Lecture to Oxford Farming Conference, 3 January 2013

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07 Mark Lynas from Oxford Farming Conference on Vimeo.

 

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.

So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.

These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.

This was also 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.

For me this anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change. I published my first book on global warming in 2004, and I was determined to make it scientifically credible rather than just a collection of anecdotes.

So I had to back up the story of my trip to Alaska with satellite data on sea ice, and I had to justify my pictures of disappearing glaciers in the Andes with long-term records of mass balance of mountain glaciers. That meant I had to learn how to read scientific papers, understand basic statistics and become literate in very different fields from oceanography to paleoclimate, none of which my degree in politics and modern history helped me with a great deal.

I found myself arguing constantly with people who I considered to be incorrigibly anti-science, because they wouldn’t listen to the climatologists and denied the scientific reality of climate change. So I lectured them about the value of peer-review, about the importance of scientific consensus and how the only facts that mattered were the ones published in the most distinguished scholarly journals.

My second climate book, Six Degrees, was so sciency that it even won the Royal Society science books prize, and climate scientists I had become friendly with would joke that I knew more about the subject than them. And yet, incredibly, at this time in 2008 I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM – even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding. I don’t think I’d ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science even at this late stage.

Obviously this contradiction was untenable. What really threw me were some of the comments underneath my final anti-GM Guardian article. In particular one critic said to me: so you’re opposed to GM on the basis that it is marketed by big corporations. Are you also opposed to the wheel because because it is marketed by the big auto companies?

So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.

I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.

But this was still only the beginning. So in my third book The God Species I junked all the environmentalist orthodoxy at the outset and tried to look at the bigger picture on a planetary scale.

And this is the challenge that faces us today: we are going to have to feed 9.5 billion hopefully much 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.

Let’s unpack this a bit. I know in a previous year’s lecture in this conference there was the topic of population growth. This area too is beset by myths. People think that high rates of fertility in the developing world are the big issue – in other words, poor people are having too many children, and we therefore need either family planning or even something drastic like mass one-child policies.

The reality is that global average fertility is down to about 2.5 – and if you consider that natural replacement is 2.2, this figure is not much above that. So where is the massive population growth coming from? It is coming because of declining infant mortality – more of today’s youngsters are growing up to have their own children rather than dying of preventable diseases in early childhood.

The rapid decline in infant mortality rates is one of the best news stories of our decade and the heartland of this great success story is sub-Saharan Africa. It’s not that there are legions more children being born – in fact, in the words of Hans Rosling, we are already at ‘peak child’. That is, about 2 billion children are alive today, and there will never be more than that because of declining fertility.

But so many more of these 2 billion children will survive into adulthood today to have their own children. They are the parents of the young adults of 2050. That’s the source of the 9.5 billion population projection for 2050. You don’t have to have lost a child, God forbid, or even be a parent, to know that declining infant mortality is a good thing.

So how much food will all these people need? According to the latest projections, published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we are looking at a global demand increase of well over 100% by mid-century. This is almost entirely down to GDP growth, especially in developing countries.

In other words, we need to produce more food not just to keep up with population but because poverty is gradually being eradicated, along with the widespread malnutrition that still today means close to 800 million people go to bed hungry each night. And I would challenge anyone in a rich country to say that this GDP growth in poor countries is a bad thing.

But as a result of this growth we have very serious environmental challenges to tackle. Land conversion is a large source of greenhouse gases, and perhaps the greatest source of biodiversity loss. This is another reason why intensification is essential – we have to grow more on limited land in order to save the rainforests and remaining natural habitats from the plough.

We also have to deal with limited water – not just depleting aquifers but also droughts that are expected to strike with increasing intensity in the agricultural heartlands of continents thanks to climate change. If we take more water from rivers we accelerate biodiversity loss in these fragile habitats.

We also need to better manage nitrogen use: artificial fertiliser is essential to feed humanity, but its inefficient use means dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and many coastal areas around the world, as well as eutrophication in fresh water ecosystems.

It is not enough to sit back and hope that technological innovation will solve our problems. We have to be much more activist and strategic than that. We have to ensure that technological innovation moves much more rapidly, and in the right direction for those who most need it.

In a sense we’ve been here before. When Paul Ehrlich published the Population Bomb in 1968, he wrote: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” The advice was explicit – in basket-case countries like India, people might as well starve sooner rather than later, and therefore food aid to them should be eliminated to reduce population growth.

It was not pre-ordained that Ehrlich would be wrong. In fact, if everyone had heeded his advice hundreds of millions of people might well have died needlessly. But in the event, malnutrition was cut dramatically, and India became food self-sufficient, thanks to Norman Borlaug and his Green Revolution.

It is important to recall that Borlaug was equally as worried about population growth as Ehrlich. He just thought it was worth trying to do something about it. He was a pragmatist because he believed in doing what was possible, but he was also an idealist because he believed that people everywhere deserved to have enough to eat.

So what did Norman Borlaug do? He turned to science and technology. Humans are a tool-making species – from clothes to ploughs, technology is primarily what distinguishes us from other apes. And much of this work was focused on the genome of major domesticated crops – if wheat, for example, could be shorter and put more effort into seed-making rather than stalks, then yields would improve and grain loss due to lodging would be minimised.

Before Borlaug died in 2009 he spent many years campaigning against those who for political and ideological reasons oppose modern innovation in agriculture. To quote: “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.”

And, thanks to supposedly environmental campaigns spread from affluent countries, we are perilously close to this position now. Biotechnology has not been stopped, but it has been made prohibitively expensive to all but the very biggest corporations.

It now costs tens of millions to get a crop through the regulatory systems in different countries. In fact the latest figures I’ve just seen from CropLife suggest it costs $139 million to move from discovering a new crop trait to full commercialisation, so open-source or public sector biotech really does not stand a chance.

There is a depressing irony here that the anti-biotech campaigners complain about GM crops only being marketed by big corporations when this is a situation they have done more than anyone to help bring about.

In the EU the system is at a standstill, and many GM crops have been waiting a decade or more for approval but are permanently held up by the twisted domestic politics of anti-biotech countries like France and Austria. Around the whole world the regulatory delay has increased to more than 5 and a half years now, from 3.7 years back in 2002. The bureaucratic burden is getting worse.

France, remember, long refused to accept the potato because it was an American import. As one commentator put it recently, Europe is on the verge of becoming a food museum. We well-fed consumers are blinded by romantic nostalgia for the traditional farming of the past. Because we have enough to eat, we can afford to indulge our aesthetic illusions.

But at the same time the growth of yields worldwide has stagnated for many major food crops, as research published only last month by Jonathan Foley and others in the journal Nature Communications showed. If we don’t get yield growth back on track we are indeed going to have trouble keeping up with population growth and resulting demand, and prices will rise as well as more land being converted from nature to agriculture.

To quote Norman Borlaug again: “I now say that the world has the technology — either available or well advanced in the research pipeline — to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology? While the affluent nations can certainly afford to adopt ultra low-risk positions, and pay more for food produced by the so-called ‘organic’ methods, the one billion chronically undernourished people of the low income, food-deficit nations cannot.”

As Borlaug was saying, perhaps the most pernicious myth of all is that organic production is better, either for people or the environment. The idea that it is healthier has been repeatedly disproved in the scientific literature. We also know from many studies that organic is much less productive, with up to 40-50% lower yields in terms of land area. The Soil Association went to great lengths in a recent report on feeding the world with organic not to mention this productivity gap.

Nor did it mention that overall, if you take into account land displacement effects, organic is also likely worse for biodiversity. Instead they talk about an ideal world where people in the west eat less meat and fewer calories overall so that people in developing countries can have more. This is simplistic nonsense.

If you think about it, the organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one. It doesn’t accept many modern technologies on principle. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, who froze their technology with the horse and cart in 1850, the organic movement essentially freezes its technology in somewhere around 1950, and for no better reason.

It doesn’t even apply this idea consistently however. I was reading in a recent Soil Association magazine that it is OK to blast weeds with flamethrowers or fry them with electric currents, but benign herbicides like glyphosate are still a no-no because they are ‘artificial chemicals’.

In reality there is no reason at all why avoiding chemicals should be better for the environment – quite the opposite in fact. Recent research by Jesse Ausubel and colleagues at Rockefeller University looked at how much extra farmland Indian farmers would have had to cultivate today using the technologies of 1961 to get today’s overall yield. The answer is 65 million hectares, an area the size of France.

In China, maize farmers spared 120 million hectares, an area twice the size of France, thanks to modern technologies getting higher yields. On a global scale, between 1961 and 2010 the area farmed grew by only 12%, whilst kilocalories per person rose from 2200 to 2800. So even with three billion more people, everyone still had more to eat thanks to a production increase of 300% in the same period.

So how much land worldwide was spared in the process thanks to these dramatic yield improvements, for which chemical inputs played a crucial role? The answer is 3 billion hectares, or the equivalent of two South Americas. There would have been no Amazon rainforest left today without this improvement in yields. Nor would there be any tigers in India or orang utans in Indonesia. That is why I don’t know why so many of those opposing the use of technology in agriculture call themselves environmentalists.

So where does this opposition come from? There seems to be a widespread assumption that modern technology equals more risk. Actually there are many very natural and organic ways to face illness and early death, as the debacle with Germany’s organic beansprouts proved in 2011. This was a public health catastrophe, with the same number of deaths and injuries as were caused by Chernobyl, because E.-coli probably from animal manure infected organic beansprout seeds imported from Egypt.

In total 53 people died and 3,500 suffered serious kidney failure. And why were these consumers choosing organic? Because they thought it was safer and healthier, and they were more scared of entirely trivial risks from highly-regulated chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

If you look at the situation without prejudice, much of the debate, both in terms of anti-biotech and organic, is simply based on the naturalistic fallacy – the belief that natural is good, and artificial is bad. This is a fallacy because there are plenty of entirely natural poisons and ways to die, as the relatives of those who died from E.-coli poisoning would tell you.

For organic, the naturalistic fallacy is elevated into the central guiding principle for an entire movement. This is irrational and we owe it to the Earth and to our children to do better.

This is not to say that organic farming has nothing to offer – there are many good techniques which have been developed, such as intercropping and companion planting, which can be environmentally very effective, even it they do tend to be highly labour-intensive. Principles of agro-ecology such as recyling nutrients and promoting on-farm diversity should also be taken more seriously everywhere.

But organic is in the way of progress when it refuses to allow innovation. Again using GM as the most obvious example, many third-generation GM crops allow us not to use environmentally-damaging chemicals because the genome of the crop in question has been altered so the plant can protect itself from pests. Why is that not organic?

Organic is also in the way when it is used to take away choice from others. One of the commonest arguments against GM is that organic farmers will be ‘contaminated’ with GM pollen, and therefore no-one should be allowed to use it. So the rights of a well-heeled minority, which come down ultimately to a consumer preference based on aesthetics, trump the rights of everyone else to use improved crops which would benefit the environment.

I am all for a world of diversity, but that means one farming system cannot claim to have a monopoly of virtue and aim at excluding all other options. Why can’t we have peaceful co-existence? This is particularly the case when it shackles us to old technologies which have higher inherent risks than the new.

It seems like almost everyone has to pay homage to ‘organic’ and to question this orthodoxy is unthinkable. Well I am here to question it today.

The biggest risk of all is that we do not take advantage of all sorts of opportunities for innovation because of what is in reality little more than blind prejudice. Let me give you two examples, both regrettably involving Greenpeace.

Last year Greenpeace destroyed a GM wheat crop in Australia, for all the traditional reasons, which I am very familiar with having done it myself. This was publicly funded research carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific Research institute, but no matter. They were against it because it was GM and unnatural.

What few people have since heard is that one of the other trials being undertaken, which Greenpeace activists with their strimmers luckily did not manage to destroy, accidentally found a wheat yield increase of an extraordinary 30%. Just think. This knowledge might never have been produced at all, if Greenpeace had succeeded in destroying this innovation. As the president of the NFU Peter Kendall recently suggeseted, this is analogous to burning books in a library before anyone has been able to read them.

The second example comes from China, where Greenpeace managed to trigger a national media panic by claiming that two dozen children had been used as human guinea pigs in a trial of GM golden rice. They gave no consideration to the fact that this rice is healthier, and could save thousands of children from vitamin A deficiency-related blindness and death each year.

What happened was that the three Chinese scientists named in the Greenpeace press release were publicly hounded and have since lost their jobs, and in an autocratic country like China they are at serious personal risk. Internationally because of over-regulation golden rice has already been on the shelf for over a decade, and thanks to the activities of groups like Greenpeace it may never become available to vitamin-deficient poor people.

This to my mind is immoral and inhumane, depriving the needy of something that would help them and their children because of the aesthetic preferences of rich people far away who are in no danger from Vitamin A shortage. Greenpeace is a $100-million a year multinational, and as such it has moral responsibilities just like any other large company.

The fact that golden rice was developed in the public sector and for public benefit cuts no ice with the antis. Take Rothamsted Research, whose director Maurice Moloney is speaking tomorrow. Last year Rothamsted began a trial of an aphid-resistant GM wheat which would need no pesticides to combat this serious pest.

Because it is GM the antis were determined to destroy it. They failed because of the courage of Professor John Pickett and his team, who took to YouTube and the media to tell the important story of why their research mattered and why it should not be trashed. They gathered thousands of signatures on a petition when the antis could only manage a couple of hundred, and the attempted destruction was a damp squib.

One intruder did manage to scale the fence, however, who turned out to be the perfect stereotypical anti-GM protestor – an old Etonian aristocrat whose colourful past makes our Oxford local Marquess of Blandford look like the model of responsible citizenry.

This high-born activist scattered organic wheat seeds around the trial site in what was presumably a symbolic statement of naturalness. Professor Pickett’s team tell me they had a very low-tech solution to getting rid of it – they went round with a cordless portable hoover to clear it up.

This year, as well as repeating the wheat trial, Rothamsted is working on an omega 3 oilseed that could replace wild fish in food for farmed salmon. So this could help reduce overfishing by allowing land-based feedstocks to be used in aquaculture. Yes it’s GM, so expect the antis to oppose this one too, despite the obvious potential environmental benefits in terms of marine biodiversity.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough. So my conclusion here today is very clear: the GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.

Just as I did 10 years ago, Greenpeace and the Soil Association claim to be guided by consensus science, as on climate change. Yet on GM there is a rock-solid scientific consensus, backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, health institutes and national science academies around the world. Yet this inconvenient truth is ignored because it conflicts with their ideology.

One final example is the sad story of the GM blight-resistant potato. This was being developed by both the Sainsbury Lab and Teagasc, a publicly-funded institute in Ireland – but the Irish Green Party, whose leader often attends this very conference, was so opposed that they even took out a court case against it.

This is despite the fact that the blight-resistant potato would save farmers from doing 15 fungicide sprays per season, that pollen transfer is not an issue because potatoes are clonally propagated and that the offending gene came from a wild relative of the potato.

There would have been a nice historical resonance to having a blight-resistant potato developed in Ireland, given the million or more who died due to the potato famine in the mid 19th century. It would have been a wonderful thing for Ireland to be the country that defeated blight. But thanks to the Irish Green Party, this is not to be.

And unfortunately the antis now have the bureaucrats on their side. Wales and Scotland are officially GM free, taking medieval superstition as a strategic imperative for devolved governments supposedly guided by science.

It is unfortunately much the same in much of Africa and Asia. India has rejected Bt brinjal, even though it would reduce insecticide applications in the field, and residues on the fruit. The government in India is increasingly in thrall to backward-looking ideologues like Vandana Shiva, who idealise pre-industrial village agriculture despite the historical fact that it was an age of repeated famines and structural insecurity.

In Africa, ‘no GM’ is still the motto for many governments. Kenya for example has actually banned GM foods because of the supposed “health risks” despite the fact that they could help reduce the malnutrition that is still rampant in the country – and malnutrition is by the way a proven health risk, with no further evidence needed. In Kenya if you develop a GM crop which has better nutrition or a higher yield to help poorer farmers then you will go to jail for 10 years.

Thus 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.

