Mark Lynas’s Oxford Farming Conference Speech

Years ago, environmental activist and author Mark Lynas campaigned against genetically engineered crops, sometimes ripping them up with his own hands. But in a speech given at the 2013 Oxford Farming Conference on January 3rd, he apologized for these actions, and explained how his opinion has changed over time and has been turned completely around. This speech, the transcript of which you can find on his site, has been heard around the world. It has sparked many discussions in the news media, and in social media as well. He explains that part of his journey from being an anti-GE activist to proponent of the technology is that along the way, he “discovered science.” Perhaps more than that, his environmentally-based values may have steered his beliefs to a different path once the science was made clear. If you haven’t seen it yet, it will be an hour well-spent.

07 Mark Lynas from Oxford Farming Conference on Vimeo.

Following this speech, where does the debate go from here?

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Karl is a Ph.D. Candidate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison. In addition to his research on the genetics of sweet corn, he is also completing a minor in science communication and is working on several media projects about plant breeding. His favorite produce might just be squash.


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33 comments to Mark Lynas’s Oxford Farming Conference Speech

  • Brianne

    Thank you for engaging my mind with this video. I am very appreciative of the opportunity this gave me to really delve into what it is that irritates me about these issues.

    Ok, first, “Organic is worse for biodiversity”? Seriously? Why are all of the major countries investing in large-scale seed banks? Because they are afraid that modern farming practices (use of chemical fertilizers and GM foods) are ruining biodiversity of plant life, and that it might not be a good think to have a planet ruled by a small number of frankenplants.

    He states that organic farming rejects technology and refuses technological advantages past 1950, and frames this as being a bad or ignorant thing. How arrogant is that? Soory, obviously everything that is being done and developed in our lifetimes is superior to other practices and wisdom that have been forgotten or abandoned in other lifetimes, how silly of me to think otherwise. For the record though, many organic farming practices go the route of embracing centuries old practices for producing food that have been forgotten in modern times. Just because pesticides and GM practices are modern does not actually mean they are superior.

    “There would be no amazon rainforest left” -he claims that modern farming practices (use of chemical fertilizers and GM foods) are necessary to feed the increasing number of people, for instance, now surviving infancy. He says that without these practices we would have to deforest the planet in favour of massive organic agricultural land plots.
    This is where I feel Lynas’ GMO argument completely falls apart; it does not recognize its part in a larger discussion taking place. Everything in nature has checks and balances so that it can live in harmony with everything else and live a long sustainable existence. Yes infant deaths are sad and tragic, but drastically reducing the number of infant fatalities because of developments in modern farming and science is just throwing out a natural check for our species- all because people are afraid of death and pain. Guess what, both are inevitable, and I am not in favour of letting our fear destroy our natural existence. Yes people starving in developing nations is heartwrenching- but there was a time when they lived quite contentedly in small tribal communites by way of natural age-old traditions. What happened? I seem to remember it having something to do with the western world thinking that they needed saving and could offer them a better life with instruments of their ‘civilized’ society. -How about we stop trying to strengthen our virus-like tendencies as a species. If we actively re-embrace the natural ways of old before the industrial and agricultural revolution that served our bodies, souls, and our natural balance- and do not live in constant fear of pain and death, maybe our species will be able to eventually balance its place in the world again.

    What we are doing with modern farming practices and medicine to put off death and avoid pain is redundant and innefectual anyways. A buddhist saying is that “Pain is innevitable, suffering is optional”. The only route to happiness and contentment is within. Anything else is just exacerbating the issue by feeding our egos -allowing us to think that we can fight our internal battles externally, and distracting us from doing real work. Jim Morrison said that “people are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”

