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Confessions of an Anti-GMO environmentalist | Mark Lynas

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One of the world’s greatest challenges now has the opportunity to become a model for developing genetic techniques that could help save the global food supply and ultimately combat world hunger. Knowing the value of GM technology, helping farmers sustainability increase yields to feed a predicted 9.5 billion people with less land, water, and facing climate change—is at the forefront of the public’s moral responsibility.

Norman Borlaug, the father of the green revolution, died in 2009 however left an important message, “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years”. Mark Lynas, a world-renowned pro-science environmentalist, was supposed to be a voice of reason much alike Borlaug. At the 2013 oxford conference he, unfortunately, began with an apology, he let us down. Lynas spent his life using science to prove the implications of climate change, in fact, he stated he was determined to make his first book on global warming scientifically credible.

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Lynas later led a life of contradiction, holding that he was strongly opposed to genetically modified organisms on the basis that it was marketed by big corporations later questioned by a critic, “Are you also opposed to the wheel because it is marketed by the big auto companies?”. It would be unfair to judge someone based on one single mistake however, it is challenging to overcome such hypocrisy. Perhaps his apology is acts as a greater reflection of today’s society—fake news, quick judgment, and serve apprehension of technology that doesn’t include the latest iPhone releases.

Mark originally argued that GMO’s were “living pollution” and ultimately unhealthy for people and the environment. He argued that GMOs meant increased pesticide usage and more pesticides meant an ecological crisis. In the following years and further research, Lynas discovered that GMOs require fewer pesticides, herbicides and produce higher yields with less land. Agricultural producers would be able to feed the global population with less harm to the environment and surrounding ecosystems.

Although Mark argued against GMOs initially with the concern for food safety and environmental implications, he supported organic agricultural practices and organic foods suggesting they were a healthier alternative and better to grow. In fact, many consumers run for the organic food section these days which is troubling. Lynas later found that organic crops grow slower, require more labor, more land, and are less eco-friendly and organic practices supply less food to the global supply than traditional methods.

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Lynas made a final plea that, “The GMO debate is over, it is finished, we no longer need to discuss whether or not it’s not safe…there has been a substantial amount of meals that have caused no harm”.

His foolish mistake to ignore science serves as a lesson for others to consider, are we willing to watch the world starve over the unnecessary fear of technology and opinions driven by emotion, not facts?

Mark Lynas Lecture on GMOs

Mark Lynas, an environmentalist gave a public lecture at the Oxford Farming Conference on his apology to scientists about his previous opposition to the production of genetically-modified organisms in agricultural biotechnology as well as for facilitating the ban of GM in Europe. In his speech, he exclaimed why his earlier claims and beliefs were bred from a place of ignorance, with no scientifical reasoning behind his opinion that GMOs were unnatural and wrong. Lynas originally assumed that Monsanto’s GM soybeans, the first product of genetic engineering introduced to the market in 1996 was an act of humankind acquiring too much technological power, but slowly he began to believe this form of anti-environmentalism did not coincide with his opinions of pro-science environmentalism when it came to the conflicts of climate change. He began to educate himself on the positive qualities of GMOs. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis because it just switched around a couple of genes whereas conventional breeding manipulates an entire genome. He used another example with the mixing of genes between unrelated species, the fish and the tomato, but viruses do that naturally during the process of gene-flow in plants, animals, and even insects. This concludes that this form of biotechnology may actually be a sustainable option for the incoming population that is currently estimated at over 9.5 billion people by the year 2050. According to Lynas, the planet is going to have to sustain feeding this amount of people on the same area of landmass that is used for farming today while also using limited water, pesticides, and fertilizer, with the context of climate change as well. I was definitely enlightened by learning that genetically modified organisms are not dangerous or unethical. According to Lynas, it’s crucial that we use this important production to feed future generations.

Mark Lynas on GMOs

Mark Lynas was originally extremely anti-GMOs, or as he says, GM. He helped to start a successful anti-GM movement in the mid 1990s, which grew to a considerable amount of power and influence. Today however (or at least back in 2013),  Lynas is supportive of using GMOs in agriculture. He had held many beliefs about GMOs and was scared of them, describing them as a type of “living pollution” that he thought would spread and go terribly wrong. He believed that GMOs were incredibly unnatural and that this kind of technology was too powerful for humankind. His campaign was involved with a lot of anti-science themes, such as that scientists were “cackling demonically” as they tinkered with the backbones of life. Lynas was very pro-science when it came to proving climate change, so when a critic of his anti-GM mindset pointed this out and directly challenged one of his beliefs- that GMs were bad because it is marketed by big corporations, would he be against the wheel because auto companies market them- Lynas read up on the science of GMs. After reading the science, he realized that changing genes to make plants more pest resistant would mean farmers could use less chemicals, not more. He learned that genes from different species get mixed all the time thanks to viruses, so humans aren’t the only one messing with genomes. Even then, GMs change only a couple genes, where conventional breeding mixes up the whole thing. In short, Lynas read up on the science, and the science proved many of his fears wrong or unjustified, and he realized the incredible benefits of GMs.