I hope now things are changing. The wonderful Bill and Melinda Gates foundation recently gave $10 million to the John Innes Centre to begin efforts to integrate nitrogen fixing capabilities into major food crops, starting with maize. Yes, Greenpeace, this will be GM. Get over it. If we are going to reduce the global-scale problem of nitrogen pollution then having major crop plants fixing their own nitrogen is a worthy goal.

I know it is politically incorrect to say all this, but we need a a major dose of both international myth-busting and de-regulation. The plant scientists I know hold their heads in their hands when I talk about this with them because governments and so many people have got their sense of risk so utterly wrong, and are foreclosing a vitally necessary technology.

Norman Borlaug is dead now, but I think we honour his memory and his vision when we refuse to give in to politically correct orthodoxies when we know they are incorrect. The stakes are high. If we continue to get this wrong, the life prospects of billions of people will be harmed.

So I challenge all of you today to question your beliefs in this area and to see whether they stand up to rational examination. Always ask for evidence, as the campaigning group Sense About Science advises, and make sure you go beyond the self-referential reports of campaigning NGOs.

But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt. If you think the old ways are the best, that’s fine. You have that right.

What you don’t have the right to do is to stand in the way of others who hope and strive for ways of doing things differently, and hopefully better. Farmers who understand the pressures of a growing population and a warming world. Who understand that yields per hectare are the most important environmental metric. And who understand that technology never stops developing, and that even the fridge and the humble potato were new and scary once.

So my message to the anti-GM lobby, from the ranks of the British aristocrats and celebrity chefs to the US foodies to the peasant groups of India is this. You are entitled to your views. But you must know by now that they are not supported by science. We are coming to a crunch point, and for the sake of both people and the planet, now is the time for you to get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably.

Thankyou.

 

 

532 comments

  1. Pekka Taipale says:

    Excellent. Thank you.

    • Eimhin says:

      Hi, its 15degrees celcius in Ireland today…this time last year the waterfall in town was frozen. Whats a myth? The reduction of tangible reality from matter to form in successive steps of transformation, none of which resemble the former a.k.a, science, or experienced reality?

      Now this probably won’t get past the moderator, but I want someone to read this, even if only the person who decides my say contradicts their intentional end in publishing this pice of manipulation-in-formation. Certain things are not mythos, look around you, are conditions getting better or worse, try to see beyond yourself, look at the community at large. For whom are things getting better, what is going on in the margins? Our ‘progress’ is one in which value is reduced, as per the scientific method, to a symbol of that which it represents…and this symbol becomes the object of material greed. Certain things reek of inevitability. Technology by itself is all well and good, but Einstein may have agreed with Leanardo da Vinci’s destruction of some of his own inventions as a result of his foresight into the reult of their consequence. Human nature being such as it is, choose wisely. Given the greed of the mass-human, what guarantees can you assure yourself of?

      Also Mark- I know that everyone alive has the right to enough food to eat, and that this is possible. I am not an idealist. To claim someone is idealist because they think everyone has a right to enough food to eat is insanity. Food wastage in the EU is approaching 40%. Think about that. There is a difference between food access, and available food resources. Look at the whole rather than the part, take your head out of -what is-(your)’own’-ed-

      Another thing, here is a link for the afteraffects of Chernobyl: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster_effects
      Read that, and try telling yourself its comparable to 50 deaths and 3,500 kidney failures…it isn’t.

      Tell one lie or tell many? Often where you find one you will find many more. The potatoe blight hit the only singular variety of potatoe in our country, another telling fact…people are right to be wary of mono-crop agricultures using single species to the negligence of variety. Not to mention the white elephant of ‘hegemony’.

      As for ‘aesthetic preference’ , to pass of something with so many aspects, and with so much at stake, as the idle workings of privelaged aesthetic preference is blatant simplification and highly misleading.

      I dont want to bore anyone, an attentive reading shows the see through nature created by the many holes in the arguement, so I’ll just say this…enjoy the fruits of your labour Lynas, symbols in themselves for the love lost in your fall from grace.

    • dave timbs says:

      love it

    • Steve says:

      Very well said, I think someone either was paid off or threatened by the UN. Food should not be a monopoly.

    • Rob Stevens says:

      Why FOUR generations? What is the basis for this specific claim?

    • ImanAzol says:

      Food is not a monopoly. That’s a ridiculous statement. Mass produced food is cheaper, more plentiful, more nutritious and less dangerous than weeds grown on shit.

      But hey, he said the organoweenies were anti-science leftist misfits, and he was correct.

    • Mike says:

      Food grown on shit??
      You mean manure? The author states this is one of the few “good” organic practices as it recycles nutrients effectively.

      And being a farm boy, I don’t know of any farm, conventional or organic, that doesn’t spread manure and grow food on shit.

    • Clauce says:

      Ahah, that’s really good !! So lucid. Thank you for the laugh.

    • Dawn odonnell says:

      Perfect response, thank you!

    • Rumtopf says:

      “Whats a myth? The reduction of tangible reality from matter to form in successive steps of transformation, none of which resemble the former a.k.a, science, or experienced reality?”

      What a load of plop.
      You haven’t debunked anything Mark said, apart from pointing out some slight hyperbole with the Chernobyl comment(not to dismiss the 50+ people who died and the thousands who were injured from eating contaminated organic food, like Eimhin did to prove his crap “point”, this was still a tragedy of large proportions), which is completely irrelevant to his other claims about GM foods. That was a whooollee lotta words typed out just to say nothing, basically. I see you even responded to the first comment just to get this drivel placed at the top of the page. Show me some evidence that GM food is harmful, please.

    • Nolan says:

      Well said and I agree. If an argument is going to be made against GMO show the evidence, because if seen the evidence that show’s it is very safe and sustainable!

    • Nat says:

      Nolan, and all other Lynas supporters- you are morons and shills and should be shot on contact. If you want to kill yourselves slowly, quickly, or however you wish, go for it, but you have NO RIGHT to do it to unknowing masses with your poisonous, genetically mutated monocultures that have NEVER been proven safe anywhere and have only every been tested by the chemical companies who make money selling seeds and pesticides. It is outrageous that you have stolen our land and poluted our food and fed our babies chemicals. May you eat what you reap and Lynas, never heard of you before, but now that you’re on Monsanto’s payroll, probably will hear you paraded as necessary, you circus elephant. Troll!

    • Kagehi says:

      As apposed to the 100% entirely untested “natural” products you think are safer, but which have seen a rapid rise in peanut/general-nut allergies, siliacs disease (gluten allergy), possible problems with eating too much plant matter containing natural estrogen, and who the hell knows what else is out there that hasn’t either popped up as a serious problem yet, or been correctly identified, since, you have to be ***looking for them*** to identify them. Your paranoia has been noted.

    • ImanAzol says:

      Dear retard: Every food you eat is “genetically modified.” Cows, pigs and chickens were selectively bred for 7000 years to be what they are today. Maize is about as old, and bears no resemblance to its predecessor–you likely don’t even know its name.

      Bananas, grapefruit, broccoli are not products of nature.

      Nothing you eat is “natural.” It’s all been adapted to suit us better.

    • collhi says:

      Dear Iman Izol,

      You obviously don’t have a clue of what GMO is…if you’re comparing it to how a grapefruit is made. A grapefruit is made by hybridizing two members of the citrus family. Hybridization can occur naturally…in nature.

      GMO combines genes of completely unrelated species, say a tomato with a fish. It also can interject artifical material in the gene splicing in the form of pesticides, herbicides, etc. This is completely unnatural and the long-term effects of these foods within the diet, as well as the possible impacts these gmo seeds may have upon the environment have not been studied to a sufficient degree. One such example would be the sharp rise in respiratory disease in the Indian farmers who handle gmo seeds by hand in the sowing process.

    • Alyssa says:

      “Our ‘progress’ is one in which value is reduced”

      That really speaks to me. So we are producing more food. Is this food going to be as nutrient-rich and physiologically valuable as the food before it? How can it be. We are consuming, but are we replenishing? Eat the food and I suppose you will discover the answer. Our generation has become the new “normal”. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, crooked teeth, skin plagued by acne… these are all fairly new diseases, however we view them as if they are to be expected. I wonder what the new “normal” will be for future generations.

    • Spiny Norman says:

      So you’re not big on engaging the technical arguments, then, and would rather spew platitudes. Got it.

    • Julie says:

      Where did you get that these are modern diseases? Sterilized views of the past shown to us in Hollywood films? (Keira Knightly had perfect teeth when she played someone from the 1800′s, so it must be historically accurate!)

      Even if they somehow managed to be entirely new diseases, I’m pretty sure I’d prefer to live with heart disease, diabetes, crooked teeth, and acne than die from starvation. I’ll let you pick your poison of solely organic foods (you did read how they require more pesticides, right?), and I’ll choose something more sustainable.

    • Ethan says:

      Part of the art of organic food production is using natural processes to avoid the use of pesticides. So if you do not understand organics, why are you making false claims about them? If you like GMO food, fine for you. Just don’t force me to buy my seed from Monsanto, because I prefer organics, and you have no right to force your frankenfoods on me.

    • Max says:

      “Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, crooked teeth, skin plagued by acne… these are all fairly new diseases”

      A) Are they? What evidence exists to back this up. I suspect very little as whatever you define as old would also suggest a time without the technology to properly diagnose diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. Life expectancy has surely being going up as people have stop dying as prematurely of diseases which were previously undiagnosed. Surely teeth aren’t getting more crooked are they?!?!

      B) Are you forgetting the diseases of old? Ergotism, skin plagued by far worse than acne, mass famines, wave after wave of plague. All of which have been eradicated by science and progress.
      Heart disease and most forms of diabetes are generally considered lifestyle diseases and are to some extent avoidable with the huge consumer choice that modern western life affords.

      I’m not going to argue about whether longer life expectancy and population growth as a result of clear medical advancements is a good or a bad thing. Surely you must realise that life is getting safer and with less horrible diseases, or would you rather revert to the middle ages? It would be pretty pretentious and insulting to do so and oh so very easy whilst living in a 1st world country.

      So where are we going? if you ask me I’d rather know the problem so I can act on it. Why don’t we look to the future and try to embrace it and understand it better so we can make it better than the past was.

    • Bjorn Nuwanda says:

      He addresses most of your comments in the question and answer section, including food distribution. Watch the video as well, there’s more than in the transcript.

    • RS says:

      You’re not saying much here.

    • JoeD says:

      Excellent article and to me very logical and eye opening. We all need to pay more attention and have more discussion about these type of well thought out arguments on the side of what we do to insure future generation availability to sustanable food production.

    • Phil Goetz says:

      We’re talking about whether genetically-modified food is safe, and what impact it has on the environment, not about nuclear power, or about your personal feelings about capitalism. You said literally NOTHING relevant, not one word.

    • jay allen says:

      spelling: C-
      grammar: C+
      punctuation: D
      readability: F

    • EarlW says:

      “Hi, its 15degrees celcius in Ireland today…this time last year the waterfall in town was frozen. Whats a myth? The reduction of tangible reality from matter to form in successive steps of transformation, none of which resemble the former a.k.a, science, or experienced reality?”

      You need to understand the difference between climate and weather.
      One data point does not prove your point.

      Next year may be colder, or warmer or the same…

    • Kagehi says:

      Its even more than that. The projections say, “The average ‘world’ temperature is rising.”, not, “Every place on the planet is going to get hotter.” As wind patterns change, sea flow patterns change, even the local “libido” of an area, as a result of different plants moving in, and the environment being poorer for what was there, changes the amount of heat that either a) gets to an area, or b) stays there. The “average” global temperature has gone up. The “local” ones, in places like Australia have gone up with it, so much that they had to add new scale colors to their weather maps.

      http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/10/3861560/australia-heatwave-new-color-scale-map-high-temperatures

      Its “dropped” in some more northern areas, due to changes in wind patterns. Typically, people in those place are claiming, “No, its cooling.”

    • Henry says:

      Wow didn’t think a humanoid once part of the Greenpeace Borg species was able to think independent of the Borg.

      Great amazingly lucid speech Mark, I’m about the only person I know who laughs at people who use or try to sell me organic this or that.

      Yes Mark and how about all the 1,000′s of people who die in the developed west every year from bad food which would of lived if our environmentalist allowed food to be radiated. Shelf life for crops almost doubles too.

      How is that for increasing yield per acre of food that gets actually eaten, which at the end of the day is what matters right?

      Like you say Mark if you don’t want your food radiated that’s fine, but why do the environmentalist insist on denying this to rational people who would want to use it?

    • LKM says:

      Let’s face it, Monsanto threatened the guy’s life and his balls are in their hands.. he did what any man would do when faced with losing his balls.. he succumbed. But go ahead and believe him, America!!! Go ahead and eat all the processed GMO crop you want and live on like the lab rats.. oh wait!! You may live, but your grandchildren may not be able to reproduce or they might grow hair in their mouths.. At least, that’s what happened to the lab animals who consumed primarily GMO diets.. But don’t worry about it, America! By consuming this kind of crap, you’re aiding in the economy! Not only are you supporting the wealthy corporate farmers and big Ag industry, you’re supporting the medical system, because after half a life-time of consuming these kinds of foods, you’ll end up like most: fat, diabetic, and cancerous. GREAT! You’ll need a million dollars worth of treatment for that cancer, pills for your high cholesterol and blood pressure, not to mention insulin, blood glucose monitors, needles to inject the insulin, needles to check your blood sugar, and a monitor to tell you how badly your body isn’t doing what it should be able to do naturally. And finally, thanks for paying my student loans (I’m an RN) and can’t WAIT to be out of the field and making a REAL difference in people’s lives and a health adviser..

    • Katsusbo says:

      Well said!

    • Danz says:

      Eimhin, you help prove how important his speech is with your response. You spend a paragraph about mythos and symbols referencing Einstein and Da Vinci but bringing no facts. Lol. Quibbling then about the definition of idealist, or about how close or far his analogy of Chernobyl was? Really? That was why you stopped taking in new information? Ah, Sherlock, you didn’t dispute the million that died in Ireland but called him a liar because it was only one variety of potatoe that was blighted (which he didn’t insinuate differently. You prove his point: The organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one. You’re commitment to rejecting facts despite the cost to families and health worldwide makes you an oppressor, fully center stage of the problem.

    • William Harrington says:

      Either you respond to the specific points in this article – or – you choose to think with your glands. I’d prefer a debate on the facts, not your emotions. A number of years ago C.P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” was published warning of the dangers of scientific illiteracy. Read it, then take the trouble that the author of this article did, actually educate your self. That will not be easy. Slogans are easy, emotions are easy, intensions are easy. Admitting that you may have been wrong or mistaken is a sign of integrity. Self delusion is the hallmark of the intellectually bankrupt and I, for one, prefer to think and follow facts. A course I commend to you sir.

    • Is natural replacement 2.2 in China, India, Africa? With or without GM foods, can the earth really support 9 billion which will continue to grow? From where are all the other needed resources, water, fuel, building materials, going to come? Got GM oil, wood, steel?

  2. Andy Dawson says:

    Well, that’ll stir matters nicely. Any chance of getting it published in the Grauniad?

    • JoeD says:

      Would like to see your talk published in the New York Times which i’m sure would purpetrate much more discussion by all sides.

  3. Matt says:

    Let’s hope the world gets a little more rational in 2013.

  4. Mary says:

    Thanks very much for this Mark. I appreciate that you use your platform for science now. I also like to use your example of commenting making a difference, because that’s the only platform I have much of the time.

    One thing to note though: the Amish will use GMOs. Ironic, innit?

    http://bbc.in/OnapSr

    • dave timbs says:

      this guys understanding of the science involved is both childlike and purposefully inaccurate. e.g.”GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.” talk about spin of the highest order. That “..mucking about..” is how nature produces essential diversity within species which in turn allows for adaptation to a changing environment. This is a good thing regardless of your on view on GM and to suggest otherwise is misleading. And as for his “just moving a few genes around” and “gene flow” arguments; well this is just plain wrong. His writing reminds me of that of a articulate creationist. Perfectly prepared to mis-quote science he doesn’t understand to debunk a piece of science he won’t believe, while simultaneously failing to either provide peer reviewed references for his unsubstantiated claims or providing a balanced review of the ALL of the science readily at hand. IMO propaganda of the highest order. Looks like someone well schooled in the art of environmental rhetoric has been hired as a spokesman for monsanto etc

    • AJ says:

      Well said….oh not quite so, got some proof against it or are you hired by Greenpeace (since we are throwing around the hired lackey argument)?

