Late last year I wrote a column, “Frankenfood’ Myth Spurned,” about how pleased I was that a ballot measure here in California that was essentially opposed to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was defeated. Predictably, I got slammed by so-called environmental activists, though artfully so, I must say.
One called my column “a tissue of lies,” which I thought was a terrific turn of phrase by him, only to find out via an Internet search it dates back to the 14th Century. But still, I’m a big First Amendment supporter, and that message is posted below the column at GrowingProduce.com.
However, there is one specific point regarding this matter that a lot of opponents bring up with which I disagree. They argue that those of us who support GM crops are anti-environment. I would argue that’s wrong, completely 180 degrees wrong. In the coming years, planting GM crops might indeed be the only way we will be able to feed a burgeoning population without devastating the environment.
I was reminded of this earlier this year in reading a piece in the Los Angeles Times about an activist who helped start the anti-GM movement in England in the 1990s, but has since had a change of heart. Last month at the Oxford Farming Conference in Oxford, England, Mark Lynas renounced his opposition.
“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,” said Lynas, who admitted spending years actually ripping up GM crops.
Lynas said his former views about genetically engineered foods were shaped by a vague combination that included a fear of technology and a mistrust of big corporations. To help fan those fears throughout Europe, Lynas said, “we employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag.”
So why the change of heart by Lynas? “Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science.”
One reader of an anti-GM article Lynas had written responded that one doesn’t fight the corporate misdeeds of the auto industry by insisting that the wheel be banned. Reading up on GMs in scholarly journals, Lynas found “my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.”
He found that growers of GM crops were using fewer inputs, especially pesticides. But more important, he found that genetic engineering is a key tool that can help farmers feed the 9 billion people expected to grace the earth in 2050 without converting the world’s rainforests to farmland.
The irony in all this is I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see an attendee at an anti-GM rally wearing a “Save The Rainforests” T-shirt — no doubt made from Bt cotton.