Scientists now agree transgenic crops ( GM) are safe after years of study

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Scientists now agree transgenic crops ( GM) are safe after years of study

Activists who flip-flopped on genetically modified farming 

Environmentalists frequently criticize transgenic crops. Until recently, Mark Lynas was no exception. A British journalist, researcher and activist, Lynas helped found the movement against genetically modified (GM) foods in the mid-1990s. But as time went on, he started questioning his views, leading him to publicly denounce his previous positions during a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference in 2013 that rocked the environmental world.

“I apologize for having spent several years ripping up GM crops,” he said back then. “I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement … and that I thereby assisted in demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.”

As he prepares to speak at the Maiza congress in Buenos Aires this afternoon, Lynas talked to the Herald and explained his change of heart. He claims organic agriculture “would be a disaster” for the environment and said it will take decades to fully implement renewable energy worldwide.

You seem to have undergone a personal and professional transformation. You now support what you once vociferously opposed — GM crops and nuclear energy. How do you explain that?

I haven’t changed my mind about being an environmentalist. What changed is my understanding of scientific issues, particularly transgenic crops. I was one of the first campaigners on the issue, and I’ve even destroyed crops — that’s how I felt. But my information wasn’t coming from scientists; it was coming from Greenpeace. Then I went to write books on climate change, and I always told people who denied climate change that you’ve got to listen to the science. There’s the same kind of scientific consensus on the safety of GM crops as there is on the reality of climate change.

What kind of research led you to change your views?

I talked to scientists and began reading scientific literature. When I wrote my books about climate change, I read hundreds of scientific papers published in academic journals. The whole time I was an anti-GM campaigner, I didn’t read a single paper, which applies to most activists now. GM crops became the symbol for environmentalists who protest against big corporations like Monsanto. All fears have some foundation, but the enemy is not GM crops.

What led you to become an environmentalist in the first place?

I was a real activist and even organized the first protest against Monsanto. But that was a young person’s game. If you are in your twenties, you can allow yourself to be chased by the police at a protest. But now I’m 41 years old and have kids. I learned a lot more in the last 10 years than when I was at university. You need to keep an open mind and accept that you might be wrong. I’ve been wrong on a lot of things.

You received a lot of criticism from environmentalists when you announced your change of views. Has your new stand on GM crops ended your reputation as an environmentalist?

People will always criticize you if you change your views. People have a lot of emotional investment in these issues and feel personally betrayed. But there’s nothing I can do about that. Either you can be true to yourself and be honest with what you believe in, or you can continue to live a lie. I chose the first one.

Was it hard to announce your new opinions to everyone?

Yes, it took a long time to build the courage to announce it. I realized I got this wrong in 2008, and in 2013 I made the speech where I came clean.

Leaked documents from Europabio, the European association for bio-industries, discussed a plan to fracture the green movement. You were mentioned by NGOs as one of those recruited…

It’s not true. I was never even contacted by Europabio. I’ve never taken a single dollar from the biotechnology industry. So I’m comfortable making these arguments because I’m making them as an independent researcher.

Are GM crops harmful to human health?

No, they are not. GM crops are actually better for the environment. Genetic modification is a technique to produce different varieties of crops. Genetically modified crops have been specifically designed so the modifications don’t present any additional risks. The techniques can be used to make crops less risky and harmful than they currently are. It’s actually the reverse of what most people imagine.

But what about pesticides and herbicides? Companies fumigate near schools and towns here.

Different types of genetic modifications exist, and some don’t need fumigation, like BT crops. GM crops around the world have largely reduced the use of pesticides. Glyphosate is pretty benign to human health, but it doesn’t feel like that if you are being sprayed with it. Let’s not invent scary stories about this.

There seems to be a large organic movement worldwide supporting an alternative agricultural model. Is it a real option?

The organic movement is living a lie. There’s no environmental justification for what it does and it makes the distinction between artificial and natural, which is false. What matters is if something is good or bad. An organic agriculture system would be a disaster for the environment. It’s much less productive, so if you want to feed a growing population, you must destroy the entire rainforest. A mass extinction of natural species would take place.

You’ve said that there are irrational fears over GM crops. What are those fears?

Well-known NGOs use images of babies’ heads coming out of ears of corn, and that’s outrageous. There are conspiracy theories all around the world. In Africa, they say GM crops make men infertile, while in Bangladesh, crops leave children paralyzed. In Europe, they say it will cause cancer, and in the US, autism is the main fear.

How do you feel about environmentalists who oppose shale oil and gas?

Fracking can be done well or poorly. There have been cases of water contamination and leakage in the United States. One of the problems there is that it isn’t properly regulated, so companies are allowed to keep secret what chemicals they use. For environmentalists, everything has to be perfect immediately, so we must go straight to renewable sources. But the reality is that you can’t have that. Industrialized societies cannot depend entirely on solar or wind power now. It’s going to take decades to get primarily renewable energy.

Source: BA Herald

Note: this is a post written some years ago, but I thought it should be reprinted as there is still a lot of misinformation out there.

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About Geoffrey W W McRae

With a highly distinguished career spanning more than three decades across five different countries, New Zealander Geoffrey McRae has established himself as a leading authority on South American real estate, agricultural, and commercial matters. As the founder of Gateway to South America – a real estate consulting group specialising in six South American countries – Geoffrey has developed a reputation for discretion, expertise, and experience that has seen him represent some of the most prestigious clients in the region. His deep knowledge and experience of South American markets have placed him at the forefront of the industry and given him the opportunity to guide and advise with confidence and surety. His long and successful career – which continues to evolve and expand daily – is a testament to his talent, tenacity, and ambition.

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