1.A Rebuttal to Mark Lynas's GMO Reversal
2.Twenty-two pieces of junk science from the Lynas Manifesto
NOTE: Comment from a pro-GM science blogger on Twitter: "Mark, you overstated the science on GM. Hugely. It risks damaging public perception. And I love GM."
1.A Rebuttal to Mark Lynas's GMO Reversal
Earth Island Journal, January 11 2013
*GMO critic-turned-booster could be right — and still be wrong
If you want to get your name splattered all over the web, there's nothing like recanting your once strongly held beliefs. Give a big mea culpa speech telling the world how wrong you have been, and you'll get far more attention for your auto-rebuttal than you ever received for your original ideas. When it comes to ideological U-turns the media are like moths to a flame. (Never mind that, as Whitman said, "consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.")
In this case, I'm talking about the recent “big news” that one-time GMO critic Mark Lynas — a Brit who at least once took direct action to rip GM trial crops out of the ground — has come out as a supporter of the technology he once abhorred. You can find write-ups about it from Andrew Revkin and Slate and the LA Times and The New Yorker’s Michael Specter. I even got an email from the folks at the No on 37 campaign (the people who successfully fought a GMO labeling referendum in California) trumpeting the news.
Here's the opening from the speech that Lynas gave on January 3 at the Oxford Farming Conference:
"I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.
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.
So I guess you’ll be wondering — what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.”
For a devastating takedown of Lynas’ sudden “discovery of science” check out this piece by University of Michigan biology professor John Vandermeer over at the Food First website.
Lynas goes on to say:
“So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.
I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.
I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.
I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.”
Let’s go through these one by one.
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. This is especially important given that most GM crops (about 80 percent) are engineered to be herbicide resistant. Farmers are spraying more herbicides because that is precisely what the crops are created for — to allow for being doused with chemicals that kill competing weeds and still allow the plant to live. A peer-reviewed study published last year in Environmental Sciences Europe found that GM plantings in the United States led to a 7 percent increase in chemical spraying.
Lynas’s cherry picking also misses a crucial fact: Farmers who have grown accustomed to using Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops are starting to see the appearance of weeds that are resistant glyphosate, the central ingredient in Roundup. To help farmers cope with the new “super weeds,” Monsanto has launched a new herbicide, Warrant. So much for the claim that GMOs will reduce chemical use.
It’s too bad the text of Lynas’s speech doesn’t come with citations, because I would love a source for his contention that GM technologies have benefitted farmers by requiring fewer inputs. Once again, the evidence is more mixed than he makes it seem. Perhaps Lynas missed all of the headlines about the epidemic of farmer suicides in India, where many genetically modified cotton growers have been driven to despair because the promised yields from GM cotton haven’t matched increased seed costs — that is, the cost of their inputs.
As a part-time organic farmer, I find Lynas’s line about hybrid seeds “robbing farmers of the right to save seed” nothing short of laughable. No, you can’t save seed from what’s called an F1 hybrid because the desired traits the plant has been bred for won’t necessarily continue into the next generation. That’s Biology 101. And it’s not at all like the Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement, which includes a range of clauses that, among other things, can punish farmers for saving seed and can include harsh provisions such as inspection provisions, and one-sided limitations of remedy. With a hybrid seed, Mother Nature prevents effective seed saving. With GM crops, it’s Mother Nature plus the financial and legal muscle of giant companies like Monsanto. Big difference.
A bit further on his speech Lynas takes a gratuitous swipe at organic methods when he says:
“If you think about it, the organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one. It doesn’t accept many modern technologies on principle. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, who froze their technology with the horse and cart in 1850, the organic movement essentially freezes its technology in somewhere around 1950, and for no better reason.
It doesn’t even apply this idea consistently however. I was reading in a recent Soil Association magazine that it is OK to blast weeds with flamethrowers or fry them with electric currents, but benign herbicides like glyphosate are still a no-no because they are "artificial chemicals"."
Talk about a straw man argument. I don’t know any organic farmers who want to freeze their agricultural practices in the amber of nostalgia. Just look at an outfit like the Organic Farming Research Foundation and you’ll see that organic agriculture, at it best, seeks to take the wisdom accrued from 10,000 years of agriculture and graft onto that reliable rootstock the best available twenty-first century science. Lynas perceives some kind of inconsistency in the use of flame weeding because he doesn’t really understand the ideals of organic agriculture and its commitment to appropriate technology — in this case, using some fossil fuels to scorch weeds rather than using synthetic chemicals that persist in the environment to do the work.
As for the contention that glyphosate is “benign,” check out Vandermeer’s review of the evidence linking glyphosate endocrine disruption.
Toward the end of his speech Lynas makes what I think is his most outrageous comment (that is to say, the least supported by evidence), when he says:
“In reality there is no reason at all why avoiding chemicals should be better for the environment — quite the opposite in fact.”