    I do stand against modern farming practices that include chemical pesticide use and gmo foods for the sake of unnaturally deffering death just because we don’t know how to master our fear. I do stand against interfering with the natural structure of plants, just because people have not learned to completely embrace the environment they are choosing to live in, how to preserve, in a low impact and balanced way, and eat food that is naturally available in their environment, and as such strive and long for more, when what they have is more than they are even physically able to experience if they let themselves be present and be open to that opportunity. I do stand against modern medicine where synthetic chemicals are used to numb the mind and the body to pain, and that treat symptoms instead of compassionately encouraging the ‘patient’ to look within to find the root of their ‘illness’. I stand against letting fear run my life, and I will encourage others to do so as well. We are all going to die, why be afraid of going back into the energy of all that is? We are all going to feel pain, but suffering is our choice. We all have an egoic side of our consciousness, but we can learn learn how to have it serve us instead of allowing it to rule us.

    Oh and of course he has to bring in that the organic farmers arguing against GMO foods are communist. “Why can’t we have peaceful coexistence?” He seriously said that in support of gmo foods -organisms that compeletely take over and dominate heirloom crops.

    Anywho, that be my two cents. Again, I thank you.

    Oh I should probably say that I only watched the first half of the video because the text link on Lynas’ website isn’t working. I figured I could extrapolate the rest of his argument, and felt it unnecessary as it already helped me to figure out why it is I truly disagree with GMO, and whatever he had to say most likely wouldn’t touch on that.

    • Ewan R

      Why are all of the major countries investing in large-scale seed banks?

      Good question.

      Because they are afraid that modern farming practices (use of chemical fertilizers and GM foods) are ruining biodiversity of plant life, and that it might not be a good think to have a planet ruled by a small number of frankenplants.

      Completely biased and essentially wrong answer. It makes sense to preserve as much genetic variation as possible. It makes sense, in fact, to preserve more genetic variation than it is possible to have out in fields at any given time. Seed banks serve as a resource for saving genetic material while not wasting field space with genetics which doesn’t perform great under the conditions you have. It will also protect against transient issues which may wipe out certain varieties. Fear of “frankenplants”, as you so partisanly word it, isn’t even part of the picture.

      He states that organic farming rejects technology and refuses technological advantages past 1950, and frames this as being a bad or ignorant thing. How arrogant is that? Soory, obviously everything that is being done and developed in our lifetimes is superior to other practices and wisdom that have been forgotten or abandoned in other lifetimes, how silly of me to think otherwise.

      Sorry, obviously everything that has been done in our lifetimes is inferior to other practic…. oh wait, no. Neither argument holds. Keeping the good and discarding the bad is what should be done. If Organic were rooted in pre-1950 production and refused any and all advances it would be a stupid thing to do (it isn’t however, so if this is what Lynas thinks he is strawmanning the whole endeavor anyway)

      Yes people starving in developing nations is heartwrenching- but there was a time when they lived quite contentedly in small tribal communites by way of natural age-old traditions. What happened?

      In what world is this not simply a variation of “Let ‘em starve”. Despicable.

      blah blah, naturally occuring in the environment, blah, blah

      One assumes you posted this screed from what, an internet capable elm tree? A small patch of bioluminescant bacteria who just happen to also hook into the local 4G coverage and serindipitously have html protocols in place.

      We are all going to feel pain, but suffering is our choice.

      That is, I must add, a rather spectacularly good way to belittle millions who either currently suffer, or have suffered, from chronic pain. As someone who has, but no longer does, I have a few suggestions that I’m jsut going to keep to myself as they may be deemed too confrontational for Biofortified. Suffice to say the words yourself, you and go are heavily featured.

      We are all going to die, why be afraid of going back into the energy of all that is?

      Because this statement is totally bonkers, I’d imagine. Energy of all that is? Wow.

    • Daws

      “Yes infant deaths are sad and tragic, but drastically reducing the number of infant fatalities because of developments in modern farming and science is just throwing out a natural check for our species- all because people are afraid of death and pain. Guess what, both are inevitable”

      Something pretty easy for someone living in a first world country to say. What will you say when it’s your own baby starving?

