Environmentalist Mark Lynas, a longtime outspoken opponent of agricultural biotechnology, created quite the stir when he publicly apologized for his role in the anti-biotech movement, saying he “could not have chosen a more counter-productive path.” This is a shocking statement given how passionately Lynas previously opposed biotechnology.
Why such a momentous shift in opinion? Lynas explains in an address to the Oxford Farming Conference that it was because “I discovered science, and in the process I hope I’m becoming a better environmentalist.” He discusses how, because his initial impression was that genetic engineering is simply unnatural, he opposed the technology as a whole despite admitting to never having read a single peer-reviewed paper on the subject!
Lynas is not an isolated example of opposing biotech on ideology rather than evidence. The scientific community has essentially reached a consensus on the safety and value of biotech crops, but as long as public awareness of the technology remains low, opposition due to ignorance will persist.
Another notable biotech opponent who has changed course is Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace. Greenpeace has hostilely opposed ag-biotech, including being a leading force against the introduction of beta-carotene enhanced Golden rice. With up to half a million children going blind every year from vitamin A deficiency, around half of whom die from this condition, this is a crop that has the potential to save countless lives.
It is because of policies like these that Dr. Moore left Greenpeace, and now vehemently opposes their anti-science platform. Referring to their Golden rice opposition, he declares that “Greenpeace is guilty of crimes against humanity…for preventing the cure that is so desperately needed by millions of civilians.”
It’s hard to find a more extreme example than that, yet there are certainly others who have also made the switch after learning more about biotech crops for themselves. It is no easy feat to change views that are often deeply seated, especially in situations where one’s peer group believes them as well. However, the evidence is out there for those who choose to trust in science, rather than pseudoscience and fear tactics from self-interested opponents.
Mark Lynas sums things up nicely with his plea to biotech opponents: “You are entitled to your views. But you must know by now that they are not supported by science. We are coming to a crunch point, and for the sake of both people and the planet, now is the time for you to get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably.”