    • E.McCormick says:

      There’s plenty of proof about what GMOs are doing to our population. Just open your eyes and also read a few books by Bruce Lipton,cellular biologist, to understand what you’re dealing with. Go to responsibletechnology.org and read up on GMOs and you won’t be able eat them ever again. Unfortunately they have never been tested by an outside source in this country other than the industry itself. All the testing is going on elsewhere because our FDA let’s the industry test for themselves. They also only test for three months and it has now been learned that the time frame of two years for the foreign tests showed that you have to test for much longer than that to understand what’s happening. I assure you Monsanto knows that. They have made a science of bad science. Why do you want you food to come from a chemical company. They developed these foods to sell more chemicals and they are. After three years these crops need three times more pesticides than even conventional crops or they can’t grow. You poor ignorant people. You have been duped by Mark.

    • Gavin Venn says:

      Mark Lynas, please can you point to your common place examples of gene flow between humans and different species? Thanks.

    • Actually, a significant fraction of our genome is viral in origin (e.g. http://jvi.asm.org/content/77/19/10414.full) and viruses like HIV and bird/swine flu cross species barriers quite happily. Other examples of horizontal gene transfer in plants and animals (and some reasons why they can be hard to spot) can be found here: http://eqsys.org/2011-Graduate-PS/Week9-Multigene%20analyses%20HGT/nrg2386.pdf.

      Mark is quite right that GM is much more targeted and less wasteful than traditional breeding. Not all GM is the same. Much of it just involves targeted introduction of specific genes from close relatives with great cost/time/waste/risk reductions. Inter-species transfer in nature is much less common but does happen. Even if you oppose this, however, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Like most technology, GM can be used for good or evil but it is the applications that should be rationally criticised, not the technology, for the potential for good is great.

    • Gavin Venn says:

      Thank you for your reply. And the common place examples of animal or plant DNA being horizontally transferred to humans?

      I think it’s useful if we try to stand in other peoples shoes: see the pros and cons of this technology and it’s applications from different perspectives. I’m not a geneticist working with transgenics, or any other type of scientist, but as i understand it, the main draw is the precision of the technology at the laboratory level. It’s understandable that geneticists working in this area are very excited about such a technology, and i’ve no doubt some of these people have positive motivations and wish to use the technology to benefit others.

      Part of the reason why there will always be debate about transgenics is that people see the world differently. No one has the authorative or definitive view of the world (not even Mr Lynas). So the person concerned about nature, myself for example, will be asking questions about the extended phenotypes: the wider and longer term effects of the transgenic engineering. The geneticist working in transgenics can answer my questions only based on how they see the subject. This is why there needs to be dialogue between many different people.

      The link here leads to a study showing how engineered DNA has been found in river organisms: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23215020

    • Spiny Norman says:

      About one third of the human genome is DNA sequence debris from virus and other retroelement insertion events.

      This has been settled science for over two decades. The evidence is summarized in any introductory-level university genetics textbook, such as those by Griffiths or Lewin.

    • science says:

      This is true, however, viruses and bacteria are the species exchanging genes by introducing the DNA/RNA to the host cell. For this to happen to plant (a macroorganism), the plant itself would have to find a way to introduce it’s genome to the human cell. Improbable, but more likely impossible.

    • Benjamin E. says:

      His point is that if you are fine with conventional breeding, where entire genomes are mucked about with – and I agree with you, this is natural and good and wonderful for diversity! – then this technology is not doing anything drastic to the plants. In fact, it is making changes that are a tiny fraction of the size of changes made in conventional breeding.

    • Sonya says:

      Well said, Dave. Thank you.

    • Bjorn Nuwanda says:

      I’ll note that you provide no evidence to the contrary. Simply calling someone a hire of a corporation doesn’t debunk their message. Also, I do not believe he works for Monsanto, so…

  5. An excellent article/speech presenting a rational argument coherently, but it is so my stronger due to your former anti position.

    As a matter of fact, I suspect that the Amish do already use GM. They are used by international breeding companies to look after their elite stock of laying birds, and being in the US, will only be fed GM. A culture clash?

    • Mary says:

      One of the strangest stories I ever saw was the Amish growing GMO tobacco, actually: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.02/smoking.html

      But seriously: when you are getting lapped by the Amish in technology, you really have to wonder what the motivation is for people who are fearmongering about the tech.

    • Mike says:

      Many people misunderstand how and why the Amish avoid modernity. They are not against technology per se, rather they wish to minimize complications and entanglement with the non-Amish world. Thus they do not get their houses electrified because that requires having wires run to their house, a monthly bill from the utility, a checking account for paying the bill, etc. But many use battery-powered devices like calculators, because they can be purchased through simple cash transactions.

      So, since Amish farmers need to buy seed from someone, there is no reason in their philosophy to avoid GM.

    • GMResearcher says:

      I work for a seed company that develops and sells GM maize and have been to several field days in southern Iowa attended by Amish gentlemen. They definitely purchase GM maize.

    • Mark Lynas says:

      I have heard this now from several sources. My apologies to the Amish, who are clearly less afraid of new technologies than their colleagues in the organic movement. I seem to have done them a disservice with this analogy.

    • Jack says:

      Indeed, the Amish are not against technology, but against it’s detrimental societal effects, principally, the destruction of community, and the increasing tendency to isolate people from each other.
      For example, they are allowed to have telephones outside the house, but not at home. The telephone is essential for business, but they must still go to the local store and interact with the rest of the community in order to use it. ie they avoid the isolating effects of the telephone.
      They are allowed to share use of motor vehicles with non Amish, ie they must interact with other people, but not to own them, where they’d just hop in and rush past everyone else.

    • Nancy says:

      Why are the Amish always cited? As experts? I have lived near the amish, mennonite, etc. communities in my youth and now again 30 years later. Let’s quote the amish on food and nutrition? Why? Yes, in my youth they were usually trim very quiet people. Respectable.

      step in evolution of the Amish.

      In the last five years having driven a car and taken the Amtrak (commoner cars) many times from Chicago outwest you see/meet many an Amish folk. I have the added bonus of understanding quite a bit of Plattdeutsch (low German) and could not help overhearing and understanding their conversations on the train. Wow, what an education. The final blow comes when you see what junk food they eat on the train or the groups eating supersized meals at fast food places riding through small towns in the iStates (iowa, indiana, illinois) . Sometimes i felt guilty like I had eavesdropped, but then they used to be silent. It is very hard not tuning in and delighting in the sing song of the platt that one has not heard in ten years. … and then being shocked at what is said.

      Needless to say, or maybe very much needed to say, I was surprised by my outsider view of the amish from the years of my youth. I am now re-educated. I would not use some of them as nutritional experts any longer. First of all, they are no longer lean and stern looking. Many are flat out obese. I won’t say anymore other than maybe they should be more quiet as for me to have my romanticized dream version of their piousness and good eating and farming habits restored.

      Life was more beautiful down on the farm that way. Now you may all go back to romanticizing GMOs and feeding the world.

      I’ll go forage far away from Amish fields..

  6. David says:

    Mark, this is simply outstanding.

    I remember visiting a vegan cafe in Cologne a little while after the organic beansprout incident. The waiter rolled his eyes as he told me that he could not serve me either this or that item as a result of a ban that was still in place at the time, and which he clearly wasn’t impressed about.

    Just wish I had busted out that Chernobyl comparison.

  7. Putting aside stories of organ failure in rats fed GM products (I have no idea if the stories are true) and the way Monsanto treated Percy Schmeitser (sp?) (This is certainly true) there is another side to the story.
    http://mtkass.blogspot.co.nz/2009/02/malthus-pyramid-schemes-starvation.html

    • Christina Jeskey says:

      Your linked editorial has no sources for your assertions. Would you mind providing the sources for these claims? Thank you.

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Start with my last book, The God Species – much of the same stuff, but with legions of references at the back, almost entirely to peer-reviewed science.

    • Christina Jeskey says:

      Sorry, I was asking that question of William Hughes-Gaines, not you, Mark. I already have a hold placed on your book at my local library after reading your lecture transcript above.

    • I know Christina wasn’t challenging you for references Mark, but I am :-)
      I think your article is very important to the debate on GM, but “buy my book for references” is not the greatest way to support your arguments with evidence! Ideally we’d have them in the article itself (can you do that with an existing blog piece?) but we need them to at least be online somewhere easily found from the text in order to demonstrate that we’re making arguments based by readily and transparently available evidence.

      (Bit of background here: I’ve been engaged in a couple of discussions with anti-GM folks online, and one of them has responded to your piece with a piece by Peter Melchett http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/1745491/the_gm_lobby_and_its_seven_sins_against_science.html. Of course my first response to much of what Melchett claims is “evidence or stfu” but I have to apply that even-handedly!)

    • Tom says:

      If you are referring to the study I think you are, here is a pretty comprehensive debunking of that ‘study’: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/09/24/bad-science-on-gmos-it-reminds-me-of-the-antivaccine-movement/

    • (Does ScienceBlog’s layout put a streak of mostly black and yellow down the middle of the top half of anyone else’s browser? Firefox 15.0.1 on Ubuntu here. I have to View -> Page Style -> No style here to read their articles.)

      Anyway there’s also Novella’s criticism of the study (linked to from Orac’s piece) at http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-gm-corn-rat-study/ and a Reuters piece (not sure where I found that – may een have been here!)
      http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/19/us-gmcrops-safety-idUSBRE88I0L020120919

    • John Hilliard says:

      You may not know much about Percy:
      Percy Schmeiser
      If you’ve heard much about agricultural biotechnology, you’ve potentially heard of Percy Schmeiser. Schmeiser is a Canadian canola farmer who Monsanto successfully sued for patent violation after unlicensed Roundup Ready canola was found growing on his farm.

      Starting from when we began our efforts to settle the matter out-of-court, Schmeiser claimed the biotech plants in his fields got there by accident and were not planted by him. It’s a claim he continues to make to this day. He’s become something of a folk hero in some circles, playing the role of David to Monsanto’s Goliath. He’s often quoted in the press and is a frequent speaker around the world at events hosted by groups opposed to agricultural biotechnology.

      The truth is Percy Schmeiser is not a hero. He’s simply a patent infringer who knows how to tell a good story. Unlike his neighbors, and the vast majority of farmers who plant patented seeds, Schmeiser saved seed that contained Monsanto’s patented technology without a license. As indicated by the trial court in Canada, the seed was not blown in on the wind nor carried in by birds, and it didn’t spontaneously appear. Schmeiser knowingly planted this seed in his field without permission or license. By doing so, he used Monsanto’s patented technology without permission. In fact, the courts determined this in three separate decisions.

      Consider just a few of the facts.

      In the first trial, Schmeiser claimed in 1997 he sprayed Roundup on three acres of his canola field because he was suspicious it might be Roundup tolerant. If his story were true, this would kill any canola plants other than those tolerant to Roundup. After killing more than half his crop, he then harvested the remaining plants that did not die and segregated this seed. The next year (1998) he had this seed treated and used this seed to plant 1,030 acres on his farm.

      Why would he harvest seed that he says he didn’t want on his farm and deliberately plant it the following year?

      As expressed in the Canadian Supreme Court judgment documents:

      Mr. Schmeiser complained that the original plants came onto his land without his intervention. However, he did not at all explain why he sprayed Roundup to isolate the Roundup Ready plants he found on his land; why he then harvested the plants and segregated the seeds, saved them, and kept them for seed; why he planted them; and why, through his husbandry, he ended up with 1,030 acres of Roundup Ready canola which would have cost him $15,000.

      Schmeiser didn’t have a few Roundup Ready plants in his field. His fields had mostly Roundup Ready plants in them–far more than could have ever grown there by accident. Again, in the words of the Canadian court judgment:

      …tests revealed that 95 to 98 percent of this 1,000 acres of canola crop was made up of Roundup Ready plants. …The trial judge found that “none of the suggested sources [proposed by Schmeiser] could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality” ultimately present in Schmeiser’s crop.

      Consider Schmeiser’s legal history with this situation:

      Schmeiser was first found to have violated Monsanto’s patent in 2001 when the federal court found he “knew or ought to have known” he had saved and planted Roundup Ready seed and infringed Monsanto’s Roundup Ready patented technology. You can read the original Canadian court decision at http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2001/2001fct256/2001fct256.html.
      He lost again upon appeal in 2002, when the three-member Canadian Federal Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed all 17 grounds of appeal submitted for Mr. Schmeiser. Read the entire decision at http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/en/2002/2002fca309/2002fca309.html.
      He lost again, in 2004, in an appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court–exhausting all his legal options. See the court judgment document at http://scc.lexum.org/decisia-scc-csc/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2147/index.do?r=AAAAAQAJc2NobWVpc2VyAAAAAAE
      During his frequent lecture tours, Schmeiser continues to say he didn’t plant Roundup Ready seeds. He’s even stated he won the case in the Canadian Supreme Court. What he doesn’t say is that three separate court decisions, including the Supreme Court decision, say exactly the opposite.

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Actually there’s a lot of mythology about this too. Monsanto don’t sue anyone who gets ‘contaminated’ by GM because it would be completely dumb, and they wouldn’t win anyway. Read their actual policy here.

    • Frederick Eason says:

      The actions of Monsanto are a great example of patent law run amok, but they have nothing to do with the safety of GMO.

      It’s like using an example of Disney suing publishers of Snow White as an example of why to avoid Grimm’s fairy tales.

    • Al says:

      Well said, it is those who make the most noise that get heard the most, and unfortunately no one takes the time to find the facts. I have heard Percy speak and it is all a load of crap not backed by anything. I could take pictures of planes and say the same thing he is saying with nothing to back it up. It is unfortunate for Monsanto to take the brunt for everything, they take the heat for things they don’t even do.

    • Atomikrabbit says:

      Sounds like this guy is, or aspires to be, the Helen Caldicott of the anti-GMO roadshow business.

    • Paul Overby says:

      Percy may have his problems, but Monsanto did deliberately pick out farmers here and there and go after them in court to put the “fear of Monsanto lawyers” in the hearts of RR farmers everywhere! A local ND farmer was sued and finally settled because the cost of of litigation would have bankrupted him, not because he did anything wrong. Monsanto’s lawyers had an open checkbook. I am pro-biotechnology, but the way some of it has been used by corporations is abominable. I have, and continue, to lobby for increased public funding of biotech research and application.

    • Kagehi says:

      I think you will find, if you look close at these “studies” that they have major flaws, not the least of which being the total joke that some of the same people that argue that “natural” healing is better than medicine will claim that animal trials are useless for testing medicines, while then turning around and asserting that the same sort of testing *is* valid, when applied to whether or not GM foods are bad. So… which is it, useless, or proof of the horrors of GM?

      In any case, one recent example was the guy that fed something or other to a few hundred genetically engineered mice (engineered to produce cancer), then cherry picked the data in the study, to imply that his one single study was evidence, not coincidental, that eating the stuff caused more cancers, and higher death rates. People examining his protocols found them sloppy, the study size nearly meaningless, his controls questionable, etc. Merely being published doesn’t mean much. The guy that claimed room temperature fusion got published, but it was other people, trying, over and over again, to replicate the results, and not getting any result, that proved that, what ever he was detecting, wasn’t what he thought it was, or a pure fluke. In studies:

      1. Most (or nearly all( discoveries are incremental. Things like a 30% yield increase are very rare, to take an example from the above article, with say, a 1% yield, for other “small” difference in effect being more common.

      2. More is better. The more studies showing an effect, the less likely that its either a) a fluke, b) conducted exactly the same, so other factors skewed the result, or c) someone adjusted the numbers, to make it seem more likely that their conclusion is the right one.