      “Yes people starving in developing nations is heartwrenching- but there was a time when they lived quite contentedly in small tribal communites by way of natural age-old traditions.”

      Myth. People lived on average to age 30-40…disease was rampant, and food crops were fragile. Medicine was awful and starvation common. Population wasn’t magically low for no reason, people weren’t having tremendously less sex, it’s because people were dying left and right. Don’t romanticize what you don’t know.

      • Good responses to this comment. I hope that Brianne considers in the future how such callousness to the needless suffering of those who are less fortunate looks to other people.
        The statement about increasing food production getting rid of a natural check on the species at first sounds reasonable, but when you hear it out loud you realize exactly what that is. Lack of food reduced the human population through starvation – plain and simple. The fear (expressed by well-fed people with low birth rates in developed nations) is that if we feed the starving masses, there will be so much more of them alive that it will put a strain on the world, be it ecological, economic, etc. But they are forgetting the pattern that happens when nations become more developed – they have fewer kids. When women can control their reproduction, and both spouses have career opportunities and do not need to have ten children in the hope that two survive to adulthood, birth rates go down. Last I checked, Italy is below their replacement rate.
        I had a question about this during my talk in Chicago, and it wasn’t expressed in so callous of a manner, it was asking about if we produce more food will it not just boost the human population further? Yes and no. It will go up because people are no longer starving, but if things work out socioeconomically that will not last for very long and it will level off. I told a story about the Food For Peace program run by the late George McGovern. He discovered that by providing free food in schools for children, they not only all got fed, but came to school regularly and got educated, and as a result of that, girls got pregnant later, and fewer times. It is a clear example where more food in the right way has the exact opposite effect from what neo-Malthusians predict.
        To be clear, I think that purposefully limiting or accepting limited food as a means of controlling population growth is immoral and inhumane. Period. Check, please.

  • I’m actually kind of surprised at the impact. As Keith Kloor pointed out, this wasn’t a new position suddenly. And it was not a conference I’ve heard a lot of chatter about in the past.

    But it really has been getting a lot of attention. I’m glad. But I wonder if it actually will change some minds. It’s so hard to assess that.

  • Jude Adamson

    What a speech! Profound and honest. I hope some people will stop and think a bit more as a result, but fighting our believing brains is not an easy thing!

  • Hi Karl,

    Hi Karl,

    I’m interested to know how much non-gmo related papers CRIIGEN produces, and how often their work is cited in the literature, and their contributions to research in general. Are they simple agenda driven or are they making actual contributions to the study of plant biology and agriculture.

    • Hmm, good question. I do not know what research other than anti-GE research CRIIGEN focuses on. From my understanding, they were formed by Seralini himself for the purpose of doing research on genetically engineered crops. So I suspect the answer to your questions are probably none, and therefore, none.

    • Andre

      CRIIGEN is a brassplate. It does not do any research by itself.

      It basically is a second address for G.-E. Séralini and his team from the University of Caen.

      They (the Caen team) also produce non-gmo related papers: papers that claim that glyphosate, on its own or formulated as Roundup, is evil, and also papers which claim that some miracle cures are efficient detoxifiers.

      They are « simple agenda driven »: anti-GM, anti-pesticide.

      How often their work is cited in the literature has become a tricky question. Numbers are irrelevant unless you analyze the citations and distinguish between self-citations, favorable citations by like-minded activist researchers, unfavorable citations as examples of bad science, etc.

      Contributions to research? Much of their work has been found irrelevant and flawed by both scientists and food safety authorities, some of whom/which have used extraordinary language to express their views. On the other side, their work is often highly publicized in the mass media and with politicians (some of whom have used their work to oppose GM in Europe). Actually, some of the work is clearly geared towards, not advancing science and knowledge, but furthering an activist cause. This leads some entities to reanalyze their work and produce real science, or to undertake research which otherwise would probably not have been financed.

