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Anti-Biotech Activist Changes Sides: “I discovered science”

January 7, 2013
Mark LynasIf you missed last week’s report from the Oxford Farming ConferenceMark Lynas, the British writer and environmentalist who once helped drive Europe’s movement against biotech crops, apologized for those actions and embraced the technology as a vital tool for ending hunger and conserving the environment.

The change of heart was widely reported in many mainstream outlets such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Discover magazine, Slate magazine and Science 2.0, among others. The dialogue also lit up Twitter.

Lynas said:
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 demonizing 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.”

The New York Times writes that Lynas’s speech “has displayed an encouraging — and still rare — capacity to shed dogma in favor of data.”

Lynas described how his change of thinking came about saying that as he wrote more about environmental issues, he was determined to be “scientifically credible.” So he began to back up his stories with data, learn how to read scientific papers, discover the importance of peer-review and the importance of scientific consensus.

Finally, in the comments area of one of Lynas’s anti-GM articles, a critic wrote “so you’re opposed to GM on the basis that it is marketed by big corporations. Are you also opposed to the wheel because it is marketed by the big auto companies?

Lynas said, “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.

The full text of Lynas’s remarks are posted here; The New York Times website contains video coverage.