Sunday, March 10, 2013

Environmentalist recants anti-GM position

Mark Lynas, an environmental activist and writer on subjects including climate change, publicly recanted his previous opposition to genetically-modified foods at a public lecture in the Oxford Farming Conference in January. People change their minds all the time, but his action surprised people because he was in the past deeply involved in activism against GM foods, even joining groups who attacked and uprooted GM crops in farms and research stations. In an interview, he describes how his former associates have reacted to his about-face:
Lynas's speech made the news internationally and, along with it, "all the hate started coming through". He found himself accused of being in the pay of Monsanto which, he says, "shows that people think I have no integrity and look at me with complete contempt".
It wasn't an impulsive decision, however, but one based on his immersion in science and the scientific literature when researching his books on climate change. As he learned more about the science behind climate, he found himself arguing with climate-change deniers, and saw that he was looking at himself in the mirror:
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.
His speech is worth reading for people on either side of the fence, if only to have a peek into how people think on their other side....

No comments: