Man Reads Book

By on 01/14/2013 in Uncategorized

It was such a non-issue that I really didn’t want to write about it at all. I didn’t know who Mark Lynas was and didn’t know that he had changed his mind about genetically modified crops from being an opponent to a fan. But, clearly, it was a slow news week. The killing and the rape and the corporate crime and the climate change had been successfully reported. So a range of news outlets decided to give Lynas the air time he wanted, following this speech.

Frankly, there’s not much to read. Mark Lynas opposed GM crops because he thought they were bad but now he has ‘discovered science’, and that makes him a better environmentalist and a supporter of the pesticide industry’s sale of genetically modified crops and it possibly makes him regret studying politics and modern history.

In general, it’s a good thing that people discover science. It usually means they’ve left behind dogma in favour of peer review and data. In this piece, scientist John Vandermeer welcomes Lynas to science, and looks forward to Lynas’ reading more science in the future. After all, some of the most reasoned arguments against GM crops come from those who have embraced science for far longer than Lynas. GM Free Cymru and The Union of Concerned Scientists note, though, that Lynas hasn’t really given up on the dogma, seeming to have swapped his old prejudices for the kind of pro-business platform that’ll keep him flush with industry conference honoraria for the next year or two.

There’s really not much more to be said. It could be that Lynas will, like Bjorn Lomborg, noisily muddle from one position to another, trailing the scientific debates by a decade, but anticipating the winds of conservative thinking by a month or two. Ultimately, though, it matters little. While Lynas embarks on his journey from knee-jerkery to scientific neophyte to, we hope, scientific sophisticate, science and sustainable farming are demonstrating both that GM crops are irrelevant in feeding the world, and that they’re the worst among many far better alternatives. Which is a far more interesting story to report than that Mark Lynas has read a book.