Ahem. Here’s something I wrote last year about the dangers of pesticides:
“When pesticides are sprayed onto farm fields, they don’t just stay in that one place. They seep into the water and waft through the air and accumulate on the shoes and clothes of farm workers. In recent years in California (the country’s top ag producer) an average of 37 pesticide drift incidents a year have made people sick. Pesticides also find their way into the homes of farm workers. A study by researchers at the University of Washington found that the children of farm workers have higher exposure to pesticides than other children in the same community. When researchers in Mexico looked into pesticide exposure of farm workers there, they found that 20 percent of field hands ‘showed acute poisoning.’
The health impacts on those workers were serious and included "diverse alterations of the digestive, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, dermatological, renal, and reproductive system.’ The researchers concluded: ‘there exist health hazards for those farm workers exposed to pesticides, at organic and cellular levels."
There are shelves’ worth of studies documenting the health dangers of pesticide exposure. A study published last year found that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides – which are often sprayed on crops and in urban areas to control insects – can lower children’s IQ. A follow-up investigation into prenatal pesticide exposure concluded that boys’ developing brains appear to be more vulnerable than girls’ brains. A study by Colorado State University epidemiologist Lori Cragin found that women who drink water containing low levels of the herbicide atrazine are more likely to have low estrogen levels and irregular menstrual cycles; about three-quarters of all US corn fields are treated with atrazine annually. British scientists who examined the health effects of fungicides sprayed on fruits and vegetable crops discovered that 30 out of 37 chemicals studied altered males’ hormone production.”
That quick review of the scientific literature only addresses agricultural chemicals’ impacts on human health. It would take paragraphs more to outline pesticides’ documented risks to “non-target” species such as frogs, birds, and fish.
So Lynas’s claims for the benefits of genetically modified crops are shaky, at best.
But let’s just say — for the sake of argument — that Lynas is more or less right on evidentiary grounds, and that there isn’t enough science to dismiss GM technologies out of hand.
I would still be skeptical of genetically modified — for reasons that have more to do with political ecology than biology or science.
To plagiarize myself again, from a story I wrote in September 2011 expressing concerns that some GM critics have overblown the potential human health risks of GMOs:
“Perhaps the greatest — and certainly the best documented — threat posed by GMOs involves how they undermine food sovereignty. As Maria Ishii-Eitemann, a senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network, explains it, food sovereignty is “our right to save, plant, and grow seeds and crops as we want.” The steady monopolization of the seed supply is eroding that sovereignty. The skills needed to genetically modify seeds are so specialized (and the investment required so immense) that only a handful of massive firms can take it on. Compare that to the thousands — or, globally, the millions — of seed dealers and seed savers who use traditional plant breeding techniques. … GMOs are dangerous because they concentrate power — and that’s never good news for democracy.”
As a matter of principle I believe that de-centralized power is preferable to concentrated power; that a larger number of market players is preferable to monopolies or oligopolies; that local and regional economies are on average more ecologically sustainable and socially responsible than international economies; and that — especially when it comes to our food supply — it’s better to trust in less technologically sophisticated seed production methods than technologically demanding seed production methods. Small is, indeed, beautiful, if for no other reason than that systems and technologies that are closer to the human scale will prove more resilient in an era of climate chaos. Or, to borrow words from the old Lynas, from a 2008 commentary he wrote for the Guardian: “The [GM] technology moves entirely in the wrong direction, intensifying human technological manipulation of nature when we should be aiming at a more holistic ecological approach instead.” The new Lynas would probably slam that sentence for being more ideological than it is scientific — but science itself is an ideology, and everyone has to start from some point of view.
In that 2008 article Lynas acknowledged that the debate over GM technology “is not about technology or science, it's about economics and social policy.” For reasons of economics and policy alone, I can’t share Lynas’ embrace of GMOs.
Jason Mark is a writer-farmer with a deep background in environmental politics. In addition to his work in the Earth Island Journal, his writings have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, The Progressive, Utne Reader, Orion, Gastronomica, Grist.org, Alternet.org, E magazine, and Yes! He is a co-author of "Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots" and also co-author with Kevin Danaher of "Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power". When not writing and editing, he co-manages Alemany Farm, San Francisco’s largest food production site.
2.The Lynas School of pseudo-scientific environmentalism
Dr Brian John, Past Lecturer in Geography, University of Durham
6 January 2013
*Twenty-two pieces of junk science from the Lynas Manifesto
In a high-profile lecture to the recent Oxford Farming Conference, self-proclaimed neo-scientist Mark Lynas launched a vicious polemic, aimed at the organic farming movement and at those who oppose GM crops and foods and the activities of the GM multinationals. The speech was linked in to a highly orchestrated pro-GM publicity campaign. The press loved it -- and Lynas was pretty pleased with it himself, pushing the text of his speech out in all directions and twittering happily about its impact on the global stage...... which included 30,000 hits on his web site. The theme which the press picked up on was of course that of the ex-GM crop trasher who has now put emotion and prejudice to one side and who has become instead a science junkie. Others might see the conversion of a naive individual from one religion to another.........
