitive laws that broke up Standard Oil egregious? As wind continues to move corn pollen, soon there will be no alternative. That is extremely anti free market. Yes to fighter jets. But what if the fighter jets eliminate all other aircraft in future generations? Can we have piper cubs too?

Oh come on man.

Monsanto just wants a FREE MARKET.


Okay, so let me get this straight

He believes one thing, so we should believe him.
Now he believes another thing, so we should believe him.

I'm happy for his change of heart, but it doesn't change MY belief.

GMOs wouldn't survive in a true free market

People don't want them. However, Monsanto has tons of money for lawsuits and buying off politicians.


So why regulate it? Should we regulate banks and finance as well? I'm of the opinion that the free market has remedies for all those who seek to poison and control us. It's a mistake to come to the quick conclusion that it's ok for the state to step in in this instance. Where does it stop?

Because we don't live in a FREE MARKET!

That's why.

I agree but there's one big problem

I agree w/ your point but the problem is that we don't truly have a free market. Monsanto can buy off politicians, who pass laws making the stuff they do legal (Monsanto Protection Act). But if we could truly have a free market then I would agree w/ your point.

I'm convinced Monsanto would be out of business in short order (due to hatred toward their brand and their product plus lawsuits).

Bravo Mark Lynas

I too am a member of the "Useful Idiot" club and it's refreshing and wonderful to come out of the closet and get on with life.


Conquer famine and hunger NOT by mutating nature
but with efficiency and stewardship.
Better tools, better methods, better allocation, better education.
Bread not Bombs.