Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline found this confession of former anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas:
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.
. . .(This was) explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it. . .
. . .desperately-needed agricultural innovation is being strangled by a suffocating avalanche of regulations which are not based on any rational scientific assessment of risk. The risk today is not that anyone will be harmed by GM food, but that millions will be harmed by not having enough food, because a vocal minority of people in rich countries want their meals to be what they consider natural.
Lynas concludes that people who want to stick with organic are entitled to—but they should not stand in the way of others who would use science to find more efficient ways to feed billions. “[T]he GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe. … You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food,” he says.
Now, I don’t think Lynas is advocating that we just give GMO stuff a pass and never test it or monitor its effects, because that would be reckless. But Lynas does seem to have taken the time to understand what the heck he was talking about and once he understood GMO, he lost his irrational fear of it. It’s still ok to have rational fear.
He’s also had a change of heart about nuclear energy and now believes that it may be one of the most sensible solutions to global warming.
Lynas: It’s blindingly obvious, actually, and I don’t know why it took me so long. The current deployment of nuclear power worldwide of 430 reactors reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 2 billion tons per year. And that really is the beginning and the end of the argument if you’re in the slightest bit concerned about global warming. And all of the oft-stated green objections to nuclear power are either urban myths or an order of magnitude less important than global climate change.
Does that mean he’s onboard with all nuclear power plants built willy-nilly in any configuration on any active fault? No. It means he is open to the idea of modern nuclear power using new technologies and to a rigorous regulatory process. Rigorous does not mean strangulation.
As you can imagine, he’s not popular with some of the left’s most ardent activists. Apostates rarely are. Apostates have moved beyond faith to inquiry and evidence.
As someone who grew up in one of the least rational religious cults out there, I can see a lot of similarities between the anti-GMO, anti-nuke, anti-vacc crew and the glassy eyed, Watchtower bearing door knockers. I can’t take either set seriously. It’s hard to reason with people who are committed to a point of view regardless of the evidence or the damage they are doing to their own cause. It would be great if more people on the left would follow Lynas’ example because right now, it’s easy to ignore the lefty activists. They’re not doing environmentalism any good. To some of us on the left, such as myself, the anti-GMO, anti-nuclear energy crowd is as embarrassing, nutty and non-productive as the Tea Partiers are to the right. It’s one of the reasons I will never vote Green.
I’m sure this post will bring offend many people who are adamant about their beliefs and have a bunch of silly papers to prove it but up until now, I’ve found them unconvincing. You are entitled to your own beliefs but not your own facts. But there are people on the left who have made a career and an industry out of belief based environmentalism just like there are televangelists hawking their latest faith healing. You might as well be trying to prove the existence of Noah’s ark in the mountains of Turkey.