Within a day of the lecture, somebody (Mark Lynas?) had placed this on the Lynas Wikipedia page:
"In a January 2013 lecture to the Oxford Farming Conference, Lynas detailed his conversion from an organizer of the the anti-GMO food movement in Europe to becoming a supporter of the technology. He admitted "... in 2008 I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM – even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding. I don't think I'd ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science..." He apologized for engaging in vandalism of field trials of genetically engineered crops and rationalized his conversion stating, "anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change." Lynas criticized organizations with which he was previously associated including Greenpeace and organic trade groups like the U.K. Soil Association for ignoring scientific facts about genetically modified crop safety and benefits because it conflicted with their ideologies and stated he "was completely wrong to oppose GMOs."
Unfortunately, there was no space on the Wikipedia page for any information on the "scientific facts" supposedly ignored by Greenpeace and the Soil Association. Let that pass for now. So -- we have a retired environmental activist who now believes in "pro-science environmentalism". Oh yes? When we read his speech, what we find is something which is so far away from scientific reliability that it is actually quite cringe-making. By turns, the speech is disingenuous, contrived, manipulative and factually inaccurate. Lynas is not a scientist, and it shows. He simply regurgitates the "convenient fictions" of the pro-GM lobby -- often without bothering to check his facts. It is a disgraceful exhibition of hubris underpinned by pseudo-science, from top to bottom.
1. Lynas says that the early anti-GM campaign (which he claims that he helped to start) was "explicitly an anti-science movement". Nonsense. HIS personal campaign might have been anti-science, but mine wasn't, and neither was the movement I became familiar with. From the beginning, we used scientific evidence to flag up the potential dangers of GMOs and the environmental damage associated with them. We even used evidence from the the Government's own (very inadequate) Farm-scale Trials of GM crops to show that GMOs harm the environment, and we placed great reliance on publicly-funded and peer-reviewed research which demonstrated cell damage in mammals which had consumed GM food.
2. 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.
3. Lynas says that pest-tolerant cotton and maize (by which he means BT varieties) need less insecticide than normal varieties, and implies that GM crops use less chemicals than conventionally-bred varieties. Nonsense. BT varieties have inbuilt toxins, and they significantly add to the environmental load of these toxins. Initially, less spraying of chemical insecticides is required, but those in-built toxins have considerable effects on non-target species and on the environment, as demonstrated in many peer-reviewed papers. As for overall chemical use (including herbicides and insecticides), the evidence is overwhelming that chemical use in GM agriculture is already far in excess of that in conventional farming, and that it is rising inexorably as weeds and insect pests develop resistance to Roundup, Liberty and other chemicals that are essential parts of the "GM farming package."
4. Lynas says that farmers are reaping "billions of dollars of benefits" accruing from the use of GM crops. Nonsense. Farmers in those areas which concentrate on GM soy and maize monocultures (for example) do indeed initially enjoy reduced management costs, but those costs then rise when they are caught in the "corporate feudalism" trap; and many health and other costs associated with agrichemical spraying and environmental and health damage are externalised, and have to be carried by society at large. It is disingenuous in the extreme to pretend that these costs do not exist. In the largest study to date on one of the oldest GM crops, cotton in Georgia, the authors concluded that there was no net financial benefit to GM farmers. The cost of GM seeds has risen faster, in some cases twice as fast, as all other inputs in the US. Neither is there a benefit to farmers in developing countries, as shown in the literature.
5. Throughout his article, Lynas conflates opposition to GM with opposition to biotechnology, assuming that "environmentalists" are fundamentally opposed to scientific progress. This is nonsense. After more than a decade of close contact with groups involved in the anti-GM movement, I can say with certainty that most of them are supportive of the use of science in the development of new crop varieties and of scientific methods which can enhance productivity. There is no "anti-science agenda." What groups like Greenpeace and the Soil Association want is good science, conducted for the benefit of the global community and with due regard for the principles of scientific ethics. That means science which is open, transparent and replicable, and where due respect is awarded to scientists whose experimental results may not accord with your own. Sadly, what these groups see when they look at GM science is an enterprise which is powerfully driven (even within the public sector) by the commercial imperative, where experiments cannot be repeated or replicated, and where scientists who discover "inconvenient" things are routinely vilified. In parallel with that, I believe that many groups are angered by GM corporations like Monsanto, which have managed, through an unrelenting campaign of patent registration and protection, to prevent farmers from seed saving and to ensure that they have to buy new seed for planting every year, from catalogues that are now dominated by GM varieties. They are also trapped into buying the chemicals that go with the seeds. It's called corporate feudalism, and it operates in a climate of fear and mistrust, in which farming communities collapse under the strain. Individual farmers like Percy Schmeiser who incur the displeasure of Monsanto are pursued ruthlessly through the courts. Once again, persecution and vilification have replaced respect and tolerance.