      3. More subjects, in a study, means more data.

      The most common factors in *most* studies, from both people with a certain, shall we say, commitment to being right, tend to violate all three. They use say 100 mice, instead of several thousand, and over a really short time frame. They publish preliminary results as though those prove something, instead of saying that this *is* preliminary, and more studies are needed to verify it. And, finally, they often claim some huge difference, especially in things like CAM, based on what usually turns out to be questionable analysis of their own data.

      The result is a bit like flipping a coin 100 times, finding that you got heads 72 times, and thus concluding that math is wrong, and the odds are not really 50/50. It might ever be true, of certain coins, or certain conditions, but one study doesn’t tell you jack about whether or not this is true, unless its like.. 10,000 coin tosses, not 100. When your “science” for something like claiming that a rat died from GM food, is not significantly different than what some big corporation, selling the latest bottle of mostly water, now with some plant you never heard of in it, does, in-house, so they can paste, “clinically testing”, on the box, without doing any real testing at all (their “clinical trials” are silly things like picking 16 people, who all know they are being given the miracle substance), there is probably a serious problem with it. When whole movements can’t manage to quote multiple studies on a subject, or ***every single***, as in the 2-3 they do have, all, inexplicably come from their own side’s “studies”…. well, we don’t put up with that sort of thing from say, Cato, doing a study, funded 100% entirely by big corporations, that somehow supports big corporations, or other similar nonsense. In fact, we have a good laugh when we find out they killed their own study, or mangled the conclusions so badly it said the opposite of the result, because they didn’t want those results to be true. But, when some anti-GM group does one, small scale, questionably run, study, which a lot of other people say, “The data they released doesn’t show much effect, or isn’t actually conclusive, and is contradicted by 3 times are many other studies.”, this is supposed to be evidence in favor of the people that “funded” the study? So much for science, or skepticism.

    • Max says:

      Very well said, there is plenty of this kind of data manipulation carried out by many organisations.
      As is evident on this wall, the results of much of this ends up as buzz points.

      I thought however, that it was important to stress that very stringent regulatory frameworks exist for safety, environmental risk as well as efficacy for new agricultural/medical technologies. Trials conducted by all major chemical/breeding firms are completed to very high standards, with much auditing and fully independent review. Inclusion of proper controls and standards is mandatory. As it costs huge amounts of money to conduct the trials (>100m$) and the commercial risk taken in product launch, it simply isn’t worth trying to sell something off the back of unreliable data.

      Data not used for license submission (i.e. ‘hidden’) is seen as commercially sensitive. As long as enough is provided to the regulators to be confident in the claims made, other missing data is seen as irrelevant. More often than not it is not because it challenges the wanted claim, but because no infection was present enough to successfully rate the new products against standards/controls. It all of the in house data averaged out to suggest a product didn’t work but did sometimes but other time didn’t, development would likely stop. It the conditions for when it worked were known it would only be marketed for use in that area or with conditions of use. Again, commercial risk rules.

      Agricultural solutions are specifically marketed for technical efficacy so any false claims would quickly be discovered and reputations destroyed. Most large chemical firms have existed for over 100 years, they have strong and long running reputations that they wouldn’t risk tarnishing.

  8. Steven Swedenburg says:

    This is well presented, very rational and factually accurate.
    Amazing.
    Thank you.

  9. Rebecca says:

    I am not anti-GMO, but I have concerns I don’t believe you’ve addressed.

    First, it simply isn’t true that farmers don’t save seeds. Certainly it’s true for most of the large-scale farms, but given the fragility of the supply network for food, I am strongly in support of developing local options for food whenever possible. And, small scale farmers do sometimes save seeds. In my case, I’ve been saving seeds for years as a way to develop strains of certain crops that produce better in my specific conditions. While I would welcome a crop that was already designed that way, few people are developing crops specifically for my farm. For me, seed saving is an essential way to continue to improve my business. I’d like to know that I won’t be sued if my neighbor’s corn happens to pollinate mine. If corporations would drop the right to sue when it is clearly an accident, they would win over many more people.

    Second, while some modifications to genes have promise, I have concerns about specific changes. Let’s take the example of Bt crops. There is evidence in labs that some pests will and have eventually become resistant to these modifications. (http://www.gmo-safety.eu/pdf/dokumente/bt_tabashnik.pdf to cite one source) By having this chemical constantly present in the plant, we reduce it’s effectiveness as an insecticide when it is truly needed. It is the equivalent of giving every child in America antibiotics to reduce ear infections. It might work for a while, but unless it wipes out those infections entirely, we’ve just lost another weapon in the fight. I realize that there is monitoring in the United States looking closely at this problem, but what about in other countries. And what can I, as a non-GMO farmer (not organic) do to protect myself from becoming surrounded by resistant pests?

    I’m not anti-GMO, I just think that there needs to be some careful examination of which changes we’re making, and some hard thought about potential long term consequences.

    • This. Rebecca has made a couple extremely valid points (in particular regarding adaptation to modified crops).

      Would you care to elaborate, Mark?

    • Rosemary says:

      Re. GM, especially Bt, people are working on controlling the expression of Bt so it’s most abundant when needed, and not on all the time. But you are correct, there is some evidence of resistance appearing (here in Australia), but the incidence is quite low so far, and is to the oldest GM types which were much less effective than the newer ones. Note that some organic farmers spray their crops with the Bt bacterium, so you don’t really get away from some type of selection pressure. Farmers using GM are supposed to have non-GM buffer crops either alongside the GM ones and/or as intercrops, this way they keep the population of non-resistant pests high, working against pressure to increase the abundance of resistant pests. Non-compliance with this advice may contribute to development of resistance.

    • Rob says:

      Refuge in a bag combines the buffer and the resistant varieties = 100% compliance

    • Alsadius says:

      The supply network for food is one of the least fragile things on the planet. In the part of the world that actually participates in that network, there hasn’t been a meaningful food shortage in literally centuries(and the closest examples stem entirely from being cut off from that network, such as in cases of naval blockade in the World Wars, or the Corn Laws that largely created the Irish famine of the 1840s). Relying on local sources of food exposes you to shortage in cases of drought or flood, but the world as a whole is big enough and diversified enough that fluctuations in production are small and easily absorbed.

      I do agree with you about the merits of developing seed strains better suited to your local conditions and the worries about resistance, however.

    • Tony says:

      “the Corn Laws that largely created the Irish famine of the 1840s”

      Never heard of that.The Corn Laws where repealed in 1846 and the Great Irish famine occurred in 1845-52.

    • Alsadius says:

      For some reason, I thought the Corn Laws were repealed in 1856, not 1846. That said, while the Laws were formally repealed in 1846, they were seemingly phased out over 3 years, and thus were (partially) in force for the bulk of the Irish famine. For most of the famine years, Ireland was a net food exporter, which I recall hearing was largely caused by protectionist laws. I admit, I may have stated my case a bit too confidently, however.

    • Mary says:

      But see, there’s no barrier to you saving your seeds, right? Nobody is saying you can’t save those seeds. If you purchased them from someone that does have rights to them–and that can be conventional or GMO plants, then you may have issues. But it’s not a GMO issue.

      And this pollen-blowing fear is also overblown (get it?). When US organic farmers went to court over this fear, they were pretty much laughed out of court because not a single farmer so threatened could be produced out of this huge group that supposedly had been. Isn’t that odd? “Judge Dismisses Organic Farmers’ Case Against Monsanto” http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/02/27/147506542/judge-dismisses-organic-farmers-case-against-monsanto

      You and your neighbors will have to be careful anyway–because their heirloom tomato plants could pollenate yours. But that’s not a GMO specific issue either.

      On Bt resistance, the first evidence of this was in 1994, before any GMO use. http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.en.39.010194.000403?journalCode=ento& When farmers plant GMO versions, they are required to have buffer or refuge plantings as well to reduce the chance of resistance. There are no regulations to overuse of organic Bt.

      All tools need to be used wisely. But the issues people raise about the use of the GMO tools are not different than the same tools for conventional use.

    • Frederick Eason says:

      That’s a patent law issue, not a GMO issue.

    • JIm DeLuca says:

      I am confused by the presentation that GMOs are the same as their non gmo counterparts, yet get to be patented as unique. GMOs might not be unsafe but moving from open source generally developed for common good to corporate, with maximizing profit as the primary goal concerns me. Greed is just as bad as ignorance; maybe worse.

    • chahchi says:

      I would refer you to the portion of the transcript above where Mark explains the financial investment required to bring a trait to a commercial crop. These companies are entitled to re-coup that investment AND, dare I say, make a profit. It’s one way to reward and promote innovation. The issue regarding illegal seed harvest and sowing finds parallels with the music and entertainment industry. DVD ripping and Napster essentially allowed the work of the artist and gave it away for free without compensation and there is constant pushback over DRMs. It will be interesting to see how successful companies will be in protecting their IP without having to significantly change their business model.

    • Kagehi says:

      This happens for the same reason that some the US patent office allows people to patent, as unique, basic, trivial, first year computer science concepts, as long as you put your button, or protocol, or hand waving, or finger slide, etc., into a “device”. The argument goes, “It doesn’t matter if even a complete idiot could come up with it, it took smart people to stick it in the actual product, which makes it new, and unique.” I personally think this is completely insane, but… until someone fixing the damn patent office, its not going to change.

    • LM says:

      Actually… organic food can also (if not definetely) have the Bt bacteria toxin.
      Is organic food helping to develop that resistance too?

      Surprised? Go and google “Bacillus thuringiensis”… I’m not lying.

  10. Oliver says:

    Absolutely brilliant.
    I hope this speech goes viral on the internet and especially reaches more of your fellow activists from your old days. Also had my doubts first and saw Monsanto as the big evil poisoner of world population.
    Until I also began checking facts and reading science papers.
    It’s frightning to see people willingly accept ideology rather than reason. And more frightning is the fact that many of those people sit in political and administrative offices.
    Damn, I hate those hypocritical greens and Greenpeace

    • They are not perfect, but how can you *hate* the green movement? While you’re doing your research, read up on their list of achievements. Enviromentalism wasn’t heard of until FoE and Greenpeace came on the scene. Do you really think they’re made no positive impact? And you think science’s impact on the world has been all wonderful? At the end of the day I always look at motive behind what people do. Put it this way – With the green movement it’s not about shareholder profit.

    • Andy says:

      There is no question that the environmental movement as a whole has produced some terrific results since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Cleaner air, water and probably most importantly an indelible public awareness that the quality and quantity of our natural environment is something that has value. How much of this is the result of the “movement” and how much the movement is the result of an underlying change in public attitude is only of minor relevance.

      But I think you owe it to yourself to follow the wisdom contained in your own remark and consider just why it is that Greenpeace and FoE are opposed to this technology. These organizations are, as Mark points out, billion dollar multi-national enterprises. The hysteria they generate over agricultural biotechnology is a huge source of revenue and publicity for them. The fact that they pursue this agenda, despite it’s negative consequences for people and the environment suggests that “environmentalism” is just a front for some other motivation. As for what that motivation is, you can draw your own conclusions. Just remember that corporations are not the only entities that can have less than altruistic motives.

    • Henry says:

      Yeah ask Africans about the motives of rich western environmentalist like Greenpeace who were key in preventing Africans from using DDT to control malaria. Their motives resulted in 10′s of millions of Africans dying slow agonizing deaths from malaria.

      And what was their response after decades of suffering and mass death, mosquito nets. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetically sad, what are poor people supposed to do spend the whole day in bed under their mosquito nets?

      Henry

    • Sarah says:

      Trying to follow the many diverse threads here, but this claim about DDT just makes me mad… Has the huge environmental damage that DDT did in Europe and America been forgotten suddenly? That’s why its banned now….

    • Henry says:

      Oh yeah widespread damage from DDT, what a pathetic lie. Farmers in the US back then carpet bombed their crops with tons of DDT for a long time and it was found that trace elements of DDT could be found throughout the environment. But there was NO widespread damage caused by DDT, certainly not the deaths of 10′s of millions of people like with Malaria or did I miss that event in the US because I really don’t recall it.

      To have been able to provide effective relief from Malaria only a fraction of DDT would have been needed to have been sprayed around population centers and villages. But truth be told you environmentalist don’t give a dam about the suffering of third world people. As long as you can fly in on your Jets, hire a Land Rover and chef for the day in your five star safari’s and watch the quaint third world people scratch out a day to day subsistence living.

      If you environmentalist had it within your power it would be Pol Pot all over again, the cities would be emptied, the educated tortured and killed and civilization would regress back to the 1800′s of backbreaking hand farming and mass famine; all except for the chosen few from the Party of course.

    • Nick Gotts says:

      This story is a fairly recent right-wing lie, spread by many of the aame people who deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change: DDT was never banned for appropriate use against malaria, only for wholly inappropriate agricultural use, which undermined its effectiveness against malaria. Read chapter 7 of Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway’s “Merchants of Doubt” for the real story.

      Overall, Lynas’ presentation is as simplistic and one-sided as the “OMG GM” approach. For example, there is nothing particularly “idealistic” about suggesting that people in rich countries should eat less meat and dairy – for reasons of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their own health if nothing else; and the comparison of deaths from organic beansprouts and Chernobyl is piffle, because the former are readily measured while the latter are highly uncertain.

    • Adam says:

      Yeah, it is so ridiculous that Greenpeace stopped Africa from poisoning their whole food chain to kill some mosquitoes that can easily be controlled by other methods!

    • Henry says:

      You greenies need to get your lies….I mean story straight, did you prevent the use of DDT or not????

    • Henry says:

      LOL…other methods to control mosquitos…..yeah mosquito nets……10′s of millions have died slow agonizing deaths in the past decades……Wow these other methods are working out just GREAT!!!! arent they.

    • Kagehi says:

      I am just really seriously glad people keep solving problems, while everyone else keeps going in circles, and ignoring which ever sides facts they don’t like:

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/deniserestauri/2012/12/19/mosquitoes-and-malaria-in-india-are-no-match-for-this-teen-girl-scientist/

      http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/a-beetle-inspired-water-bottle-that-fills-itself/1903

      Both, btw, I found linked to, not from conspiracy laden enviro-blogs, but sites hosted on freethoughtblogs.com Note, however: If you have an opinion, but can’t back it up with citations, or your citations come from people whose research has been seriously questioned (like two of them mentioned in this thread), that person might not find themselves escaping with all limbs still intact, depending on which blog you drop in on. Compared to the people on there… I don’t even qualify to wash test tubes.

    • Kaleberg says:

      Widespread DDT spraying only worked for a few years before resistant mosquitoes took over. Resistance is a serious problem. I gather that DDT being used to treat anti-mosquito nets for protecting sleepers, and they work pretty well.

    • Henry says:

      If killing the profit motive and capitalism made any sense, North Korea would be a technological giant. Rather its a tolitarian hell hole which routine has mass famines which kill millions of people.

      But thank GOD!!!! nobody is making a profit or getting rich over there, which is what is important right??

    • Joe says:

      “With the green movement it’s not about shareholder profit.” Psst… Al Gore didn’t get the memo.

  11. Thilo Roscheisen says:

    I’ve been leaning towards organic food and against GMO so far, but was always disturbed by the lack of scientific evidence for the supposed superiority of organic food and the supposed dangers of GMOs. You really hit the mark. I salute you for this excellent speech and your courageous about-face. Chapeau bas!

  12. Justen says:

    The foundation of my objection to GM has always been the patent system and trade secrets that both prevent it from being best used and prevent third-party safety and efficiency testing. An ideal solution would be to abolish biological patents *and* eliminate barriers to entry so the technology can be feasibly developed publicly and open source, with the cooperation of farmers and consumers. We need to get the 18th century mercantilism and 12th century superstition out of our 21st century science before we end up living 15th century lifestyles in the 22nd century, dig?

    • Dave says:

      This was addressed in the article. Even public funded research which will be published and hence cannot be patented is being sabotaged.

    • Telanis says:

      No, it wasn’t addressed. Just because public domain crops are being attacked does mean there aren’t awful complications with proprietary crops.

    • Pekka Taipale says:

      “No, it wasn’t addressed. Just because public domain crops are being attacked does mean there aren’t awful complications with proprietary crops.”

      Proprietary crops have good and bad sides. But note that proprietary crops can be GMO or other, and GMO crops can be proprietary or not. Different dimension. Connecting these two unnecessarily is just silly.