      CRIIGEN is not only a brassplate but also a laundry to cover up some sources of financing. They actually brag about it! So in respect of their latest « study » on NK 603 (a whopping three million euros, two of which if I am not mistaken by the French big chainstores Carrefour and Auchan):

      « We had to move out of this system* to work out a financial set-up for the experiment. To avoid any disqualifying linking with the methods of industry, there had to be a firewall between the scientists who conducted the experiment in full compliance with the ethical principles of independence and objectivity** and the associations which financed*** it.

      (From the book « Tous Cobayes ! » or the Nouvel Observateur magazine:

      …://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/ogm-le-scandale/20120918.OBS2789/ogm-quand-la-grande-distribution-finance-une-etude-choc.html

      *  approaching separately potential financial supporters.

      **  Ha! Ha!

      ***  « We gratefully acknowledge the Association CERES, the Foundation ‘‘Charles Leopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme’’, the French Ministry of Research, and CRIIGEN for their major support. » Association CERES, apparently an ad-hoc grouping that purportedly includes (undisclosed) small and medium-size agrofood enterprises, basically stands for Carrefour and Auchan.

      Carrefour and Auchan, and the other mass distribution chains are heavily engaged in promoting organic and non-GMO food (more expensive, hence higher margins). The authors Séralini and mates « declare that there are no conflicts of interest ».

      Nous avons cependant dû sortir de ce cadre pour organiser le montage financier nécessaire à l’expérience. Pour éviter tout rapprochement disqualifiant avec les méthodes des industriels, il fallait un cloisonnement net entre les scientifiques, qui menaient cette expérience dans le respect d’une éthique de l’indépendance et de l’objectivité, et les associations qui la subventionnaient.

  • Collin

    I’m already seeing people in the comments section of Slate and The New Yorker trying to poison the well with statements like “Lynas must have been paid off by Monsanto.”

  • I wonder if anyone would care to comment on this paragraph from the Organic Council of Ontario, particularly the section in bold:

    “Lynas waxes eloquent about the value of peer-reviewed science, and implies that this is what underpins biotechnology. Nonsense. The case for GM crops, such as it is, is based almost entirely on industry-funded research. This research is never peer-reviewed before it is seen by regulators who determine the safety of a GM crop for release or consumption, and who never evaluate whether a crop achieves its stated benefits. Even well after a crop is released, only a tiny fraction of these dossier studies are ever published– and they cannot be replicated by independent scientists because only those with a special relationship to the developing company have access to research raw materials. There are virtually no proper toxicology or safety studies, and studies that are flagged up as safety studies are often nothing more than short-term studies designed to show nutritional equivalence. Because these studies cannot be repeated or verified, they should be rejected out of hand by the scientific community. Instead, they are accepted as valid.”

    The source alone is enough reason for me to doubt the claims therein, but as a lay person I don’t have the tools (or time) to debunk it. It’s a claim I’ve heard made repeatedly.

    • Hmm. Without this person stating some examples, it’s hard to know for sure what they mean, because there are hundreds of peer reviewed safety and efficacy studies, many of which are not funded by industry. Check out: http://www.biofortified.org/genera/studies-for-genera/ which is not a complete list at all, there are many more that we just haven’t had time to gather.

      • I do know about genera, and I was wondering about the claim that the industry-funded studies are neither peer-reviewed, published, or replicated. And if not, does that matter?

      • I do know about genera, and I was wondering about the claim that the industry-funded studies are neither peer-reviewed, published, nor replicated. And if not, does that matter?

    • I was just thinking of that wheat case we talked about in the forum. CSIRO is doing trials of wheat with modification, and it absolutely has been published, with full methods that would allow anyone skilled in the arts to reproduce it. Here’s what I mean:
      http://www.pnas.org/content/103/10/3546.long

      And this paper was published in 2006. The trials are on now.