6. Lynas pretends that crops like BT cotton and RR soy were pirated into India and Brazil because "farmers were so eager to use them." Nonsense. They were pirated into a number of countries because many poor and vulnerable farmers were caught up in a high-pressure and sophisticated marketing campaign orchestrated by the GM industry -- and which they were powerless to resist. They were promised low prices, cheap herbicides and pesticides, and miracle yields. Over the last decade thousands of farmers have been caught up in a vicious spiral of debt, leading to farm suicides on an epidemic scale, crop failures, and vastly increased chemical use. The socio-economic effects have been dramatic, and tragic.
7. Lynas says that GM is "safer and more precise than conventional breeding" and that it involves the movement of just a couple of genes. That is all utter rubbish. If Lynas had done any reading at all on GM, he would know that the genetic modification of a plant is an extremely complex business, since it has to overcome the natural defensive systems of plants when confronted by alien materials inserted into their genomes. That is why so many attempts at genetic modification fail, and why scientists find it difficult to achieve stability and uniformity in new GM crops. The novel proteins or RNA in GM plants have all sorts of unpredictable knock-on effects, as any GM scientist will confirm. GM is a highly imprecise science. And GM plants containing novel proteins (and often herbicide and other residues as well) are certainly not safe, which is why they induce chronic toxic effects in the animals that are fed on them.
8. Lynas pretends that gene flow happens all the time between unrelated species, and that it is perfectly fine. Nonsense. Gene flow on the scale involved in genetic manipulation, and at the speed required of the GM plant developers, is unique, which is why many GM varieties fail completely, and why many others are highly stressed. Thousands of GM "lines" fail to make it out of the laboratory or the greenhouse. All of the regulatory bodies worldwide know this, and this is why GM varieties are considered in law to be uniquely different from other varieties -- and why special steps need to be taken to prevent outcrossing and contamination of other farmed varieties and related wild species.
9. Lynas pretends that GM crops are going to solve the great problems of global hunger and population increase, and sides with Norman Borlaug in asserting that those who oppose biotechnology are somehow responsible for precipitating famines, killing innocent people and encouraging "the crisis of global biodiversity." Nonsense. Without going into the side-effects of the "Green Revolution" it is widely accepted that the global food crisis is not a problem of under-production but a problem best solved through political, social and economic reform. It is a problem attributable to a lack of WILL, not a lack of technology or a lack of miracle crops. The IAASTD report of 2008 saw very little if any role for GM crops in a future world of increased food sovereignty, security, sustainability and environmental protection. If Lynas thinks that a world filled with GM crops is going to protect biodiversity, he has been seriously misinformed, since GM monocultures are not only associated with the systematic elimination of locally-adapted indigenous food crop varieties, but also -- through spraying and management techniques -- with substantial ecosystem damage.
10. Lynas pretends that the development of GM varieties has been made "prohibitively expensive" because of "anti-biotech campaigners" and the regulatory system which he lays at the door of "the twisted domestic politics of anti-biotech countries like France and Austria". Nonsense. The development of GM varieties is prohibitively expensive because of the manner in which they are made and because of obsessive secrecy and patent protection. The breeding process is very complicated indeed, and because there is such a high rate of failures many lines are discarded before commercialisation. A significant cost is accrued by these companies in securing and then defending their intellectual property rights. Simply from a technical standpoint, conventional crop breeding requires a 7 – 8 year cycle, compared to 10 – 15 years from inception to development for genetically modified crops. That has nothing to do with nasty anti-GM campaigners or the regulatory system. In Europe, the regulatory system put in place by the EU was not instigated or influenced by France and Austria but by the community of nations, intent upon ensuring that GM crops, being unique and potentially dangerous, should not enter the food chain unless and until they had gone through a rigorous assessment process. If Lynas thinks that was irresponsible, then thank God he is not in charge of our food supplies.
11. Lynas pretends that GM crops increase yields and that they are better for a hungry world and for the environment than organic agriculture. Nonsense. For a start, GM crops do not increase yields. Initially, they might reduce crop losses due to weed and insect infestations, but where herbicide tolerance to Roundup or Liberty (for example) is built in to a GM variety both weeds and pests rapidly adapt and lead to an inexorable increase of the chemical load required to maintain yields over time. Stacked "events" are developed, and farming costs rise inexorably as yields fall. And if Lynas had bothered to do a little light reading on GM plant breeding, he would discover that most of the apparently high-yielding GM varieties are productive not because of the introduced traits but because the best and highest yielding varieties were chosen in the first place for the GM process. "Isoline" varieties are then taken off the seed catalogues, leaving the "wonder" GM varieties to compete with a few inferior conventional crops that remain. In other words, yield increases are down to conventional breeding techniques, and not to the introduction of GM traits.