    • Andy says:

      Certainly everyone has a right to their own philosophy about property ownership and intellectual property. However, it’s not so simple as to say get rid of patents and decrease regulation, even ignoring the fact that one has very little to do with the other. Without the possibility of recouping development costs (by selling seed) no one will invest the money required to develop the technology. This is true whether discussing GM plant varieties or “conventional” varieties. If you look systematically at the countries that have intellectual property protection for plant breeders (often referred to as “plant breeder’s rights”) those with a robust intellectual property system have a much more robust plant breeding community. This results in more varieties available for agriculture, and more productive farms/wealth for farmers. The idea that we are somehow protecting farmers from exploitation by intellectual property owning corporations by denying them access to quality seed is another fallacy.

    • Max says:

      All data from trials work used for agricultural technology development, though carried out in-house, is always subject to 3rd party review from regulators, independant commitees and goverments. Just because the commercial organisation behind it does all the work doesn’t mean the results are biased. Because of this level of scruteny, its not really actually possible to somehow blindside everyone. Do you really think corperations have total free reign? They don’t.

      Intelectual property rights are essential. Without them no company would bother developing anything. They need to be sure to balance the vast cost of development with commercial success for the duration of the patent.
      Without them progress would stagnate and important isssues like pest resistence would take hold, yields would plateau and in fact we’d go backwards.

      As much as it would be nice, open source isn’t a viable option for agricultral development. You are underestimating complexity of the field trials and safety trials, not to mention the practicality. Farmlands aren’t as accessible as the internet, so while it works well for software it can’t for these sorts of projects. Assuming you would address the same fair trial issues, you think exist in the current system, for a open source model? Same problem isn’t it, whos the influence.

      Luckily the current system actually works really well with a healthy balance of commercial interest vs safety/environment.

      Or were you joking?

    • Brian John says:

      Max — you say: “All data from trials work used for agricultural technology development, though carried out in-house, is always subject to 3rd party review from regulators, independant (sic) commitees (sic) and goverments (sic).” That’s all fantasy. Regulators do NOT insist on sight of full data sets, and even the full experiments are not properly monitored. Last time I tried to get a full data set I got no data at all, and even the experimental dossier had large chunks blacked out because of the obsession with “commercial confidentiality.” Until we get proper transparency and a reform of the system to allow industry experiments to be repeated, we CANNOT trust what the GM developers tell us about safety or anything else. There is a great deal of scientific fraud going on. It has to be stopped.

    • Max says:

      Allow me to clarify, as i was wrong to say that all data sets are made available and i speak only about agrochemicals, so I apologise for that.

      Any data submitted for approvals however, is subject to this scrutiny. In the UK to the Chemical Regulations Directorate, then onto the ACP (Advisory Commitee for Pesticides) made up of independant scientists whos backrounds are screened to ensure fairness, and finally goverment ministers who get the final say and sign any approvals.

      I already clearly stated why patent protection exists, it is unrealistic to hope for thier abolishment, it won’t ever happen. In my opinion (which nobody needs to agree with) it would be ridiculous.

      Commercially sensitive information remain secret, as its name implies, to ensure healthy competition and encourage development, again for the reasons already stressed.

    • Brian John says:

      Max — sorry to say so, but you appear to be very naive. The regulatory committees are made up of people who are vetted and chosen by the Government and who can be counted on to do as a particular department wishes — in line with the policies of the day. Trust me — I know an ex-Government minister who told me he was shocked by the process when he arrived in post. It was manipulative from top to bottom. Sir Humphrey is in charge. So independent experts? Forget it. And the info presented to the regulatory committees is at the discretion of the applicants — especially in the USA, where regulation for all intents and purposes does not exist. It’s a bit better in Europe, but not a lot. The nonsense about commercial confidentiality suits the patent holders but nobody else — I have seen two versions of a dossier; one had whole pages blacked out, and the other didn’t — the pages which were blacked out, to stop me from seeing them, were ludicrous, and had nothing whatsoever to do with patent protection. Sorry — the system is corrupt, and against the public interest.

    • Max says:

      Oh yeah, and all efficacy trials work in conducted to GEP standards, and safety/environment/residue trials work is conducted to GLP standards. Companies are auditted for their compliance.

    • John Fryer says:

      Hi Max

      Your comments sound a mirror of those of Mark Lynas and finally you respond – are you joking. I would ask if you in fact are the joker.

      When the European community was formed it was free of got at regulators and the obvious flaws in the GMO food meant a GMO food ban.

      Today the European regulators are in my view not only got at but also run by people who appear to have absolutely no qualifications for the job. I speak here of John Dalli whose CV I have looked at and see nothing in it that would make him suitable for even a job as an office clerk in the organisation. I would love to be shown that he is fit to be at the head of this community that protects 300 plus million people.

      Also today the range of GMO foods actually approved is coming towards the hundreds and includes those where top research scientists have proved significant harm.

      Europe despite its ban on GMO food growing for some countries does import huge amounts and for more than ten years the types belatedly found harmful.

      Yes it is always possible that like development of the car and plane that eventually GMO foods will be safe and even better than everything before.

      At present this is not so and the idea of independent thinking and science to date in all continents just means loss of job, career and nationality if you publish science without fear of what happens after.

      One of the first GMO products was ASPARTAME. Just run through that history and imagine the same for GMO which is also the same type of running over common sense and science.

      The regulators here in Europe are again looking at ASPARTAME when it is in everyones food here and has been for 30 years.

      The trillion meals Mark talks of?

      Just research one promoter of GMO ASPARTAME, Michael J Fox and what happened to him after 8 years of ASPARTAME consumption.

    • Brian John says:

      John Dalli isn’t there any longer. He was forced to resign after a scandal emerged, relating to dodgy dealings with lobbyists for the tobacco industry. his replacement is no better qualified to look after GM issues than he was. The real problem is not the Commissioner, but the civil service that backs him up and makes policy — DG SANCO has always had a far too close relationship with EFSA and with the GM industry, and is widely despised, even among MEPs.

    • Max says:

      Please don’t confuse me being naive, i’m just not cinical.

    • Brian John says:

      Sorry Max. Didn’t mean to offend. I’m not at all cynical myself — I just like to dig deeply, and I don’t always like what I find.

    • Max says:

      None taken.

      To go back to one of your points…

      “the info presented to the regulatory committees is at the discretion of the applicants”

      Absolute true. But in reallity they don’t actually have huge data pools to be able to do much cherry picking. CRD in the UK are so specific in what info they want often projects have to be mothballed for another year while more trials can be carried out. Unsubmitted data is actually not that glamorous or revealing, normally a failed trial for practical or weather reasons.

      Companies actually need to convince themselves before anyone else that a project is worth taking further. They must make the choice at different stages of development weather or not its worth the continued investment. While sometimes this may tip on a marketing decision, it always influenced most strongly by if they don’t think it will clear tox regs or simply dissapointing efficacy.

      This is what leftover data is, generally pretty useless.
      Why do they protect it then i hear you ask?

      A)Stop competitors who want to know what their rivals are looking at.
      B)Previously unviable projects might suddenly become useful again when used in combination with new dicoveries.

      I hope this helps your understanding, I am very reliably informed.

    • Max says:

      To take the patent argument further…albeit In general terms…

      A patent tends to last around 20 years, depending on country etc. Typically new agro tech will spend the first half of this in development, not being sold. During the second half of this time, when the technology is on sale, the company who developed it will obviously want to redeem its investment of development costs and will also want profit to reinvest into new projects.

      After the patent has expired, other organisations are free to develop thier own projects based on that technology. This may end up as so called ‘generics’

      For a pesticide active, the ground work of getting it Annex 1 listed at EU level will have been done by the original R&D firm. However they are subject to review every few years. To get a product registered at member state level (note i defrenciate between active and product) will require extra trials work by the generic company. If the original R&D firm is no longer interested in the active the generic firm may also have to put in the work to keep it annex1 listed.

      Again you could argue that the R&D firm should then release the original data to make best use of off patent actives dicovered whoever decides to sell them. Thing is, the last thing an R&D firm wants to do is make generic companies stronger and more proftable as they will rob profits/market share which they would rather reinvest in new projects. Another reason is that post parent, the developer will want to argue that their product has a technical advantage over a generic because they have a better understanding of the active, have better formulations and/or have better technical support. Refer to a box of neurofen for evidence of this.

      Colaborations are also possible for multiple firms. An agreement is made based on common interest vs investment and other financial/market conditions. The final result of such colaborations can have varying degrees of harmony…

    • Max says:

      You mention one bad apple , who was ill qualified for the job. This doesn’t mean evryone involved in the process is.

      I simply think you should have more faith in the way these things are dealt with, not everyone is out to get us or rape the earth.

    • Max says:

      The joker i was refering to was Justen, with all that which century are we in stuff.

  13. Han Chen says:

    Dear Mark

    My company focuses on the development of biotechnology traits for plants and I wanted to tell you what a fantastic article this is. Your concise summary of not only the science but the important economic and social impacts of banning genetically modified foods will hopefully lead to a more rational discussion.

    I can tell you that from a start-up companies perspective, the feasibility increasing productivity to meet the demand for more calories is not going to be due to a lack of good science but the cost of regulation. It is always a risk reward calculation for the investment community and although the science is becoming better and faster, it is pointless if ultimately it will be shelved. I hope your advocacy will increase the diversity and pipeline of products that can come to market and address these daunting challenges.

  14. Cin An says:

    Excellent analysis and characterization of this issue and the ideological nature of opponents to biotechnology in agriculture. It was amazing to recently see U.S. actor Michael J. Fox, famous for his battle with Parkinson’s Disease, come out allied with activists opposing GMOs claiming “we just don’t know enough about them” and stating the jury was still out on their safety. Were Mr. Fox to take the same approach with the biotech and advance science treatments he’s received for his illness I suspect we’d be sadly without his company and commentary today.

    If the activist groups and special interest marketers (hello Soil Association) who oppose the use of science to move food production forward were faced with the challenge of feeding themselves on marginal and pest-ridden lands I suspect their tune would change rather quickly when it comes to adopting advances that help address such challenges. Props to you Mr. Lynas and good luck with the backlash you will sorely (sic) receive from your former friend and allies.

  15. Joanne Dunn says:

    hmmmmm, you jumped off the non-GMO bandwagon and on to the crop-technology bandwagon because of science. Interesting. Not sure I read any references to “science” in your above little speech.

    • Alex says:

      You have an awfully odd definition of bandwagon if you think a call to not instantly reject GMOs and instead look at responsibly integrating their use into environmental policy is jumping onto a bandwagon.

    • Ted Dunn says:

      Yes Joanne I also noticed that. In addition I find the speech condescending and patronizing.. The writer is quite obnoxious in his reference to Greenies and organic food advocates etc. His total lack of scientific reference to some of the disturbing evidence around GM foods shows very bad investigative journalism.

      It is easy to suspect the authour was well pain by Monsanto et al for this imbalanced piece of bad journalism.

      I also find it interesting that the comments come 00% from people who apparently support his position. That is unlikely but let’s wait and see who else writes in.

    • Nemo from Erehwon says:

      I’m surprised at how long it took for the cry of “Monsanto shill!” to be raised.

      If you can;t make an argument without resorting to paranoia and ad hom attacks, maybe you need to re-think your position.

      Protip: Some people disagree with you, honestly and without being paid or anything..

    • Pekka Taipale says:

      Exactly.

    • Corkscrew says:

      The majority of “disturbing evidence” around GMO that I personally have come across has consistently turned out to be garbage – urban legends of the green community.

      For example, the research that always gets cited is Séralini’s paper claiming that GMO food caused tumours in rats. Due to some shenanigans (Séralini prohibited journalists from discussing results with anyone before publication, including other scientists), all the normal journalistic checks and balances got bypassed and the study became big news despite its serious, obvious flaws.

      The main flaws were:
      - the study used a tiny control group;
      - it used a huge number of tiny “active” groups, meaning that there were ample opportunities for subgroup fishing;
      - the breed of rats chosen was likely to develop tumours at a rate of 70% anyway, making it hard to distinguish any actual effect from background noise;
      - no documentation was given of randomisation/blinding procedures, what the control rats were fed, or a range of other important experimental issues;
      - no mechanism was proposed for the apparent negative effect of GMO (although this would be less of an issue if the rest of the study had been better-quality).

      The practical upshot is that this study, which is widely cited in the green/organic community, gets no respect whatsoever from actual scientists.

      If you have any evidence that’s better-quality than Séralini, please let me know.

    • Don Atkinson says:

      Then read the article again and open your mind.

    • Alsadius says:

      If “it does a lot of good, and it doesn’t do any harm” isn’t scientific evidence, what is?

    • Anna says:

      Joanne, your reading comprehension skills must be quite poor then. For the record, the terms “studies”, “fact”, “figures”, “public research”, “trials” and so on do, in fact, refer to “science”. But let’s not feed the trolls, GM food or otherwise.

    • Telanis says:

      “There are studies” is completely handwavy. I didn’t see any specific studies that we could look up being referred to.

    • Pekka Taipale says:

      Because this is a speech, not a scientific article. Those references can be found, for sure, but they are not meaningful when the text is for reading out loud to an audience.

    • Corkscrew says:

      A fully-cited version *would* be useful. Wonder if Lynas would be willing to put together a version of this speech with footnotes.

    • George says:

      Indeed, it has little if any basis in science and riddled with assumptions.

      For example, the premise of increased yields. Is there evidence for this? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, there is very little evidence for this at present: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/failure-to-yield.html

      Similarly there has been little progress in addressing the important issues such as; flood or drought tolerance, nitrogen fixation etc. What has been achieved is making products that have primarily commercial application.

      Neither has Mark addressed unintended consequences or risks. Where is the evidence for safety ( human health and environmental)? Have any long term trials been done to assess this. No doubt he knows the answer but remains silent. Why is he not advocating controlled trials to establish health and environmental effects ? Instead, there is an unsupported assertion that “the debate is over”.

      Claiming that E Coli is a problem of organic agriculture is spurious. E Coli can and has contaminated many food processes, most notably the industrial meat industry. It has nothing per se to do with organics it is just bad practice.

      All in all, this is as bad as “the anti’s” Mark rails about. If you are going to make a case for a scientific stance, then surely it must be based around the evidence and scientific principle.

      Very disappointing in view of the authors great work in the public discourse on climate.

    • A Geneticist says:

      The best point to take home from the author’s statement is really that populist moratorium on GM crops should never have been encouraged.
      I am staunchly against biological patenting and the paradigm of monsanto type product line integration.
      But this is a completely separate issue to outright banning of GM crops. The outright anti-GM movement has resulted in a wave of public opinion that has prevented discussion and research towards environmentally, socially and ethically prudent outcomes that GM could offer; simply because governments and societies, as opposed to corporations, are afraid to touch it.
      Do you really think that drought tolerance can feasably be bred into local plant varieties using traditional techniques, while maintaining healthy genetic diversity? Do you think it can be done in time, and without a huge waste of resources?

      Drought tolerance, natural pest resistance, decreased environmental footprint, maintained diversity, soil maintenance. These are things which can be tackled by GM crops, but they will only be done with governmental and societal support. Open discourse and cooperation between farmers, environmentalists, microbiologists, and bio-engineers needs to be fostered. Corporations can’t do this, they don’t want to, but governments can.

      If more people simply took the time to understand what DNA and proteins are and what they do, before ranting about their personal repulsion and symbolic and moralistic queesiness, we’d get a lot further.

      The EU legislature needs to be rewritten; it will eventually due to desperation, but hopefully something will happen sooner.
      Legislation CAN be written that allows good, rational and safe progress without enslaving farmers to patent law and corporate agenda.

      GM crops and organisms need to be part of our survival plan for this and the next century. We denounce them at our peril.

      The wheat genome was recently published, after a leviathan effort, and is open to everyone to view. It isn’t patented. There is a huge scientific community that wants to do public good, and do it quickly, but under current legislation and superstition they can’t.