    • Andre

      1.  Research is never peer-reviewed. Only publications are.

      2.  Research and the ensuing paperwork that go into GMO applications usually is not peer-reviewed (but applicants at times cite supporting, peer-reviewed, publications).

      3.  The regulators are themselves high-flying scientists for many of them. In the European Food Safety Authority, the GMO has twenty members. Séralini’s latest opus has been read by one of the editors (with an « anti » inclination) and two others. It has been analyzed by a dozen or so regulatory authorities, and more than one hundred scientists.

      4.  The regulators’s rôle is not to evaluate whether a crop achieves its stated benefits, but to pronounce on its safety. In Europe at least, they provide advice to governments, which then take the decision to authorize or not the GM.

      5.  In Europe, the dossiers are publicly available on request (if you wish to analyze thousands of pages and data). Actually, Séralini has had the audacity to claim in conjunction with his latest opus that the data from industry were not available, when he had gotten them previously, and used them to produce a highly criticized paper claiming that three Gms were not safe.

      6.  Tests can always be replicated. There is some controversy, though, in the USA as to whether and how « independent » scientists can access GM seeds. But nothing prevents them, as far as I know, from buying grain on the market.

      7.  For any commentator with an anti-GM bias, there will never be any « proper » toxicology or safety studies. The fact is, however, that there are such studies. You will find them described and evaluated in the opinions produced by regulatory authorities, for instance EFSA.

      8.  Those studies are conducted according to internationally established standards and guidelines. And the authorities may require further studies, which they occasionally do.

  • Liz

    I am profoundly confused by this. Has Mark just taken the first course in GM crops and by that started to believe that herbicide-resistant crops actually means less pesticide?
    There is a relatively recent study on how GM crops in fact increases the use of pesticide as new, herbicide resistant weed has arisen as a result of roundup-ready crop & glyphosate use. This isn’t a problem at all for Monsanto et al, their pesticide is off patent so they rolled out their GM crop just in time for farmers to drive up glyphosate-resistant weed. Now – you guessed it – they’ll need other, patented stuff.
    http://www.enveurope.com/content/pdf/2190-4715-24-24.pdf

    • One of the persistent sleight-of-hands on this topics is the misuse of the term “pesticide” to include both herbicide and insecticide. Here’s the text from Mark’s speech:

      I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

      Even Jason Mark admits this is true:

      First, the contention that plantings of genetically engineered crops have led to a decreased insecticide usage. Actually, the record is more mixed than Lynas makes it seem. If you compare the figures here and here from the US EPA, you’ll see that between 2001 and 2007 global insecticide use did drop. But during that same period (as the percentage of GMO crops increased) herbicide usage continued to grow.

      You see the switch happen? Once you look for it you’ll see it happens in most of these discussions.

      And what people also ignore is the decrease in environmental impact of the change from previous herbicides to glyphosate. But that also isn’t good for the narrative people want to use.

      They also intentionally conflate all GMOs + herbicide, which is just not the case. So it’s easy to become confused. I hope Mark’s talk will help people to start to tease apart the issues.

    • Andre

      Let’s have another take of the Benbrook fallacy.

      Most crops – GM or non-GM – today are grown using herbicides to combat weeds.

      Suppose you grow maize – corn if you prefer – and apply a cocktail of herbicides, 100 grams of active substances per hectare (sorry, I grew up metric).

      You switch to a herbicide tolerant maize or corn. Your application rate, let’s suppose, is 1 kg per hectare.

      The Benbrook conclusion : herbicide – sorry, pesticide – use has increased 1000 %.

      Herbicide use increased ten times (or 1000%, a way of expressing the increase that is much more striking to the non-specialist)? Big deal! That herbicide, even at 1kg/ha has a much better toxicological and ecotoxicological profile that the cocktail.

      The Benbrook fallacy? How to make an improvement for human health and the environment look bad!