12. Lynas attacks the organic movement as being a "rejectionist" one with an antipathy towards chemicals and even science. Nonsense. The Soil Association does reject certain chemicals and practices because science -- and the practical experience of farmers worldwide -- demonstrate associated harm. If a practice or a substance is harmful, it does not take a very sophisticated cost-benefit analysis to suggest that you should stop using it. The problem that Lynas appears to have is that he seems to think only in terms of productivity, as if it can be isolated from everything else in the real world. In reality, there is no great point in maximising farm productivity (through the use of GM crops, or in any other way) if long-term sustainability is compromised, or if you are suffering from a lack of food security, or if your food sovereignty is surrendered to some large corporation that happens to have its base in St Louis Missouri. This is precisely the point made over and again by IAASTD and other bodies examining global population increases and food supply.
13. Lynas suggests that global increases in agricultural production over the last 50 years -- for example in China and South America -- are all down to chemical use and biotechnology. Nonsense. These things are difficult to quantify, but globally there have been great strides in conventional plant breeding, farm management, mechanisation, crop protection, food harvesting and preservation, and even marketing and processing -- all leading to increased productivity. Far greater progress has been down to the conventional breeding of locally adapted varieties -- rather than to the development of GM varieties which are vulnerable in times of environmental stress and which are pushed -- for commercial reasons -- into areas for which they are ill adapted.
14. Lynas thinks that glyphosate is a "benign herbicide." Nonsense. Glyphosate is a toxic chemical designed to kill things. It does its job, and kills both target and non-target species. The peer-reviewed literature is full of articles which show that the effects of exposure to glyphosate are damaging to cells, to reproductive capacity and to soil micro-organisms. More to the point, glyphosate is generally combined in proprietary substances (under brand names like Roundup) with surfactants and other chemicals designed to increase its effectiveness in killing things. Where it is used with RR food crops, residues remain in the plants and enter the food chain. It is becoming increasingly clear, through the studies by Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini and others (in the peer-reviewed literature) that there are chronic toxic effects in mammals -- and that means that glyphosate and Roundup should NOT be tolerated at any level in the human food chain.
15. Lynas assumes that everyone should be able to use "improved crops which would benefit the environment" if they want to. Nonsense. GM crops may be sold to gullible people like Lynas as being environmentally beneficial, but some of us are rather more streetwise. GM crops are regulated -- by mutual consent -- because they are different from other crops, and because they have the potential for doing damage on an unprecedented scale and in ways that are unforseen. Communities of farmers can only coexist peacefully if no farmer feels that he is threatened by the activities of others -- and if GM crops spread onto the land of farmers who do not want them, either because of pollen drift or poor farm management or because of the spillage of GM seed during transport, complex issues of containment, coexistence and even compensation arise. It is disingenuous in the extreme for Lynas to pretend that non-GM farmers are somehow being selfish if they insist on adequate protection -- in a world where the GM corporations are set upon a process of GM contamination by stealth.
16. Lynas pretends that those who seek to destroy or stop GM crop trials in open fields are prejudiced, emotional and anti-science. Nonsense. True, there are strong feelings and zealous people out there, who feel some sort of mission -- but Lynas would do well to recognize that such people exist within the pro-GM camp just as frequently as they do within the anti-GM camp. He is one of them, along with Rick Roush, Maurice Maloney, and George Freeman among many others. In fact the arguments against most of the GM trials which have attracted protests have been carefully nuanced, science based and quite respectful of the right of research scientists to conduct their research under carefully controlled conditions. Lynas does his own cause a grave disservice by seeking to portray the protestors as cranks and hysterical eco-freaks who know nothing of science. He also seems to think that because experiments are done (with some public funding) by Rothamsted in the UK or CSIRO in Australia, they should somehow be accepted and respected. Perhaps he needs to be reminded that their experiments in the GM field have more to do with politics, commerce and research lab self-preservation than they do with feeding the world.
17. Lynas sings the praises of the Golden Rice Project, and claims that Greenpeace and others who oppose it are "immoral and inhumane." Nonsense, once again. He is seeking to defend a project which has been a PR disaster from the beginning. Everybody knows that Golden Rice is a GM variety which is being used by Syngenta and the GM industry as a Trojan Horse. They never refer to it as a GM crop -- and the intention is to get it into the market place without any regulatory controls whatsoever. So it is sold to a gullible media as a "humanitarian crop" which will deal with Vitamin A deficiency among millions of poor people worldwide. Everybody knows that you can deal with that problem far more effectively -- and at much lower cost -- by introducing vegetables into the diets of those who use rice as their staple crops. Golden Rice is not a "public benefit" variety. Lynas should go off and talk to Syngenta, the corporation that owns certain Golden Rice patents and which will enforce them and make money from them just as soon as it sees fit. And then our brave scientist attacks Greenpeace for drawing attention to the Chinese researchers who fed Golden Rice to children without informing their parents that this was a GM product that had never been tested on animals, as it should have been for safety reasons. Again, if he had only bothered to do a bit of research, he would have discovered that Tufts University and the Golden Rice Project have been involved in highly secretive Golden Rice trials for some years now, in the face of mounting criticism about their cavalier attitude to scientific ethics.
