With the failure of California’s recent ballot measure mandating labeling of foods with GMO content, the debate over genetic engineering as an agricultural tool has subsided somewhat.
In fact, some voices among mainstream authorities are issuing much stronger statement in support of biotechnology.
For example: Mark Lynas, a prominent British environmentalist and author, who once joined anti-GMO protestors in ripping out a test plot of bioengineered crops, recently came out in favor of genetic modification of food crops.
“I apologize for having spent several years ripping up GM crops,” Lynas told the audience at the Oxford Farming Conference earlier this year. “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.”
Lynas asked rhetorically, “What happened?” and then proceeded to answer his own question: “I discovered science.”
He noted that many of the activist community’s “cherished beliefs” about GMOs were little more than urban legends, including the myths that genetic engineering would:
- Increase the use of chemicals—turns out that GM corn and cotton need less insecticide
- Only benefit big companies—turns out that billions in benefits are going to farmers needing fewer inputs
- Rob growers trying to save seeds with a “Terminator gene”—turns out that hybrid varieties did that long ago, and Terminator never actually happened (it was abandoned by Monsanto in 1999)
Despite his credentials as a one-time activist, and the impact of his frontal assault on the anti-GMO mythology, Lynas—predictably—has been attacked relentlessly by critics, who complain that the science isn’t in yet, that unknown dangers could still emerge and some really whacked out claims, such as that “Viral genes in plants raise both agronomic and human health concerns.”
Don’t bother trying to figure that one out, because it’s an idea being promoted by one Dr. Joseph Mercola, an organic proponent and anti-GM zealot who continues to claim that “GM crops might yet produce wholly unforeseen consequences.”
That’s pretty much like demanding that the government depopulate California, because “An earthquake might yet split the state off from the U.S. mainland.”