  • Chris

    It is unfortunate that responses from “authorities” like this are popping: http://www.foodfirst.org/en/GMO+uproar+in+EU

    The snark aside, all he does is obfuscate and repeat tired arguments.

  • Debbie

    The real science on GMO’s is discussed by Professor John Vandemeer here: http://www.foodfirst.org/en/GMO+uproar+in+EU.
    Also, “the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called on “Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.” They called for a moratorium on GM foods, long-term independent studies, and labeling. AAEM’s position paper stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They conclude, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation,” as defined by recognized scientific criteria. “The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.” http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/the-truth-is-out-on-genetically-modified-foods-and-its-not-pretty
    Mark Lynas sold out to the bio-chem industry ~ lot’ of money there. Look how the tobacco companies lied and hid their own evidence regarding the health dangers of cigarette smoking even while they added more toxins to make them addictive. Why would you believe Monsanto and their ilk would be any different?

    • I think some work is being done to try to figure out what Vandemeer’s evidence is, I hope we’ll hear more about that soon.

      But you might want to find better sources than AAEM. Quackwatch has them on the list of questionable organizations.

      And it’s just false that Mark Lynas was paid for this. Please stop lying about that.

      Now, let’s see–who is using doubt as their product today? Greenpeace and their Growing Doubt campaign? Jeffrey Smith and the Seeds of Doubt campaign? Hmm. Yes–who is behaving like the tobacco companies–what does the evidence show?

      • Debbie

        Sorry, MaryM, but Quackwatch itself is a questionable entity. (http://anh-europe.org/news/quackbuster-stephen-barrett-md-loses-appeal-and-leaves-home-town) Do your homework and realize that Stephen Barrett is part of group that is intent on bad mouthing any person, company, or organization that might infringe on the profits of Big Pharma and Big Medicine.
        If genetically modified anything is so great, then why don’t they just label them and let people choose for themselves?

        • You cite the “Alliance for Natural Health” with a straight face. I’m gut-laughing.

          From the site mentioned:

          Medical Doctors, Diet and Nutritional Approaches, Bodywork and Manipulative Approaches, Healers and Lightworkers, Herbalists, Homeopaths, Energy Medicine Practitioners, Acupuncture and Acupressure Approaches, and all other modalities and traditional approaches..

          Your natural health business is more under threat than ever before…

          European Union laws are set to begin banning your most useful and therapeutic or cutting-edge nutrients, herbs, foods and other natural health products. Also, your ability to inform your clients about natural health products will be severely restricted.

          They are also anti-vaccine.

          Pitiful!

        • The AEEM is also anti-vaccine, given their support for Jenny McCarthy’s campaigns, also posted on their site. We can spin in circles around who should be trusted for whose opinion of organizations that they disagree with, but simply quoting the AEEM’s “position” does not provide evidence, and as Andre addresses below, they don’t provide much at all, at least compared to the evidence that exists.

          Perhaps you should ask yourself, if it wasn’t for the position paper that everyone is pointing to, would you have ever heard of the AEEM? The answer is no. They are a fringe group of mostly osteopaths promoted by Jeffrey Smith, who cite him back as support for their position. He was also the first to make the announcement about their position, on the huffington post years ago, which suggests to me that he was closely connected to it. So really, you are just citing Smith, which is not a good source of information.

      • Andre

        Quoting Quackwatch as a reference does not provide the most convincing argument, particularly in the context of a discussion opposing rationalism and faith.

        Yet a simple question with Quackwatch is: is there anything wrong in the nine questions put on the cited webpage? For instance with: « Who are its leaders and advisors? » Or: « What are its membership requirements? » The AAEM website provides the answers, and even lists the members. The unescapable conclusion is that this association usurps the term « Academy ».

        In an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court (http://aaemonline.org/SCOTUS.pdf) – no licence to lie, at least patently, in such statements – they describe themselves as « an international nonprofit association of physicians and other professionals interested in the clinical aspects of humans and their environment. » International? Indeed. They have an odd member here and there, for instance one each in France, Switzerland or the United Kingdom. « Amicus is comprised of 272 members, many of whom are solo or small group physician practitioners. » Here you have it.