18. Lynas crows over the petition circulated by John Pickett and his colleagues in support of the Rothamsted GM wheat trial in 2012. He says "they gained thousands of signatures" and implies that this demonstrates a sort of victory for common sense over prejudice. Nonsense. The petition -- a joint enterprise between Rothamsted Research and the strange organization called Sense about Science -- was a classic piece of unscientific garbage. At the time it was heavily criticised because it broke all the rules of public opinion polling -- asking people to sign up for a generalist statement and then using it to support a very specific and controversial GM wheat trial. Where polls are conducted according to the rules, without steerage or bias, as in the 2012 BBC Countryfile Poll or in the recent poll in the Guardian newspaper, the percentage of UK respondents opposed to GM crops and foods is still consistently high -- at over 70%.
19. Lynas claims that the positions taken by the Scottish and Welsh Governments on GMOs are based on "medieval superstition as a strategic imperative." That claim is arrogant nonsense. The two administrations have taken a hard-nosed and scientific approach to GMOs, looking at the science in considerable depth over many years. They have come to the view that the science (either in the public domain or in "closed" assessment dossiers) does NOT support the view that GMOs are either harmless to health or safe for the environment -- and they have enacted policies that reflect that situation and which are based upon the Precautionary Principle.
20. Lynas says: "Thus, desperately-needed agricultural innovation is being strangled by a suffocating avalanche of regulations which are not based on any rational scientific assessment of risk." Nonsense, yet again. The regulations for the control of GMOs in Europe and in many other countries are not perfect by any means, but they do attempt to incorporate scientific risk assessments. Maybe Lynas should go off and read the regulations instead of pontificating about their shortcomings. They are designed to protect the public -- not to protect the commercial interests of the GM industry or to pander to the needs of the very small (and shrinking) GM research community.
21. Lynas thunders as follows: "The 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." Nonsense, as usual. He trots out the figure of "three trillion meals" fed to him by the GM industry with the utter conviction of somebody who cannot be bothered to think for himself. If he had paused for a moment, and done some research, he would have realized that there has not been a single piece of controlled epidemiological research into the effects on human beings of eating GM food. That is because the GM corporations are desperate to prevent such research. GM components have been leaked into the food supply, particularly in North America, to such a degree that it is now impossible to test a group of individuals consuming GM products against a GM-free control group. In any case, the effects of consuming GM food are likely to be chronic rather than acute -- which means that they will not be manifested at an early stage. That does NOT mean that GM foods are harmless -- and indeed the research on the toxicity of GM food and feed strongly suggests serious physiological damage.
22. Lynas says "yields per hectare are the most important environmental metric" and suggests that an acceptance of that principle should drive our attempts to feed the world. Nonsense. For somebody like Lynas, who seeks to portray himself as a man who respects science, it should take no more than a few seconds of thought to appreciate that high yields are completely meaningless in addressing global hunger concerns unless those yields are sustainable in the long term, unless they can be maintained without unacceptable social, health and environmental costs, and unless they can be maintained without spiralling cash and chemical inputs. Once again, Lynas shows himself to be completely ignorant about the realities of global development -- just as he is completely ignorant on the matter of GM science.
Sorry Mr Lynas. You probably mean well, but your lecture to the Oxford Farming Conference was based on junk science, from beginning to end. Perhaps you are also easily led. If you were (as you claim) led astray in your early campaigning days, you have been even more seriously led by the nose by your more recent friends from Sense About Science and from the GM Industry.
The references below -- many of them from peer-reviewed journals and government sources --are grouped in line with the numbering used in the text above.
1. The Farm Scale Evaluations in the UK http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse/ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3194574.stm
Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), on Farm-Scale Evaluations.
2. Crop Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research By ANDREW POLLACK Published: February 19, 2009
The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science – Part 2: Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity by Don Lotter -- Int. Jrnl. of Soc. of Agr. & Food, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 50–68 (Dec 2007) GM crops: Battlefield: by Emily Waltz Nature 461, 27-32 (2009) doi:10.1038/461027a, 2 September 2009
Editors. Do seed companies control GM crop research?
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-researc&print=true: Sci. Am.; 2009
3. Science News: 'Superweeds' Linked to Rising Herbicide Use in GM Crops, Study Finds
Pesticide Use Rises as Herbicide-resistant Weeds Undermine Performance of Major GE Crops, New WSU Study Shows Washington State University, 1 October 2012
Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years -- by Charles M. Benbrook Environmental Sciences Europe, Vol. 24:24 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-24, 28 September 2012. http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24/abstract.
