Counting The Cost of the Anti-GMO Movement

Last week, environmentalist Mark Lynas presented an articulate and painfully honest apology for his significant role in starting the anti-GMO movement in the 1990s.  He said that it was the most successful campaign in which he has ever been involved, but after finally looking into the science, he now deeply regrets what he and others accomplished.  While it is gratifying to have a figure like Lynas make such a turn-about, it does nothing to mitigate the damage of which this anti-science movement has perpetrated on humanity and the environment.  Ideally, such a dramatic reversal will induce others in the movement to rethink their positions. but this sort of openness to letting the science speak into bias is likely to be rare. Lynas is right that anti-GMO campaigners have been extremely successful at blocking, delaying, or destroying potential crop improvements via biotechnology.  Lynas had a lot of ground to cover in his speech, so

Greenpeace activists Jessica Latona and Heather McCabe leaving the ACT Supreme Court at an earlier hearing. Photo by Rohan Thomson, Canberra Times.

Verdict on Greenpeace’s CSIRO Vandalism

Two convictions and a hefty fine bring a close to a case of Greenpeace destroying a plot of experimental genetically engineered wheat, but whether this will be the last of such incidents is unclear. Last year, Greenpeace planned and executed a public relations campaign to go after genetically engineered wheat being developed by CSIRO in Australia. The wheat was developed to have an altered starch composition, making it slower to digest and release sugars into the body, and thus lower in its glycemic index. The project was headed toward human efficacy testing, having already been evaluated in mice. Greenpeace hoped to draw attention to the project and shut it down. They filed a freedom-of-information request, which was turned down. They drafted a letter from scientists objecting to the experiment, but it was plagiarized from another source and had few signatories. Greenpeace also put together a brochure that claimed that the

Did Greenpeace mow down GM wheat AGAIN? April Fools

I have just heard from a colleague in the UK who works at a government research facility, who gave me some disturbing news. Last night, at least two activists broke into the facility with hazmat suits and a lawn mower. According to eyewitnesses, they were wearing Greenpeace logos on their backs. Almost immediately after they started mowing down crops in the field, scientists working late at the site ran outside to see what was going on, and tried to intervene. A scuffle ensued. Their biggest mistake, however, was leaving behind a video camera that they were using to document the vandalism, which was found at the scene. While my colleague has asked me to keep the specific location and people involved embargoed for now, they have released to me the raw video file of the incident. It is important that people see what happened so that something like this never

Genetic Contamination May Not Mean What You Think It Means

(This post originally appeared on Sustainablog on 8/1/11) In the debate about GMO crops, the “threat of genetic contamination” is often raised as a reason  to reject the technology.  Is this threat real?  Does it justify acts of vandalism?  Could it lead to the “End of Organics“?  Is it actually an over-blown issue?  To answer these questions it is necessary to put this issue in the context of basic plant biology. What We Are Talking About Is Really Just “Plant Sex” “Genetic Contamination” is an emotional term which obscures the fact that the underlying biological process in question is quite normal, natural and highly necessary.

Greenpeace goes after Australian Wheat

Update: See post a week later– Greenpeace destroys Australian wheat trials Last week, blogs and twitter feeds were lit up by news that a group of scientists had written a letter to CSIRO, in Australia, criticizing them for proposing a nutritional trial of genetically engineered wheat. It appeared with this article, Scientists reject human trials of GM Wheat, and is part of a new thrust of transparently poor public relations. And it foreshadows more to come. An excerpt: A group of prominent scientists and researchers from around the world has urged Australia not to go ahead with human trials of genetically modified (GM) wheat. The CSIRO is carrying out a study of feeding GM wheat grown in the ACT to rats and pigs and could extend the trial to humans. The modified wheat has been altered to lower its glycaemic index in an attempt to see if the grain could