A SPEECH by Mark Lynas has stirred up an intriguing debate both online and off about genetically-modified (GM) foods. Mr Lynas is the author of three well-received books about the environment and was an early anti-GM activist, spending, as he puts it “several years ripping up GM crops” in the 1990s.
In 2008, Mr Lynas was unsparing in his criticism of GM food companies, calling their claims that GM crops could feed the world “outlandish” and dismissing arguments that they could better cope with the impact of climate change “a new line in emotional blackmail”.
At the Oxford conference on January 3rd, Mr Lynas was no less uncompromising. He began his speech : “I want to start with some apologies…I am sorry that I helped start the anti-GM movement…I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.”
His new position will be familiar to readers of this blog. “We will have to feed 9.5 billion hopefully less poor people by 2050 on about the same land area as we use today, using limited fertiliser, water and pesticides and in the context of a rapidly changing climate.” It will be impossible to feed those extra mouths by digging up more land, because there isn’t much going and because land conversion is a large source of greenhouse gases. Taking more water from rivers will accelerate biodiversity loss. And we need to improve—and probably …
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