Reflection of Mark Lynas lecture on Farming in 2013 Oxford

I watched a movie today that Mark Linus talked about why he changed his mind from an anti-GMO to support GMO in 2013 Oxford conference. Before I watch Mark Lynas’ s speech, I have heard about many countries opposed GMO. There are many concerns about the GMO will pollute GenBank of whether organism’ s or our human’ s in nature. Some claims that GMO is against to God, or human has no right to change the nature. The thing surprised me is how those people opposed GMO. In Kenya, if you plant GMO crop, you will be sent to prison for 10 years, even though GMO crop have higher yield. People refuse science because of religion. I can’t imagine that thing happens in the 21th centuries. It recalled me the conflict between geocentric theory and heliocentric theory. The global population are growing, and it need the innovative and advanced technology to improve the yield of crops. The anti-GMO organizations support organic food, they believe organic food are healthier. But it has been proven that organic food is not healthier than other food and it is expensive and has a low yield. In the other word, the GMO crop can have higher yield in less land, pesticide, time, and money. If there is a ban for GMO all over the world, millions of people will be died by starving, and more land, like rain forests, will be used to grow crops. I do not think that will be a good result.

Mark Lynas

Mark Lynas, a prominent environmentalist and anti GMO activist, reversed his opinion on GMO’s in 2013 at the Oxford Farming Conference, extolling the virtues of the revolutionary technology while fervently apologizing for his past behavior. He was considered one of the most ardent critics of genetically modified organics and his campaign against them during the 1990’s largely influenced public opinion on the matter for decades, swaying even some national governments to ban GMO’s to this day.

The stated reason for his drastic change of opinion is that he had not been examining GMO’s through the same scientific lens as he had been with his other areas of research. He had been unfairly and impartially judging GMO’s without researching them appropriately. He also mentions Norman Borlaug and how he helped saved millions from starvation through genetically modifying food.

Lynas stresses the importance of GMO’s today, with rising populations and increased environmental stressors demanding innovation in the field of agriculture.


Mark Lynas 180 Degree Change

I think Mark is very brave to admit his mistakes and be able to embrace them and come forward to such a large crowd. I think it was almost better for him to start out the way he did because it gave him a better understanding of why GMOs were good and it also showed him why people think they are bad. So now he can help inform those people and people around the world the right way and explain it to them how he learned about it and why he changed. He makes his case by saying when he thought about GMOs he just thought about evil scientists working in a lab making up these food concoctions. He didn’t trust them because they were marketed by big corporations and had really not looked into it more than that. But, finally when he did look more into it and got more of an academic understanding of what GMOs really do and their health benefits his Anti-GMO views started to fall apart. Another point he talks about is how he thought they would need more chemicals to take care of these GMO crops when really it would take less chemicals because the plants were meant to deal with it better. He hits beautifully on how GMOs genetics aren’t really as unnatural as everyone thinks and how this type of genome mix happens in nature and its called a gene flow. Mark Lynas states his case well and does a great job at saying why he  was wrong and exactly why he was by using facts.

Guest lecture about social media

I have not had a formal lecture to learn about social media. This lecture is unique for me because i have learn so many useful knowledge about social media for my daily life. She mentioned never use your real name for your informal social media because it may affect the application of a job. It is the first time to know companies may search your name online to check what kind of person you are. In people’s private life, they are relaxed so they may post what they did not think overhead in their social media. Many people do not pay attention to it. Now I know it is important to pay attention to. what is more, she helps me to understand the necessity of having a formal and clean (same theme) page on social media. It would help me to show company about myself and it is also a self-learning process.


Mark Lynas Oxford Farming Conference

After watching the video of Mark Lynas at the 2013 Oxford Farming Conference, I have more hope in education than I had before. Mark Lynas is a prime example of someone who was anti-GMO and anti-Science. He was against technology that he did not understand, and used misconceptions and fear to alter peoples perspectives of a technology that was supposed to help save the world’s declining agriculture. Due to climate change, increasing population, and declining soil nutrition, Agriculture faces more challenges than ever before. Mark Lynas was again against GMO’s because of his lack of understanding of them. Through education he was able to deepen his understanding of how GMO’s work, and how they effect the world. I think that now more than ever, he is an incredibly powerful and influential position in the environmental and agricultural world. He was anti-science himself, and through education he was able to stand up for what was right. I think that he is able to reach out to more people, and change peoples’ minds about GMOs because he was once a non-believer. I think that he will bring a down to earth perspective, and will be able to relate to people who are still against this technology. He had an incredibly grounded reason of why he changed his mind from anti to pro. He read peer-reviewed papers, and read articles, and did research, and he attended appropriate conferences. Through this education and new-found knowledge he  was able to support a technology that is helping to save the world. GMO’s are creating plants that are stronger against environmental stresses such as pests, and hot weather, and they are also creating plants that are richer in nutrients and helping humans stay healthy. I commend Mark Lynas for his research and his search for the truth!