    • George says:

      Firstly, I am not fundamentally opposed to GM technology. But, as a medical graduate who has followed and written on this subject, I do have a reasonable understanding of genetics. That is exactly why I am concerned about this technology. I largely agree with geneticist David Suzuki’s position on this.

      We may have mapped the Wheat genome, and I think that is an incredible and worthwhile achievement, but it does in no way confer an understanding of the effects of changing that genome.

      We have only recently discovered that epigenetic changes may alter expression across generations and there are likely many more as yet unknown intracellular surprises, I’m sure you will agree.

      At this point in time, we are blind to these unintended consequences. Surely it would pay to do adequate, long term research on the health and environmental effects of a technology before committing our future agriculture on it?

      This has not occurred and it is the antithesis of scientific practice. (Imagine if we did new pharmacological agents like this ?).

      Secondly, we do not know if GM technology can address any of the major challenges regarding drought or salinity tolerance etc., that face us. Suggesting that GM is justified because there isn’t another silver bullet option is precisely what geo-engineering proponents do with respect to climate change.

      It is a maladaptive response. Like the woman who swallowed a spider to catch a fly….. We can never succeed by chasing the technological problems of the past with new untested technologies of today.

      We need to think about how we can live differently on a broader scale.

    • Mikeb says:

      So George, should diabetics throw away the genetically engineered Humulin?

      Should the papaya farmers chop down their GE virus-resistant trees?

      Should we abandon GE vaccines and growth hormone?

      Should we cancel Golden Rice?

      “Surely it would pay to do adequate, long term research on the health and environmental effects of a technology before committing our future agriculture on it?”

      Too late. The commitment has been made, and there are no cases of any harm to any consumer.

    • George says:

      That’s a straw man argument. GE technology does not equal GM foods.
      The products you mention have indeed been studied thoroughly, with well conducted clinical trials and post marketing surveillance.

      This is the polar opposite of GM organisms for food production, where trials are minimal and unpublished.

      To claim that it is now too late to do research into safety is frankly preposterous.

    • Mikeb says:

      Papaya and rice ARE foods.

      And where did you get the idea studies are unpublished?

      http://www.biofortified.org/genera/

    • mike says:

      I concur. We simply don’t know the effects long term. We don’t know, say, if inserting a tobacco gene into a pig can at some time allow a tobacco virus to attack a pig. Then humans, since pigs can be virus vectors.

      This could be an unprecedented tragedy since humans would have no immunity.

      Nor do we have any idea of what long term effects these organisms will have on our ecosystem in twenty generations, or two hundred, or two hundred thousand. It’s not like human engineered insulin, these organisms reproduce. The BT gene was found in bacteria and weeds around the original test site propagated in unknown ways at the time. We were told ahead of time, of course, that this would be impossible.

      Strict oversight is needed to ensure that companies are not creating organisms that could have long term problems. If that means expensive testing, then that is the price we must pay to be safe. Companies and GMO investors seem to think that the world needs GMO right now, come hell or high water.

      We don’t know what we don’t know. And when it comes to genes and their expression in millions of organisms, we don’t know much at all. We are infants playing with fire. The driving force of this technology isn’t saving the human race, it isn’t feeding the poor, the driving force is money.
      The vast majority of ‘improvements’ to crops so far have been pest control, the ability to apply large amounts of herbicide and pesticide to crops, and all at once ripening of crops. Little work has been done on nutrition or flavour.

      I have no problem with eating GM crops, but by no means do I want to see these companies operating in an environment where they have captured the regulators. They need strong oversight.

    • Lisa says:

      My thoughts entirely, no sign of any rationality in this argument just a susceptibility to brainwashing.

  16. Alec says:

    Re beansprouts and E. coli. It’s a measure of a nation’s eating habits that it contracts this bug from a certain food. In Germany, an individual outbreak was from fresh salad. In my fair land of Scotland with one of the highest incidences in Western Europe, it’s from processed meat and cheapo pies.

    Back on topic, I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

    ~alec

  17. Richard de Haan says:

    Mark,

    I do not know whether your “dot-connecting” was achieved under the influence of Kool-Aid, but here’s another perspective: http://youtu.be/WfGMYdalClU

    I wish all of you health, happiness, and unconditional love for the year to come. With those ingredients, it should not prove too difficult to find the truth…

  18. Ben Edge says:

    Excellent presentation, Mark.

  19. Jeff says:

    This is great. It inspires me to go to my local grocery store and actually seek out GM food.

    But those who most need to hear will not listen. Like autism “due to immunizations”, ignoring of human-caused global climate change, and denial of other fully-proven science, most cogent arguments will be met by consumers with their fingers in their ears. Humans are always looking for something external to blame, something to demonize and something to fear rather than listening to the scientists that make no moral judgments and attempt to serve the needs of humanity.

    GMO fearing people are like certain religions. Birth control is okay using math and calendars but not by using chemistry. Farming food is okay when using physics to plow the ground, a calendar to decide when to plant or harvest, but not okay with chemistry, genetics, or biology.

    Bleh, I am gonna go out and buy a big unnaturally-sized chicken breast, some Monsanto Soy milk, and prepare it with some inorganic Brocolli, follow up with some naval oranges, Honeycrisp apples, and seedless red grapes. And I will lament that I don’t yet have even cooler foods to eat from the GM guys.

  20. Jared says:

    Thank you. I wish we could all have this kind of courage and integrity in the face of our mistakes.

  21. Jill DeWolfe says:

    I’m sorry to hear all this. Wheat is one of the GM foods and now everyone is having reactions to it. It is not the wholesome grain we once knew. Furthermore, I cannot for a moment think that ingesting Round Up is good for ones health.

    So they are not spraying, and according to you that saves the environment, but what about us? Do you really think that adding Round up to crops that we eat is good for us? As for Monsanto, I don’t know how they get away with the horrible things they do to farmers. Loaning money to the poorest of the poor in India so they can buy seeds from them and if they have a crop failure, no problem, Monsanto just takes over the land as payment. Not only in India but in the USA, they regularly strip farmers of their lively hood and all their property by bankrupting them. If what they are doing is good for the environment why do they employ such sneaking underhanded methods of spying on farmers? They pay people to go around the farms to make sure farmers are not saving seeds. If caught it’s doomsday for that farmer. What I believe is that Monsanto are a bunch of fascists and that’s what I don’t understand how they get away with their tactics in the US. My conclusion is that they must pay a lot of money to various congress members to continue doing their dirty deeds. Turning farmers into spys for them, who turn against their neighbours and used to be friends. No, I do not agree with you. Personally I will not eat soy products, corn, wheat and anything else that has pestisides injected into the genes of the plant.

    • Brendan says:

      I read the first few lines of your comment and had enough. GM wheat is still in the developmental stages, and isn’t commercially available. So it isn’t in your food. The whole point of Mike’s article was drive home the need for science based fact when it comes to our food system, and you directly contradicted that. Please refrain from doing so in the future. People on the anti side continuously hound the pro side for facts and data, and attempt to debunk ot with urban legend and “fact” from less than credible sources. Its high time people got over themselves and learned a thing or two about our food system.

    • Rosemary White says:

      As Brendan says, there is no commercially planted GM wheat anywhere, partly because it takes so long to develop. The lines in development are mainly augmented rather than disease resistant, for example, lines that have high gluten but that lack the one sugar residue on the protein that coeliacs respond to. There is now a race on to add resistance to the new wheat rust, and GM is really the only way it’ll be developed fast enough.

    • Nemo from Erehwon says:

      “Ingesting Roundup.”

      That’s what we’re up against, folks.

    • Telanis says:

      How is the Roundup removed from the wheat during processing? It doesn’t just disappear. Ridiculing someone instead of producing facts is not going to help you promote science.

    • Rumtopf says:

      I don’t see you asking for evidence from the person who made the original roundup claim… I wonder why!

    • Rumtopf says:

      -By that I mean, show me the evidence that harm is being done, please.

    • cactusren says:

      Actually, Roundup breaks down rapidly, and is one of the least toxic herbicides. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundup_(herbicide)) I’d much prefer Roundup than just about any other herbicide, both from an environmental and from a health perspective.

    • Max says:

      Roundup, as with other agrochemicals, has a Harvest Interval. That is to say the shortest period of use before harvest of the crop. E.g 7 days, 3 weeks. Breaching these cut off dates is illigel and breaking the statutory conditions of use (UK).

      From the momment an agrochemical is sprayed it starts to break down (at varying rates depending on the active, formulation and weather, hence different harvest intervals for different products and different countries) into secondary, tertiary etc metabolites, all of which have to be tested for human/environmental toxicology in long term trials on a range of species/soils.

      Incidentally, roundup (Glyphosate) is probably the most inert in terms of animal toxicology (obviously its effect is very potent for herbaceous plants)

      If you want to know about individual agrochemicals and their safety and terms of use, look them up on their manufacturers websites who are required by law to make them available (UK). You can find product labels (which outline terms of use) and material safety data sheets or MSDS (UK). You will find a staggering amount of very specific information on each, all of which is the result of nearly a decades worth of trial work. Notice each country will have its own version of these depending of the information required by state legislation, I comment throughout on the UK situation.

    • Kaleberg says:

      Modern short stalk wheat may or may not be causing problems, but it was developed using traditional breeding methods.

  22. Raf says:

    Any comments on the scientific studies on glyphosate use in Argentina?

  23. Where’s the research? Where’s the sources for all this “scientific” fact? And who paid for and did this research? That’s wholly relevant.

    I’ll read them if you post them, but until then, I have to imagine you’ve gone over to the dark side.

    • OrchidGrowinMan says:

      Rachel,

      It would be daunting indeed to list, much less discuss, all the studies in a simple short speech. To demand that would be unreasonable. I suggest you go to biofortified, where there is an extensive list of references conveniently provided and discussed, including both the “pro-” and “anti-” ones (including the infamous Seralini ones).

  24. Matthew says:

    Wow, 2 years of university sociology classes are now rendered even more pointless…

    Now all that is needed is Michael Moore to do the same thing, and my whole undergrad studies will be a waste of time.

  25. Farmer C says:

    So why should we listen to you now? You are now a proven back-peddler. Too bad you feel you have to make a public apology for your legitimate concern over an emerging technology with more questions than answers related to its long term dangers.
    It seems that rather than accepting GMO as a necessary evil you have turned into a lobbyist for the GMO community. If GMO frankenfood is the only way for humanity to continue to grow at the disturbing levels of today perhaps we should consider changing our plans. Even my tank full of simple minded Tilapia have it figured out. If there are too many fish in the tank, they don’t breed. Humanity could take a lesson from the animal kingdom.
    Gasoline powered cars and diesel powered big rigs kill people every day. Their benefit is considered to outweigh their risks, so we keep on driving. I’m not about to come out and say I now fully endorse and recommend the carbon spewing, animal smashing, planet warming convenience tool just because I want to be able to drive around. I admit they may be a necessary evil. But ultimately they are indeed evil.

    When cars first came about they were thought of as a tool. Just like GMO. It seemed ridiculous to consider that a machine built on the human scale could change the climate. It took nearly 100 years to see the truth. Transportation is good, internal combustion engines are bad. Food is good. Scientifically modified DNA is…? We don’t know. Neither do you.

    • Dave says:

      Science is all about back-pedalling if you are faced with convincing evidence. It’s all about removing fear and hunches, which as the article states can cause the very problems their proponents are trying to stop.

    • John says:

      Congratulations on your new found intellectual honesty.I am really interested to know,in the light of your admission,how you intend to act in future with regard to your belief in the science of global warming.
      Are you at one with Parncutt calling for ‘deniers’ to be executed and with Williams comparing them with pedophiles?What is your position on the Gleik matter,do you approve of what he did and if not will we hear you say so.? Do you use the term ‘denier’?
      What I am trying to get at Mark is,are you going to be one of the very few people who I can believe on this subject or are we in for more of the same?

  26. Jane says:

    Wonder who is paying Mr. Lynas to bash organic. He trots out the same tired arguments: organic farming is stuck in the past, organic food kills. His vision of engineered crops feeding the world is actually a vision of a sterile world reduced to a very few, corporate-controlled crops. I am not impressed with his conversion. It only shows how shallow his analysis was in the first place.

    • Dave says:

      What about publicly funded research into GM that isn’t controlled or patented? That is being destroyed too.

    • Ed Lubbers says:

      I can’t see your point. He didn’t bash ‘organics’ except for specific points that need to be thought about, i.e. in general that there are risks with all technologies. There were areas that he supported that are utilized by the ‘organics’. It was a fairly long article; did you actually read it all?

    • Kaleberg says:

      He didn’t bash organic foods. He just pointed out that if we all had to rely on organic food, most of us would be dead from starvation. I’m a big organic food fan and a big GM fan which sometimes surprises people. I live in a sparsely populated agricultural area in the US and support our local farmers, many of whom are organic. My main reasons for supporting organic foods are:

      - they taste better, and I can afford to pay the premium for better taste
      - they help support the rather feeble local economy (not everyone is cut out to run a meth lab)
      - they provide a genetic pool which may prove valuable for designing new GM foods in the future.

      Of course, we can get away with this kind of thing in the US since we have so much land. Even the intensively cropped farms of the wheat and corn belts are seriously inefficient given the sheer acreage (no hectares here) available.

    • Max says:

      Just because arguments are tired, it doesn’t mean that they’re not true. Maybe they keep falling on stubborn ears?

      Clearly he is not against the methods adopted by organic producers, simply the dogmatic refusal for organic certification bodies to be flexible. It wouldn’t matter if they were able to match the yields of more intensivly grown crops, but they can’t, and no one can deny this. SoilAssoc and others don’t, they think its a price worth paying. Question is, for what???

      Can’t we just adopt a more integrated approach taking in the best of all available tech/knowledge while moving forward agronomically?

  27. Phil Lawrence says:

    The majority of the world’s grain crops are fed to livestock. It is an incredible waste of resources (land, water, food). Tons and tons of food used to produce… a couple pounds of food. Shockingly counter-productive.

    Consider this seriously. Research the topic to fully comprehend the folly of meat consumption.

  28. OrchidGrowinMan says:

    Superkudos, my friend!

    (I came here following a link posted on http://www.biofortified.org, a site I heartily recommend.)

    From your arguments, I suspect you have read a couple of my favourite books:
    Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist’s View of Genetically Modified Food by Nina V. Federoff (Yes THAT NVF) and Nancy Marie Brown
    and
    Starved for Science: How Biotechnology Is Being Kept Out of Africa by Robert Paarleberg with forewards by Norman Borlaug and Jimmy Carter.

    I have made a journey similar to your own, if shorter: I used to teach Organic Gardening, but the lack of Skepticism in that community has gradually led me to other outlets for my interests. Yes, I am definitely an Environmentalist, but the surfeit of credulity and dogma among my fellow-travelers is painful to me.

    But I still see a (selfish?) value to “capital-O, capital-G” Organic Gardening, as a set of rules to keep the not-quite-competent out of trouble: I am grateful that it discourages my neighbor from the former ritual of spreading 100kg of Diazinion every year, and from tossing fetid meat-scraps on his compost, and it’s just a little annoying when he denounces me for using a few drops of glyphosate on noxious weeds I want to eliminate from among my more valuable plantings. (Still, his aversion is better than having to deal with spray-drift from the other neighbor’s overenthusiastic applications.) But opposition to GM has no benefits to anyone.

    And, as long as I’m writing here, let me address the commenter who mentioned saving seeds: I applaud that, especially when done as you describe, selecting for a locally-adapted strain. However, there are limits: Hybrids, which are the bulk of many crops, are often very much more productive, but it is usually not worth saving and planting seed of them, since the resulting crop will in most cases be much less productive and much less uniform, both traits important in commercial production. That’s why farmers buy seed for hybrid maize, and why there are seed companies with special resources and expertise to provide it. There’s no Big Secret Conspiracy. But this does not apply to all crops: Look-up “heterosis.”

    Respectfully yours,
    OGM.

  29. NikFromNYC says:

    You are more of a scientist yourself now than whole battalions of green activist tenure track academic ones.