        The other approach is to check the contentions. The AAEM statement is at:

        http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html

        There are simple indicators for the value of such statements. Checking the references (when there are any) is a convenient and quick test.

        Beware if a solid reference is cited for a trivial statement! Such is the case here for the World Health organization (WHO) (footnote 1).

        Beware even more if the statement omits to quote the points from the cited entity which do not fit the purpose of the paper! Such is the case here. The AAEM did not quote or refer to this:

        « GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved… »

        Of course it could not be cited: it runs counter to the whole argument made in the paper.

        Beware if irrelevant papers are quoted in support of a contention. Here, « The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies » comes with a citation of « Genetic Roulette », Malatesta, Velimirov or Pusztai. « Genetic Roulette » is not a scientific paper. The papers of Malatesta, etc. have been heavily criticized by the mainstream scientific community, and are not considered good science. Velimirov, by the way, was never published in a scientific journal. The Austrian government had used it in Brussels to oppose a particular GM; it officially withdrew it in view of its deficiencies.

        And, by the way, the AAEM paper states that « Natural breeding processes have been safely utilized for the past several thousand years. » This is not true. There are documented examples of toxic varieties having been produced and marketed.

  • Two frustrating things I’m seeing in responses to this speech (some of it in this thread too):

    Lynas was very careful when talking about pesticide reductions and specifically mentioned said “insecticide” and only used it when referring to Bt cotton and maize and didn’t make claims about herbicides. You could probably make that claims in terms of reduced in terms of EIQ but it’s a much more complicated question and from what I’ve read Lynas himself is a bit skeptical of the overall benefits of herbicide tolerance traits. But that hasn’t stopped various sources from pulling out Benbrook’s research to “refute” Lynas. I understand what the concern is (pesticides are possibly risky!) but it’s a bit frustrating to have people say Lynas isn’t nuanced when he’s very clearly calling out specific possible benefits and not claiming all GM crops have those benefits.

    Further, a major pull quote going around is Lynas saying “the debate is over”. In context, this is very clearly referring to the fact that a lot of GM fear that blocks approvals are related to health questions for human consumption. That question does seem pretty settled in a practical sense. The quote, in context, is: “GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food.” Given his ambivalence elsewhere in the speech about environmental questions for some GM crops, it’s clear he acknowledges that there is plenty of room for debate about proper and worthwhile uses of the technology relating to environmental impact, costs and ownership issues but that he rejects the idea that health concerns should block GM crops. But it’s sadly a very inflammatory statement out of context and it seems many are reading it that way. :(

  • Tom Hebert

    Bravo to all you guys for trying to hash this out and use facts and forthright and open statements to support your positions. I love reading this stuff! With respect to Lynas’, does anyone know if his willingness to bring science to his thinking about biotechnology is extended to looking at the science of pesticides. Why stop just at biotech science? A forthright look at the science about the risk profiles of pesticides used according to their labeled conditions should also change a lot of minds about the value of their responsible use, and the possibly enormous human costs when that is thwarted (as in the case of DDT as a public health tool for malaria control in Africa).

    • A forthright look at the science about the risk profiles of pesticides used according to their labeled conditions should also change a lot of minds about the value of their responsible use.

      I would kiss the foot of the person who could accomplish this.

      It is the essence of my beef with the “organics” movement, why I left the movement, why I am continually hostile to them and their rhetoric.

      I had to undergo training to gain a pesticides applicator’s license here in Maine, even though I have a dinky 1-acre vegetable + 85 apple tree farm. Following the label is everything. Yet customers at farmers markets have refused to buy apples or potatoes from me after they find out they’ve been “sprayed.” Little do they know that the same items on organic farms are “sprayed.”

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