Lynas aims to put science back at centre of GM debate

Alistair Driver at the Farmers Guardian shows us the words Mark Lynas wrote yesterday. Mr Lynas [says that he] was a leading opponent of genetic modification (GM) and he has now changed his mind.

It’s worth reading what Mr Lynas says. It’s also worth reading the comments made there by people who understand the science better than Mr Lynas does. I like the commenter who points out that there are ways to approach the hunger problem, other than by tinkering with crop genes. Ways like wasting less food.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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8 Responses to Lynas aims to put science back at centre of GM debate

  1. Hunger problem is not merely a matter of low crop yield which can probably be solved by GM. It’s more of a political mishandling than just the very much stated “low produce”. Stats don’t actually say production is that low (without GM also!). And wastage + rotten grains in untreated storage aren’t being solved by GM still. Moreover the unpredictable effects that GM can cause to the land under use are not affordable. Not just by a country, but our planet can’t afford any mistake in agricultural land. The famous TED talk on “Terraculture” alarms us of the state we are in already. Hunger problem is going to increase and agriculture alone will never be the reason. First we need to ourselves reduce wastage and then keep a check on Governments and the bodies under concern. Let’s keep GM focus on better yield and less wastage on the field (with 0% damage ). The TED video link is: http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_foley_the_other_inconvenient_truth.html

    • argylesock says:

      Thank you for this. As you know, what bothers me are ‘the unpredictable effects that GM can cause to the land’ and it’s not only the land on which the GM crops would be grown. You’re right that ‘our planet can’t afford any mistake in agricultural land.’

      I agree about the political aspect, too. Charman Mao really did impose the Cultural Revolution and that really did lead to mass human starvation.

  2. EqFe says:

    “For example, he described concerns, particularly of the organic movement, about GM co-existence as ‘almost entirely a non-issue’. “Organic accepts contamination from fertiliser and pesticides used on neighbouring farms so why should a tiny proportion of GM pollen be an enormous issue?
    “The organic lobby is using that as an excuse to try and exclude a farming system that they disapprove of.”
    Would that this oversimplification were true. I first became aware of the spread of pollen issue when buying cottonseed meal from an organic garden supplier. Cottonseed meal has the advantage of being naturally low in ph and perfect for fertilizing my blueberries. Few commercial crops receive as much pesticide as cotton. So I always bought organic. One year there was a disclaimer, that the seller could certify that the fertilizer was pesticide free, but not that it didn’t contain some gmo seed because of the spread of pollon. I suppose that falls into what Mr.Lynas was refering.
    However, the more critical issue is in the spread of GMO pollen is running afould of patent and seed saving legal issues. Canola oil as you know is manufactured from rapeseed, a hugely impostant crop in Canada. Most growers in that country purchase seed, usually Roundup ready from Monsanto, spray pesticide etc. But there is a market for organic seed, and so obviously there are organic growers, many of whom save their own seed from year to year. When pollen spreads, Monsanto sues the seed savers, with mixed success, but always at a great court cost to the organic grower. Roundoup ready, already reducing genetic diversity because of it’s widespread use, now creates new casulties.
    In Mexico the stody is worse, as Monsanto is busy suing small self sufficient farms who have been saving their seeds for generations, One could argue that this is not, strictly speaking a GMO issue, but one of seed patent law, or one of an evil corporaton, but they go hand and hand, and keepng GMO out keeps Monsanto out.
    From the beginning, the big corporations who profit from GMO development and use, have used the hunger\disease card to get approval. These of course the same corportions that profit at the expense of poor farmers. I remember a time magazine cover photo of GMO rice that was meant to prevent juvenile blindness due to vitamine A deficiency. It hasn’t materialized in an effective way.
    Mr Lynas may have some valid points, for the majority of our Planet which has wisely chosen to wait until these crops and this tachnology can be adequately tested. But for those of us who are living in that test labratory, it’s harder to be dispassionate.

  3. Pingback: Getting to the grist about GM | Science on the Land

  4. Pingback: The repentant environmentalist in his own words | Science on the Land

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