  30. pigneguy says:

    “One of the commonest arguments against GM is that organic farmers will be ‘contaminated’ with GM pollen, and therefore no-one should be allowed to use it.So the rights of a well-heeled minority, which come down ultimately to a consumer preference based on aesthetics, trump the rights of everyone else to use improved crops which would benefit the environment. ”

    simplistic view of the rejectionist’s arguments, no ?….
    you reads like a wordier Dr. Oz….
    wonder what your take on Order 81 is…..

    https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/24

    In fact, Order 81 was written to promote the patenting of seeds and the sale of GMOs. Before the U.S. illegally invaded and occupied Iraq, it was not legal to patent seeds. Now, under U.S. decree, to patent varieties of seed, all that is necessary is to be the first to “describe” or “characterize” them. Even though technically, the Iraqi farmer is not being stopped from saving and sharing seed from traditional crops at this time, nevertheless there is now also nothing stopping Monsanto, Cargill, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer and other multinationals from “describing” or “characterizing” those traditional seeds, and thereby patenting those seeds in the future. And, when they do, the Iraqi farmer then will be prohibited from saving and sharing those seeds that have been passed down from generations, and will have to buy them from “the company store,” “trapped into a high-cost cash crop economy from which he will find it impossible to escape.”…..”“Such kind of “biopiracy” is fueled by an Intellectual Property Right (IPR) regime that ignores the prior art of the farmer, and grants rights to a breeder who claims to have created something new from the material and knowledge of the very farmer.”

    and glyphosate=benign ?

  31. Matt Boyd says:

    To me the most interesting point is the one you make about population growth being strongly dependent on infant mortality. Can you tell me where you got this information from. That world population won’t continue to spiral out of control and may one day plateau or even decline is good news.

  32. Simon Bookman says:

    Sir,

    It is possible, (I believe it possible), that you were not wrong before, but are wrong now, as three-eyed great-grandchildren, (or greatn-children will show).

    • Alec says:

      Maybe he wasn’t, maybe he is now, Simon. One thing is for sure, though, you are utterly wrong about “three eyed grandchildren”.

      ~alec

  33. Peter says:

    Mark,

    Having the humility to change sides in such a heated debate is admirable. Thanks for an inspiring and insightful speech about GM.

    http://thinkingscifi.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/the-debate-is-over/

  34. Rosemary says:

    Great article!

    By the way, when Greenpeace attempted to destroy a GM wheat crop in Canberra (making themselves liable to an instant fine of $10,000 from the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator for breaching the insect exclusion netting), they got the wrong crop – not the one they said they were aiming for. And young wheat is like grass, so if you cut it off it just re-grows – some wheat is partly used as pasture and is grazed by cattle before it starts heading. The experiment was wrecked as a useable experiment, of course, setting everything back a year.

  35. David Flint says:

    Well said Mark. We should all be willing to change our minds in the face of the evidence.

  36. While we’re on the subject of myth-busting, the thing you failed to mention, Mark, is that food shortages are not down to lack of production. They are due to:

    1) Food waste (up to 50%, much of it due to supermarkets overstocking shelves to increase sales) and world food markets dictating what people grow
    2) Food distribution – huge localused concentrations of food not getting where it’s needed, and most importantly
    3) Most cereal crops (70%?) don’t go to feeding people, they go to feeding cattle, mostly to supply the burger industry
    4) Loss of vegetable and cereal varieties – there is a massive genetic legacy being lost right now

    In short, it is false to suggest GM is our only hope of survival. This is a marketing tool. It’s the old woman that swallowed the fly. In orher words, fix the priblems at source – cut waste, distribute food better, move back to a vegetable-based diet, cur restrictions on heritage crops.

    If this doesn’t doesn’t work, come back and talk about GM.

    • Rob Vens says:

      Thank you Paul, this is a sound (and not trollish) response to an article resounding with the fundamentalism of the converted.
      To add to your argument: hybrid high production seeds (that cannot be propagated except in isolated and controlled high-tech environments) are more productive indeed. However they are much *more* susceptible to diseases, not less. The genetically introduced resistances will always be a minor subset of all threats, bacteria, viruses, fungi, insects and larger animals, and because of the genetic uniformity these crops remain vulnerable. While the old mixed-gene pool of locally propagated landrace crops are much less so. I remember the unbelief of local cereal farmers when showed my traditional landrace fields: I had no problems with fungi, while their harvest in some years was severely threatened. The same with weather conditions in different years: because of the genetic variety my crops always coped in even the most extreme years. This is what sustainable farming is about, empowering local farmers, less dependency on multinationals, and a stable (but lower in the good years) harvest.

    • Jesper says:

      I think that is very good for you. The data you can produce from your farm is extremely valuable, as is similar studies being conducted both in the public and private sector. One of the things modern biotechnology is aiming at is harnessing the potential from old landrace crops and use this in crop varieties with much greater yields. No one is denying that modern crops have a problem regarding susceptibility to certain pests. On the contrary, this is what is trying to be addressed. My main problem with this post (and I apologise for picking this particular one, but the comment has to go somewhere relevant and I chose here) is that, if we can produce enough food using old landrace crops (and by this I mean for everyone in the world) and we can grow it in an economically viable way, why isn’t everyone doing this? Farmer’s are business people, and they need an income. If the big businessess and their seed are so bad, why do farmers continue to use them. No one is forcing anyone to choose a particular supplier of seeds. If you don’t like one, use another. If you prefer to use old landrace crops and collect the seeds yourself for next year, then you are free to do so – which is what Rob is doing. I would also hazard a guess that he is willing to share his collected seeds with anyone interested, so there is no good reason to say anyone is being forced by specific seed companies to use their seed. However, like with any other business, if you make a decision you later regret, this can be costly to get out of. Why should farming be any different?

    • Jon says:

      Wrong. If a farmer harvests seeds and his crops are near a GMO farmer, the patents are infringed upon if the non-GMO farmer plants the seeds he reaps, because the GMO pollen spread to his non-GMO crops. Monsanto and DuPont send out lawyers to harass, threaten and enforce this bullshit system, and the courts in the US support it. Sadly.

    • Jesper says:

      Wrong :o)
      The case you are referring to I assume is Monsanto Canada vs Schmeisser (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto_Canada_Inc._v._Schmeiser). If you read through it Schmeisser actively pursued the genetic crops while saying it was unintentional. However, this was refuted at three levels of justice. That was what he was sued and convicted for. Also, he did not have to pay any damages, so Monsanto also ended up out of pocket in this instance.
      What the judges did say was that there currently (or at least at that time) was no difference between a mechanical and a biological invention, but if such a distinction should be made it needed to be set out in parliament, not the courts. It is quite an interesting read, so I recommend it.

    • Sam says:

      Why isn’t everyone doing this? Because we have been taught that the “proper” way to do agriculture is to go to the supply store, buy your seeds, sit on your tractor for a few days, turn your sprinkler system on, and wait a few months. If you have pest problems (or even if you don’t), spray. If you look at the way agriculture has changed over the past few hundred years, there has been a huge focus on reducing the labor-intensive processes. So much so, that large scale farmers have GPS guided tractors so they don’t have to even steer.

      Ecology Action is an organization the researches open-pollinated seeds planted intensively and rotated with complanion plants. They regularly get 140% of the US Good Farmer average in yield with no pesticides, and no fertilizers other than compost. We’ve always had the technology to do this (much of their research comes from examining ancient ag. practices), but we got lazy. And now the “conventional wisdom” has a lot of shareholders supporting it.

      GMOs might be part of the answer, but I refute the idea that they are necessary. You don’t fight obesity by removing the fat genes from milk–you do it with exercise, dietary changes, and cultural change. Why would you fight malnutrition simply by changing the genes in rice? It’s a bigger problem than that, but one that can be solved without nitrogen fertilizer and roundup.

    • Mikeb says:

      I nominate this for the most asinine comment on this thread. It looks reasonable, but it’s full of nonsense.

      “…we have been taught that the “proper” way to do agriculture is to go to the supply store, buy your seeds, sit on your tractor for a few days, turn your sprinkler system on, and wait a few months. If you have pest problems (or even if you don’t), spray.”

      Who actually farms like this? I don’t. Farmers are not the idiots you portray them as being.

      “You don’t fight obesity by removing the fat genes from milk–you do it with exercise, dietary changes, and cultural change.”

      1. Who suggested we fight obesity this way?

      2. Who doesn’t know about “exercise, dietary changes,” etc.?

      3. What is a “fat gene”?

      “Why would you fight malnutrition simply by changing the genes in rice? It’s a bigger problem than that, but one that can be solved without nitrogen fertilizer and roundup.”

      “Simply.” I’m lmao.

      What does “changing the genes in rice” have to do with nitrogen fertilizer and Roundup”?

      I use “nitrogen fertilizer” and Roundup. Got a problem with that? They work.

      I also use composted manure, hoes, and mulch.

      I’d give my little toe for a GE potato that I didn’t have to spray.

    • Sam says:

      Yes, I have a problem with Roundup. I have no problem with you growing tasteless GMO crops, if that’s what you feel is necessary. However, Roundup destroys the ecosystem for a much larger area than just your farm. Perhaps my analogy about ways of fighting obesity was unclear, but I think others have made similar arguments better below. GMOs, while interesting technology, are not the only technology. Mr. Lynas is trying to convince everyone that the only way to fight hunger and get higher yields is through GMOs, which is absolutely untrue. There are several articles from the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J064v19n02_06 for example) which show increased yields from good planning and proper crop management.

      And if you try to sell me a GMO tomato at the farmer’s market that you grew without pesticides, I’ll buy it if it tastes the best. I’m not anti-GMO, but the fallacy that they are necessary is one that has been manufactured by big ag to make money.

    • Mikeb says:

      “In short, it is false to suggest GM is our only hope of survival. ”

      Except that he never said that.

    • Paul Bickmore says:

      It’s implied at the very least, from what I read here (dire statements about world hunger / survival.) Else, why do we *need* GMOs?

    • David Flint says:

      The world food situation is likely to get worse and undoubtedly has multiple causes. In my view we need to use all the tools available – from campaigning for less meat consumption through labour-intensive organic to GMOs – to address it. We don’t have the luxury of using only the tools we feel good about.

      I think that’s what Mark said too.

    • vakibs says:

      The “need” for GM is not for anyone to decide categorically. It has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Opposing GM is as stupid as opposing chemicals in agricultural or industrial use. But supporting GM categorically is also as stupid as supposing all chemicals categorically.

      The regulation for GM foods has to be performed on a scientific basis with various risks compared and tested. The sad thing is that even medical and pharmaceutical industry is also not up to the mark with respect to the kind of tests needed before releasing a drug into the market. In this scenario, excessive regulation (or even categorical ban) on GM foods has to be put in perspective.

    • vakibs says:

      This is a good comment, thanks Paul for making it and saving me the effort.

      Mark’s speech is an impassioned plea for listening to what the science says about GMO food. However, it is not limited to just that, and goes further to argue why GM is indeed necessary to produce enough food for the global hungry. However, that part of the argument is disingenuous. Incomplete truth is as harmful as a lie.

      The fundamental reasons for global hunger are sociological and economic, not related to plant science and biology. So, the sciences we need to turn to for finding solutions to global hunger are economics, politics and organizational behavior. I would expect somebody like Mark Lynas to at least cite what evidence is on the offer here : economists like Amartya Sen have systematically proven that starvation results not from the lack of food, but from the lack of purchasing power. Unless we address these root causes of inequity, no amount of technological change can stop starvation and hunger.

  37. rxc says:

    I haven’t read your books, but I wonder how much you looked into the field do computer modeling when you wrote the book on climate change. Computer modeling is more of an art than a science, and in the most creative hands, can be more convincing (and misleading) than a slick-tongued lawyer.

    • Matt says:

      But climate change is not considered “true” because of computer models. Computer models have helped make very accurate predictions, but we know the average temperature of the earth is increasing because we measure it every year. We know it’s CO2 because we understand physics and chemistry, that the atmosphere is transparent to the visible light from the sun. This light heats the earth’s surface, which then radiates it as thermal radiation. “Greenhouses” gasses, like water vapor and CO2, while transparent to electromagnetic radiation in the visible light spectrum, absorb and reemit EM in the thermal radiation energy levels. The energy imparted by these absorptions heats the GH gasses, which collide with the oxygen, nitrogen and everything else in the atmosphere, heating them up.

      The more greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the greater the chance thermal radiation photons have of hitting a GH gas molecule, and the longer it takes for this radiation to escape into space, slowing the rate at which the earth cools. It is the forcing of CO2 in the air that slows this cooling. We know its our CO2 because the isotopes we burn are different than natural sources. We know the extra CO2 forces the temperature higher, which puts more water vapor (which is a better GH gas than CO2 even) in the air, which leads to the “runaway” GH effect.

      For more information, see here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/

  38. Mikeb says:

    This is brilliant, inspiring, and parallels my own journey from “organic” gardener and former employee at an organic farm, to small CSA partnership providing food for my neighbors.

    About three years ago, I began doing what I should have done a decade ago–I began reading the certification manuals and literature about “organics.” I never bothered to do this because I was not seeking certification myself.

    But once a group of us started up our own farm, I began to look seriously at the issue and was appalled at what I was finding–everything Mark discusses here.

    So now I’m one of those idealized small local farmers with a CSA, but one who advocates on behalf of genetically modified foods!

    My wish is to one day be able to grow GE potatoes that resist blight and beetles.

  39. Not covered here is the viscousness of corps like Monstanto in their pursuit of alleged copyright infringement. Luckily this farmer stood up to them and the courts sided with him:

    “Schmeiser pleased with victory over Monsanto”
    “In an out of court settlement finalized on March 19, 2008, Percy Schmeiser has settled his lawsuit with Monsanto. Monsanto has agreed to pay all the clean-up costs of the Roundup Ready canola that contaminated Schmeiser’s fields. Also part of the agreement was that there was no gag-order on the settlement and that Monsanto could be sued again if further contamination occurred. Schmeiser believes this precedent setting agreement ensures that farmers will be entitled to reimbursement when their fields become contaminated with unwanted Roundup Ready canola or any other unwanted GMO plants.”

    http://www.percyschmeiser.com/

    This is one of many many awful stories surrounding Monsanto’s visits to farmers by their so-called ‘gene police’, many of which have resulted in farmer suicides. Do we really want a world food-supply that is even more patented and policed?

    If this technology is so vital to the world, why is most of it owned by a few private companies and not globally operated for the betterment of mankind by an NGO or the UN? Because the *real* motivation is shareholder profit.

    The article mentions ‘Golden Rice’ heralded as a miracle of modern science for it’s Vitamin A producing ability. The fact is that in many of the places where there is a deficiency, there are plenty of better sources of Vitamin A. Here are some that can be grown in India:

    Table 1 gives sources rich in vitamin A used commonly in Indian foods.
    Source Hindi name/ Content (microgram/100g)
    (Amaranth leaves) Chauli saag=266-1,166 -
    (Coriander leaves) – Dhania=1,166-1,333
    (Cabbage) Bandh gobi=217
    (Curry leaves)-Curry patta=1,333
    (Drumstick leaves)-Saijan patta1=283
    (Fenugreek leaves)-Methi-ka-saag=450
    (Radish leaves)-Mooli-ka-saag=750
    (Mint)-Pudhina=300
    (Spinach)-Palak saag=600
    (Carrot)-Gajar=217-434
    (Pumpkin (yellow))-Kaddu=100-120
    (Mango (ripe))-Aam=500
    (Jackfruit)-Kathal=54
    (Orange)-Santra=35
    (Tomato (ripe))-Tamatar=32
    (Milk (cow, buffalo))-Doodh=50-60

    So why aren’t people eating these? Because the world food markets demand they grow rice, so that’s all there is to eat. The ‘problem’ is caused by our economic system. The solution is *not* to use an unnecessary technology to *fix* it.

    Read more here: http://online.sfsu.edu/rone/GEessays/goldenricehoax.html

    • vakibs says:

      I agree with your argument, and indeed support a varied diet for the world’s poor populations that comprises a diverse set of vegetables and fruit.

      However, there are many geographical locations where people and especially children face starvation scenarios – because of local crop failure, depletion of nutrients in the soil, or lack of food storage and distribution networks. There are many regions in Africa and India where this is the case.