Conflicted about Mark Lynas

I am 100% for the use of GMOs. In my last 4 semesters here at UD, I have used this topic for research papers, speeches, and even made my own website about them. I love when he says that he was foolish for being anti-GMO just because they were supported by a big corporation. I feel as though this is why most people are against GMO, and they do not know enough about them to support that opinion. I feel as though he definitely makes a successful case for his change of heart for the way he now views GMOs.

The conflict I feel comes from when I forwarded this video to my dad, who feels very strongly against GMOs. Throughout my experience in the Plant Science major, I have learned a lot about the benefits and technology that goes into genetically modifying crops. He on the other hand, is having a harder time believing me. When I sent him this video, he was a little upset with me that I did not do my research about who Mark Lynas was, and he shared with me what he found. When he looked Lynas up, he found articles about his positions on nuclear power and global warming, with nothing about the anti-GM movement, which is very interesting, seeing as though he claimed being a leader of it. He also found a list of 10 people to be an “ambassador” for this campaign to better the image of GM crops in society’s mind, Mark Lynas being on it. This was just a little weird, and I appreciated my dad sharing this with me. All in all, I loved seeing a video of someone saying how they regret being on the other side of an argument I feel very strongly about.

Mark Lynas at the 2013 Oxford Conference towards GMO’s

Mark Lynas has done a total 180 on how he views the importance of GMO’s. One of the first things he says as he starts his speech is ” I want to start with some apologies which I believe are most appropriate to this audience. For the record, here and upfront I would like to apologize for having spent several years ripping up GM crops… starve the anti-GM movement back in the 90’s… demonizing an important technological option which can and should be used to benefit the environment.” Lynas completely regrets the counterproductive path he has chosen and he regrets it entirely. He discovered science and the importance of GM’s for today’s uprising population. When he first heard about GM’s he thought that it was just a “big AMERICAN corporation with a nasty track record putting something new and experimental into our food supply.” With me being a former vegan and only wanting to eat some of the most pristine vegetables I too was afraid of GMO’s and if they would damage my body. Over time throughout several hours of research and my Agriculture class that I am currently taking through the University of Delaware, my professor has enlightened me on how much he GMO’s have impacted the world! I am a strong supporter of GMO usage in today’s crops. Without them, we would not be able to feed today’s population along with our aminals to get other products from. In the rest of the Lynas’s speech, he explains how with the GMO’s can help the world and should be approved all around.

Mark Lynas Lecture

After listening to the Mark Lynas lecture about his change of thought on GMOs I strongly believe everyone involved in the GMO controversy should listen to his explanation and new thoughts on GMOs. I am in full support of the use of GMOs and agree with Mark Lynas change in approach. I respected how Mr. Lynas first took the time to explain why he was against GMOs in the first place and I believe many people have the same thinking processes as he did when he first heard of the use of GMOs. He explained how he thought GMOs were just being used by a big American corporation with not much thought and that it would go horribly wrong in the long run. He then explained how he had actually never done research in the field till later and then discovered that GMOs were a necessity for humankind and the growing population. Mark Lynas makes a very strong case for his change of heart by evaluating how he first approached the situation and then how he learned more about all the benefits of GMOs. Throughout his lecture he explains all of the reasons he now supports the use of GMOs including that GMO crops actually need less chemicals, it was benefiting farmers instead of big companies and finally he explained how it is actually a safer and more precise way of growing crops. I believe many people who are against the use of GMOs have not done research in the field and assume right away its bad like Mark Lynas did at the beginning of his career. I want to spread the knowledge of GMOs being safe and a necessity to farming with the growing population. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Mark Lynas lecture and am happy to see someone who was against GMOs spreading his new-found knowledge and supporting them.

The GMO controversy

In January, 2013, environmentalist and author Mark Lynas, a self-proclaimed founder and activist for Europe’s anti-GMO (he uses the term GM) movement, spoke before the annual Oxford (UK) Farming Conference and announced a 180 degree change in his opinion about GMOs, and disassociated himself with the anti GMO movement (whom he calls “antis”) that he helped grow into a successful protest movement. His remarks, recorded and presented below,  explain his reasons for his change in attitude.  Read the >>>Transcript Mark Lynas 2013 Oxford Farming Conference.

Mark Lynas
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The use of genetically modified organisms, commonly referred to as GMOs, is highly controversial topic. Lynas’s  speech, the transcription of which can be found on his website (if you’d like to read along), sent shock waves across the agricultural sector and has received world-wide attention.

What do you think of his position? Does he make a case for his change of heart and the way he now views GMOs?