Heinemann, J.A. Hope not Hype. The future of agriculture guided by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. Penang: Third World Network; 2009 Rosi-Marshall, E.J.; Tank, J.L.; Royer, T.V.; Whiles, M.R.; Evans-White, M.; Chambers, C., et al. Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater stream ecosystems. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 104:16204-16208; 2007
4. Scientists want inclusion of social economic considerations in risk assessment of GM crops Roy Mathew, The Hindu, September 30 2012 http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/agriculture/scientists-want-inclusion-of-social-economic-considerations-in-risk-assessment-of-gm-crops/article3951743.ece
Jost, P.; Shurley, D.; Culpepper, S.; Roberts, P.; Nichols, R.; Reeves, J., et al. Economic comparison of transgenic and nontransgenic cotton production systems in Georgia. Agron J. 100:42–51; 2008 "The socio-economic effects of GMOs - Hidden costs for the food chain"
http://truth-out.org/news/item/59 Delmer, D.P. Agriculture in the developing world: connecting innovations in plant research to downstream applications. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 102:15739-15746; 2005 Zilberman, D.; Sexton, S.E.; Marra, M.; Fernandez-Cornejo, J. The economic impact of genetically engineered crops. Choices. 25:(no page numbers); 2010
5. The GM lobby and its "Seven sins against science" By Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Soil Association The Ecologist magazine, 31 December 2012
Monsanto's point of no return. By Joel Dyer Boulder Weekly, Thursday, August 30, 2012
GMOs: Seven Obvious Questions in Search of Straightforward Answers Colin Tudge Campaign for Real Farming, December 28 2012
Crucial GM research: "This is about large sums of money" Denise Battaglia Tages Woche (Switzerland), 2 Nov 2012
ENSSER calls for scientific debate of potential health risks of GM wheat instead of ad hominem attacks on researchers European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER)
The covert war to discredit Seralini's study Benjamin Sourice Rue 89, 12 November 2012
6. How Indian Farmers were lured into the GM technology trap: Cotton cultivators are on a seed and pesticide treadmill that is draining them of traditional skills by Latha Jishnu Issue: Dec 15, 2011
Maharashtra State Revokes Monsanto's Cotton Seed License.
Bt Cotton, a bitter harvest for farmers: Suicide and Despair in India, by Kavitha Kuruganti. Climate Connections, http://climate-connections.org/2012/06/02/bt-cotton-a-bitter-harvest-for-farmers-suicide-and-despair/
7. Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers Earth Open Source press release 17 June 2012
Genetic engineering is Not Precise or Predictable
8. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0011405 Zeller, S. L., O. Kalinina, et al. (2010). "Transgene x environment interactions in genetically modified wheat." PLoS ONE 5(7): e11405. Genetically Modified Foods: Breeding Uncertainty Charles W. Schmidt
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1280366/ A typology of the effects of (trans)gene flow on the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources, by Prof Jack A. Heinemann, FAO Background Study Paper, June 2007.
9. IAASTD, 2008, "Towards Multifunctional agriculture for Social, Environmental and Economic Sustainability"
Biotechnology and Sustainable Development Findings from the UN-led International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development Options for Action Hoffman, U. Assuring food security in developing countries under the challenges of climate change: key trade and development issues of a fundamental transformation of agriculture: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development; http://www.unctad.org; 2011 Kiers, E.T.; Leakey, R.R.B.; Izac, A.-M.; Heinemann, J.A.; Rosenthal, E.; Nathan, D., et al. Agriculture at a crossroads. Science. 320:320-321; 2008 IAASTD. Agriculture at a Crossroads: The Synthesis Report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. In: McIntyre BD, Herren HR, Wakhungu J, Watson RT, eds. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. Washington, D.C.: Island Press; 2009a IAASTD ed. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. Washington, D.C.: Island Press; 2009b
10. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-07-117_en.htm Questions and Answers on the Regulation of GMOs in the European Union GM biotech players outline their science roadmaps
http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2012/09/04/gm-biotech-players-outline-their-science-roadmaps/ The European Regulatory System
Heinemann, J.A. Hope not Hype. The future of agriculture guided by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. Penang: Third World Network; 2009
11. Deconstructing Dinner http://www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/051409.htmhttp://cdn3.libsyn.com/deconstructingdinner/DD051409.mp3 nvb=20090804112650&nva=20090805113650&t=0b33d69055f708e1f28ff
http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/research/homepages/eclark/publications/ ISIS Report 11/04/08 Let the World Learn from North American Farmers' Experience with GMOs Prof. E. Ann Clark Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops Doug Gurian-Sherman
Service, R.F. A growing threat down on the farm. Science. 316:1114-1117; 2007
12. http://www.soilassociation.org/whatisorganic/organicfarming/gmfree Soil Association; GM crops - the health effects, 2008 [PDF, 169 KB] GMO and pesticide use research - Soil Association comment 03 October 2012
13. Economic and Social Development Department World Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030. Summary Report.
