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Leading environmentalists set record straight about Mark Lynas

NOTE: Mark Lynas has attracted considerable media attention by apologising for founding the anti-GM movement. But this background briefing from those in the know makes clear Lynas was never remotely a founder or even a key player in that movement, or in the green movement more generally. Those setting the record straight include some of the UK's best known environmentalists together with many of the main movers of the GM campaign of the 1990s. 

For more about the misleading claims
For more about the bad science these claims have been used to promote
Background Briefing – Mark Lynas and the GM movement in the UK

Mark Lynas, a UK based author of several books on climate change, has recently announced that he has changed his views on GM crops and foods. Many articles and statements about his change of views state that he had a founding role or past leadership in the anti-GM debate, or the environment movement more generally. These claims continue to be headlined to generate interest in Mark Lynas's revised views on GM, without which it is unlikely they would have the same media attention. 

Mark Lynas has made some of these claims himself(1) and has not corrected them in interviews(2) or attempted to correct misleading articles.(3) He said he found some of the misleading claims amusing.(4)

These claims of Mark Lynas's importance in GM campaigns are not true. Many of those who were involved substantially in the environment movement or GM campaigns during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, both before and after Lynas's engagement in some anti-GM activism including actions to remove GM crops, have confirmed this.(5) They do not recognise Lynas's contribution as being significant in the ways it is being represented and want to put the record straight on this point of factual accuracy so that there is no further misunderstanding.


1. Examples of statements made by Mark Lynas:

"I am also sorry that I helped start the anti-GM movement back in the '90s."
Speech at The Oxford Farming Conference, 3 January 2013

"I really was one of the founders of the early movement."
Speech at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, 4 December 2012

2. Examples of statements made to Mark Lynas which he has not corrected:

"You really became one of the Godfathers of this movement."
Anti-GMO activist has change of heart, RT America, 7 January 2013

"You were one of the leaders of the anti-GM campaign in the UK."
Steven Sackur, Hardtalk, BBC World Service, 30 January 2013

3. Media reports have, for example, incorrectly described him as "one of the founders of the anti-GM crop movement" (The Observer), as "one of the first leaders of the anti-GM movement" (The Australian), as having "helped drive Europe's movement against genetically engineered crops" (The New York Times), and as "a leading voice against using genetically modified organisms" (Huffington Post). More examples here.


5. This Background Briefing represents the views of the following:

Luke Anderson, GEN (Genetic Engineering Network) 1997-2003; TOGG (Totnes Genetix Group) 1997-2002

Adrian Bebb, Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth 1997-present

Tom Burke, Director of Friends of Earth 1975-1979; Director of Green Alliance 1983–1991

Julie Hill, Policy Director 1987-1992 and then Director 1992-97, Green Alliance

Tony Juniper, Policy and Campaigns Director 1997-2002 and then Director 2003-2008, Friends of the Earth

Dr David King, Director of the Genetics Forum 1990-1993; Editor of GenEthics News 1993-2000; Director of Human Genetics Alert

Dr Sue Mayer, Science Director of Greenpeace UK 1990-1995; Founder and Director of GeneWatch UK 1997-2007

Peter Melchett, Chair 1985-1989 and Executive Director 1989-2001, Greenpeace UK

Patrick Mulvany, ITDG/Practical Action on food, agriculture and technology 1979-2012; co-Chair UK Food Group

Helena Paul, GEN (Genetic Engineering Network) 1997-present; co-founder and founding Chair of GM Freeze 1999-present

Jonathon Porritt, Director of Friends of the Earth 1984-1990

Theo Simon, Seize The Day 1996-present; GEN (Genetic Engineering Network) 1997-present

Andrew Simms, Campaign Communications Manager for Christian Aid 1995-1999; NEF (New Economics Foundation) 2002-present

Liz Snook, TOGG (Totnes Genetix Group) 1997-2005; Co-Editor of Genetix Update for GEN 1999-2005

Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher, Science Director of the Genetics Forum 1996-1999; Coordinator of the WEN (Women's Environmental Network) GM Campaign 1996-1999

Jim Thomas, GM Campaigner for Greenpeace 1996-2002; GEN (Genetic Engineering Network) 1997-2001; ETC Group 2002-present

Rowan Tilly, genetiX snowball 1997-2001

Kathryn Tulip, genetiX snowball 1997-2001

Hugh Warwick, Recording GM protests/events 1997-2001; Editor of 'Splice', the magazine of the Genetics Forum 1998-2002