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Former Anti-GMO Activist Says Science Changed His Mind


Harvest wheat from a field near Wright, Kan. May 10, 2004.


Aired 1/20/13


Aired 1/20/13


Aired 1/20/13

For years, British environmental activist Mark Lynas destroyed genetically modified food (GMO) crops in what he calls a successful campaign to force the business of agriculture to be more holistic and ecological in its practices.

His targets were companies like Monsanto and Syngenta -- leaders in developing genetically modified crops.

Earlier this month he went in front of the world to reverse his position on GMOs.

At the Oxford Farming Conference in Britain, Lynas apologized for helping "to start the anti-GMO movement" and told his former allies to "get out of the way, and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably."

He spoke to Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered, about his change of heart.

Interview Highlights

On 'discovering science'

"When I started off as an anti-GMO activist, it was very much an ideological position. I was scared of the new technology, you know, it just seemed to be messing with the basic building blocks of life. But what happened in the sort of 10, 15 years since then, is that I have written a couple of books on climate change, and I really fell in love with the scientific method as a way of establishing knowledge about the world. It eventually dawned on me ... that I was actually being anti-science in the way I was talking about GMOs, and that there are many ways a stronger scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs than there is about the reality of climate change."

On the 'saga of golden rice'

"One of the case studies that really changed my mind about this was the saga of golden rice, which was developed to be vitamin A-enhanced, because something like a quarter million children per year die from a vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries, particularly in South Asia ... Greenpeace has been waging a campaign to stop this rice from ever being developed ... You can make a pretty strong case that tens of thousands of children have died because they were denied access to this purely because it's GM, and there is a ideological bias against that."

On admitting fallibility

"I would be the first one to say that having been wrong before, I am not infallible now. For me, it's important to look at what the mainstream science is saying. We need to get on with developing more biotech crops because they can potentially be an enormous boon environmentally, and I think that is a message that has been lost in this debate so far."

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Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | May 1, 2013 at 12:25 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

I support Labeling GMOs because I believe we have the right to know what’s in the food we’re eating and feeding to our families – we deserve an informed choice.

Genetically Modified/Manipulated/Mutated Organisms (GMOs) are manmade plants and animals created in a laboratory destined for human consumption. GMOs contain the genes of foreign species . . . a genetic manipulation that cannot occur in nature (only in the laboratory). The FDA does not require GMOs to be tested for long term impacts on human health. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, there are 65 documented health risks associated with eating genetically engineered food. There are numerous independent scientific studies from around the world that raise serious doubt on the safety of GMOs and the toxic pesticides they produce internally or absorb from the toxic chemicals intentionally applied by the farmer. Learn for yourself about GMO Myths and Truths by reading the summary report or watching . I do not believe it is ethical to be putting an unproven technology into the food we feed our children solely for the financial benefit of the world's largest biotech, chemical and junk food manufacturers.

Over 60 countries now require labels on Genetically Engineered food, and many of these also have severe restrictions or bans against GMO food production or sale. Countries with mandatory labeling include Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and all of the countries in the European Union. Some of the countries with severe restrictions or bans against GMO food production or sale are Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Ireland, the Philippines, Australia, Peru and Japan. The U.S. and Canada are two of the only developed nations in the world without GMO labeling due to the powerful lobbying influence of the industries that profit from producing and using GMOs.

The biotech and junk food industries don’t believe consumers in the US deserve the same level of protection and information as citizens in other nations around the world. I believe this is because labeling the ingredients that are genetically engineered would result in monumental consumer rejection once awareness of GMOs are revealed to the uninformed masses. Consumer rejection of GMOs threatens the profits of the companies that manufacture and use GMOs as well as institutions that conduct research on behalf of the biotech industry. I believe some university scientists are against labeling GMOs because their lively hood is threatened if a loss of research funding occurred because of reduced consumer demand for the products they help develop for the biotech industry. I won’t be trusting members of a scientific community, funded by an industry that creates toxic substances, to present an unbiased opinion of these products.

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