Climate-smart Agriculture http://climatechange.worldbank.org/content/climate-smart-agriculture
IAASTD, 2008, 'Towards Multifunctional agriculture for Social, Environmental and Economic Sustainability' Olivier De Schutter: United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Agroecology and the Right to Food, Report presented at the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council [A/HRC/16/49], 8 March 2011
14. Antoniou M, Habib MEM, Howard CV, Jennings RC, Leifert C, Nodari RO, Robinson CJ, Fagan J (2012) Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence. J Environ Anal Toxicol S4:006. doi:10.4172/2161-0525.S4-006. http://www.omicsonline.org/2161-0525/2161-0525-S4-006.php?aid=7453
Séralini, G. E., E. Clair, et al. (2012). Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512005637 Antoniou, M., M. Habib, et al. (2011).
Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?-- Earth Open Source. http://bit.ly/IP2FWH Glyphosate in northern ecosystems Marjo Helander, Irma Saloniemi and Kari Saikkonen
15. Confronting contamination : 5 reasons to reject co-existence
GRAIN | 28 April 2004 | Seedling - April 2004 -- 5 reasons to reject co-existence ISIS Report 16/12/05 -- GM Contamination Accelerating --No Co-Existence Possible
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMCANCEP.php Untried and untested GM crops are out of the bottle even in the UK where no GM crops are commercially grown.
Rhea Gala The Myth of Coexistence:: Why Transgenic Crops Are Not Compatible With Agroecologically Based Systems of Production, MIGUEL A. ALTIERI Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 25, 4, 2005, pp.361-371 1aug2005 http://bst.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/25/4/361
Heinemann, J.A. A typology of the effects of (trans)gene flow on the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources. Rome: UN FAO;
16. GM WHEAT JOURNALISTS UNQUESTIONING AND SUPINE Lawrence Woodward, GM Education UK, date 1st June 2012
Joanna Blythman: GM crop trials are needless and reckless
17. The campaign for genetically modified rice is at the crossroads http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/320/5875/468 Tough Lessons From Golden Rice by Martin Enserink Golden Scare: A new genetically modified rice strain is breeding controversy Noemie Bisserbe, 22 Aug 2008 http://www.businessworld.in/index.php/Economy-and-Banking/Golden-Scare.html Schubert, D. The problem with nutritionally enhanced plants. J Med Food. 11:in press; 2008
18. http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/Content.php?Section=AphidWheat Phillip Case, "GM wheat trial begins amid high security", Farmers Weekly, 28 March 2012
The inside story on the GM wheat trial debate Friday, 25 May 2012 15:21
http://www.taketheflourback.org/ The inside story on the GM wheat trial debate Jonathan Matthews, The Ecologist, 25 May 2012
19. The Concordat relating to GM issues in the UK: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/04/GMConcordat
Welsh Government: Genetically Modified Organisms http://wales.gov.uk/topics/environmentcountryside/farmingandcountryside/
20. http://www.eufoodpolicy.com/cgi-bin/view_article.pl?id=5590 Testbiotech comment on EFSA´s draft Guidance for risk assessment of GMO EFSA´s Guidance needs clariﬁcation and cut off criteria
ENSSER Comments on the EFSA Guidance on the Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Plants
21. Seralini and Science: an Open Letter, Independent Science News, October 2, 2012
http://independentsciencenews.org/health/seralini-and-science-nk603-rat-study-roundup/#comment-4292 Pusztai A. and Bardocz S. (2006). GMO in animal nutrition: potential benefits and risks. In: Biology of Nutrition in Growing Animals, eds. R. Mosenthin, J. Zentek and T. Zebrowska, Elsevier Limited, pp. 513-540. Schubert D.R. (2008) The problem with nutritionally enhanced plants. J Med Food., 11: 601-605. Dona A. and Arvanitoyannis I.S. (2009) Health Risks of Genetically Modified Foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr., 49: 164–175.
22. IAASTD ed. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. Washington, D.C.: Island Press; 2009b http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/15ty52/recent_patterns_of_crop_yield_growth_and/
Recent patterns of crop yield, growth, and stagnation: worldwide crop yields are decreasing Economic and Social Development Department World Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030. An FAO perspective http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y4252e/y4252e13.htm
How the Science Media Failed the IAASTD April 7, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Commentaries, Environment, Science Media No Comments Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson
http://www.campaignforrealfarming.org/2012/12/gmos-seven-obvious-questions-in-search-of-straightforward-answers/ GMOs: Seven Obvious Questions in Search of Straightforward Answers