      Rice is a massive crop that can be stored for a longer period than many of these vegetables, as it doesn’t require new distribution channels, refrigerated storage etc. So “golden rice” has its benefits, whether that is an open technology developed by public money or patented technology in the hands of a few corporations is another story.

      As Mark points out in his lecture, anti-GM campaigners have actually made the situation worse by creating a regulatory situation where only large corporations can invest the funds required to push a GM food technology from research & inception all the way to market. Why should this be the case ?

      Opposing any GM technology categorically, for whatever “naturalistic” or quasi-religious reasons, is blatantly wrong. Whether we “need” any GM technology – golden rice etc. – is not for somebody to decide at the top, but for the consumers to decide on the market.

  40. Chris Harper says:

    Mark,

    You said : “So I lectured them about the value of peer-review, about the importance of scientific consensus and how the only facts that mattered were the ones published in the most distinguished scholarly journals.”

    The problem is, consensus is a tool of politics. It has no role in science, none whatsoever. Scientific truth is not, ever, under any circumstances, decided by consensus. To argue on the basis of consensus is to argue on the basis of politics, and politics has no role in determining scientific truth either. What we get when politics is given a role is Lysenkoism, and a field of study stuffed sideways for decades.

    The only basis for argument in science is the data. If you can’t argue from the data then you have no argument at all. To argue on the basis of consensus is to argue from authority, and that is about as contra science as it gets.

    • Telanis says:

      Scientific consensus is just aggregated data. Peer review is about pointing out flaws in the methods used to produce data and the interpretation of said data.

    • Matt says:

      You’re confusing political consensus with scientific consensus. In political consensus, people argue, and then vote, and consensus about what policy to enact is achieved. In science, you put forth your idea, backed by experimental evidence. Other scientists then examine your methods and conclusions, and either verify them with their own experiments, or refute your conclusions by presenting experiments that show you’re wrong. Bonus points for why you’re wrong. Consensus is achieved when no one can falsify your claim (and the claim has to be falsifiable in the first place, or it isn’t science).

      So, nobody votes on truth in science. Consensus is what happens when every other plausibility has been ruled out and scientists stop arguing.

  41. Glenn Ashton says:

    There is some profound irony in this volte-face by one who is known for his flip-flopping. Clearly Mark’s initial reasons for rejecting GM technology were not adequately considered, from the outset. In order to seek absolution at the alter of commercial science he has instead shown profound naivete in accepting the gospel of scientific misinformation. He illustrates his nouveaux bias by claiming that organic farming somehow remains locked in the 1950s! What utter tosh!

    Lynas draws so many incorrect conclusions regarding both the preciseness and the very nature of genetic engineering that his conclusions are readily dismissed as being egregious. For instance his discovery that terminator technology remained a non-issue is indicative of his being poorly informed from the outset.

    Yet more worrying is his revelation that using GE to insert genetic cassettes into seed is a more precise technology than conventional breeding. This is a groundless conclusion – increasing evidence finds that there are significant non-target disruptions to the recipient genome which are not immediately apparent. This thinking relies on a false foundation – that of genetic determinism – which has been found to not just be unfounded, but indicative of a reductionist mindset little different to the eugenic movement so beloved of Nazis and other ideologues.

    In embracing this new ideology Lynas misses the point that other more useful biotech advances such as marker assisted breeding / selection (MAB/S) are – and will increasingly prove – far more useful than the tired old GM technologies – of which only two traits dominate, after a decade and a half of use.

    As for Marks insistence that “organic” farming is some sort of obstacle to progress – here again he misses the point completely. Important research institutions have found that integrated agricultural technology, increasingly known as agro-ecological practices (a few steps beyond ‘organic’ Mark!), have a far greater likelihood of not just feeding the world but of doing so sustainably. Perhaps he should read the food report compiled by the World Bank and several UN agencies (IAASTD) – or perhaps he distrusts multilateral reports?

    Lynas has adopted a the same simplistic arguments as the Monsantos, the Syngentas, the EuropaBIOs, The BIOs, the AfricaBios and all of the other cheerleaders for the GM industrial complex, that any argument against GM crops are anti science.

    That argument is groundless and rubbish. In fact there is nothing scientific to applying herbicides to vast tracts of land, or exposing pests to endless doses of toxin in order that the weeds and insects build resistance. It is a vain hope that technology will again be able to endlessly rescue us from the abyss of agricultural failure and collapse.

    Lynas apparently forgets that industrial agricultural practices, from which the present GM technologies are indivisible, are amongst the most destructive and ecologically dangerous human activities on earth. Numerous previous civilisations have collapsed because of these practices. Ours is threatened not just by industrial agriculture but by numerous concurrent environmental threats, combining in a perfect storm.

    What we need is not more rubbish about GMOs being scientific. We need more science. Science involves being present in the fields and not just routinely dosing them with pesticides and chemicals. Human involvement means scientific observation and employment of skill. There is no skill in putting in GM seed, along with designated spray and fertilsation programmes – that is farming for idiots. The result is agricultural degradation.

    Agro-ecological practices demand far greater science. So does MAS/B. So does small scale integrated farming which yields far more (up to 3X) than industrial farming per area. And remember, most people rely on the contribution of small farmers than on the inputs of large industrial agricultural practice. And the former is far more sustainable than the latter.

    What is clear from Mark’s diatribe against “greenies” and organic supporting elites is that he still understands very little about what is really at stake and what the actual solutions to the problems we face in feeding our increasing population are. Instead he vilifies simplistic arguments that he naively embraced.

    He can choose to go down the road of industrial farming and its consequent destruction of our collective ecology, or he can choose scientific farming. Using science to control agricultural production is not, and will never be the same as integrated scientific farming. There is a world of difference.

    It is time for Mark to take a hard look at his knowledge of farming. He is still a young man and clearly has much to learn. I have examined this problem for at least the last two decades. From being an initial supporter of GM crops I have become ever more sceptical of their “benefits”. Indeed powerful arguments can be made either way, quoting this study and that. The reality is that two decades of GM crops have not brought any real benefits – we have just seen increased concentration of seed ownership and genomes in increasingly narrow hands, along with the growth of intensive agriculture in the sensitive lands of South America and elsewhere. And contrary to the propaganda, poor farmers have not benefited to the extent that industry claims them to have. The reality is that any yield increases are more the result of improved seed varieties, extension services and capital inputs.

    Increases in yields have lagged previous decades, while chemical use has accelerated sharply. From being a supporter of GM technology, I have become increasingly convinced that this technology, taken to its logical conclusion, represents the problem more than the solution.

    Finally, a footnote. Lynas echoes the GM industry (was he taken on a tour by Monsanto’s PR machine , I wonder, for his position uncannily echoes theirs?) that millions or trillions of meals of GM food have been eaten with no discernable problems. On the contrary, we see increased food related problems and sicknesses since GM crops have been introduced. However it is impossible to link the two as the proponents of GM crops refuse to allow or enable universal labelling (unless you live in China or Russia!).

    So if we cannot identify the source of the problem nor be able to link a possible cause to a consequence, it is utterly unscientific to make such a claim. The industry relies on the same arms length distance as the tobacco industry did for years. But then again Lynas’ argument revolves not so much around science as around propaganda and emotive terminology. Such is the life of the technological demagogue, preaching to those who wish to believe the lies they are told by an establishment centred around economic power and control. Ho hum.

    • Rosemary White says:

      Well, I think your arguments against GM are a bit extreme. Taking just a few points:

      The “tired old GM technologies” are that way partly because of resistance to GM. There are a number of GM crops that could be deployed today if it weren’t for this. Some of the same or similar advances can be reached eventually by conventional breeding, but is takes an extra 10 years if in a hexaploid like wheat. And you get genetic drag this way with unpredictable outcomes.

      And the argument about “applying herbicides to vast tracts of land” is puzzling. If used correctly, both herbicide and pesticide use should go down with GM crops. And not all GM is about pest- or herbicide-resistance. Instead, it’s about increasing crop quality and yield, much faster than by conventional breeding, whether marker-assisted or not. Increasingly, GM is about augmenting crops in other ways, e.g. the C4 rice project – funded in part by the Gates foundation, or expressing a range of non-plant oils at high level in plants, e.g. fish oils, etc.

      And contrary to your claim, proper use of GM requires just as much skill as growing any crop. And farmers are not idiots, if it’s not profitable, they don’t use it, at least here in Australia (but only two GM crops used here).

      The throw away lines about food problems and sickness with increasing use of GM are just furphies – undocumented rubbish.

      My 2c worth.

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      Just as you may consider my response extreme, so do I consider Marks attack equally extreme. This is a central problem in that the entire issue is so polarised because those opposed to GM crops are painted as ignorant luddites, as Mark has done, while those supporting them are vilified for their support of the agricultural status quo, which is clearly as insupportable as the other extreme.

      We do need a more measured dialogue but I fear that the pro GM crowd have been singularly unhelpful in fostering any sort of rational discussion, instead rejecting anything that is not supported by “published scientific proof” as rubbish. The reality is that most of the ‘science’ that has been used to support the acceptance of present gm technology is not published in the public domain, hence is equally prone to dispute.

      The claim that opponents of GM technology are the reason for slow acceptance of other gm crops beside IR or HT varieties is utter tripe. The real reason is because of other considerations – that either the technology does not work as postulated, or worse, the risks are simply too high to tolerate, as per following the precautionary approach – which is a tried and tested and internationally accepted practice, despite the howls of derision by the GM lobby.

      That Omega 3 expressing plants and other constructs are not in the public domain is not because of public opposition, informed or un-. It is simply because there is no demand – same as for the flavr savr tomato. It is called product failure and is simply the failure of speculative scientific endeavor. Just as not all inventions will be adopted, same goes for GM inventions. Some may work, others will not.

      As to why some GM traits have been adopted is indeed primarily because they make life easier for farmers – they promote dumb farming, not scientific farming. Any fool can farm with a pesticide regime, a fertiliser regime and high fuel and input costs. However most farmers simply cannot afford those inputs – those that can are slaves to a farming system where the soil is no more than a medium. It is never seen as a collective of organisms that liberate nutrients, as part of a larger ecological whole in the industrial system. Which is why industrial GM technology is ill suited both to feeding the world, to sustainable farming and to the majority of farmers around the world who do practice scientific farming, based on observation and adaption, not on a pre-ordained regimen of chemicals and pesticides.

      If my comments on increased foodborne illnesses are just “furphies”, then perhaps you should be less selective and take on board – and then tackle – some of the numerous furphies that litter Lynas’ diatribe.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Another fantastic post!

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Brilliant.

    • Andy says:

      Mark is absolutely right about “terminator” technologies. There is not now, nor has there ever been a commercially available seed that uses such technology. It does not exist. You know this, obviously, which is why instead of arguing with him about what he said, you argue that he is wrong to say it is “irrelevant.”

      This is the kind of bizarre truth manipulation that is always trotted out by the anti-technology crowd, who spend their time at UN and regulatory public hearings making statements that are intended to be quoted in press releases rather than contribute to the discussion at hand. Let’s talk about the potential dangers of things that don’t exist, and then pretend that it has something to do with the safety or effectiveness of a technology.

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      You missed my point completely. I said that Marks revelation that terminator crops are not an issue simply highlight HIS naivete. I know that terminator crops are not an issue and are only brought up as a point of reference, not as a real issue. He did not say it was irrelevant, I did. So dont try to twist an argument that you have lost before you even engaged.

    • Finally, the voice of reason! Thanks for a better balanced view of the issue.

    • Kaleberg says:

      Organic farming is only sustainable if we manage to get rid of a three to five billion people, otherwise, the numbers just don’t add up. If it weren’t for the war criminal Fritz Haber there wouldn’t be even five billion people alive today. We did the industrial farming buy in back in the 1920s. It’s too late now, unless someone has a “sustainable” way to kill billions.

  42. Roger Clague says:

    Good speech on GMOs Mark.

    Time for rethink on AGW now.

  43. Mikeb says:

    You attempt to sound as though you know what you’re talking about, but you’re confusing two definitions of the word “consensus.”

    Data doesn’t make decisions about data. Scientists do.

    “Scientific consensus does not equate to a vote of the majority. It more closely represents the majority of the current published research.”

    http://www.skepticblog.org/2013/01/03/what-is-a-consensus/

    • Chris Harper says:

      Mikeb,

      Arguing from consensus has no place in discussions of science. If a consensus does appear to exist it is incidental, not central. A consensus, if it exists, is, contrary to Mark’s assertion, of no importance or relevance when arguing a position in science. If you can’t convince by reference to the data then you have no argument to put.

      To argue that there is a consensus is to acknowledge defeat and/or ignorance of the matter and to fall back to arguing from authority.

      BTW: that article you pointed me to, it is extraordinarily weak. It won’t convince anyone bar those who are already convinced. Sorry.

    • Telanis says:

      Are you a scientist? Are you capable of reading and summarizing dozens or hundreds or thousands of studies accurately? If not then you’d best refer to the consensus and let others look at the referenced data from there. There is always conflicting data, so you can make any argument from data; but if one finding is consistently winning out in the majority of datasets (e.g., the consensus) and such datasets are thought to be reliable then that finding is likely to be correct.

  44. Buzz B says:

    Thanks Mark. I find myself at these fairs/festivals for nature or outdoor recreation, and there’s almost always an anti-GM booth. And while I admire the grass-rootedness of the folks manning them, I find they understand very little about the science of GM. They’re just peddling horror stories about tomato-fish and two-headed chickens.

    I’m by no means an expert on GM, but I am a big believer in the ability of scientific advancement to do good. And I do know quite a bit about climate change. And it seems to me that GM crops are almost a necessity if we’re going to deal with the realities of climate change. In fact, as Stuart Brand has written, environmentalists who take the threat of climate change real need to embrace a few things that are somewhat counterintuitive. More city living. Nuclear energy. And GMOs.

  45. Thomas says:

    You might be right on harmless GMO, although most of them are also tasteless :). However, you are fooling the audience, that GMO defeats overpopulation!
    Overpopulation is still the top threat for the mankind! If GMO can save billions from starvation, they will rather die of thirst or contagious diseases! Reproduction rate of 2.5 is catastrophic for a population already having consumed most of planetary resources (of all kinds).
    You feel happy to have discovered science? Then go a step ahead and learn about the Lotka-Volterra Competition Model, to realize what is the future of the humankind.
    One thing that mathematical model does not tell you is, that while descending on the sinusoidal curve, the whole population suffers. We can not cheat the principles of the generic nature, but if we are smart enough, we can try to reduce the reproduction rate dramatically. If we succeed, this would be less painful, than meeting high mortality rates, reflecting the exhausted environment.

  46. Geert De Jaeger says:

    wow, the least you can say is that Marc helps to make agriculture fascinating again… Use it as a trigger to inform yourself. The more you read about it, the more fascinating it gets, because it is so complicated and has impact on so many aspects of our daily lives.

    Great speech!

  47. Eoin says:

    You’d want to remove the inaccuracies here and there so that the whole can be taken more seriously.

    For example, the Green Party in Ireland did not take Teagasc to court. A group called No2GM did. In any case No2GM lost their case.

  48. Jon says:

    After listening to this entire speech, I wouldn’t take this guy’s word for anything. He doesn’t cite studies that actually show GMO foods yield less per acre, that rats fed GMO procure tumors and cancer, and that his one mention of a specific educational institute is that founded by John Rockefeller.

    I can’t believe those of you who support his flip-flop to becoming pro-GMO. I would say he either was paid to change his views, or perhaps his admittance of being a bio-terrorist by taking part in destroying crops caught up with him and he faced charges. Either, or neither, one man spewing his opinions can’t compare to all the research (Google it, it’s out there) showing GMOs developed to explode the stomachs of pests should convince you of the health factors of GMOs.

    Also, his analogies are terrible. I don’t know this guy from Adam, maybe he is a famous person in Europe, but until a friend pointed me to this speech, I had no idea who he is. And won’t care after leaving this site. He’s wrong.

  49. Jon says:

    If that was a great lecture, you need to get out to more lectures. He failed to mention that GMO-fed mice develop tumors and cancer. He failed to address why Monsanto and DuPont send droves of lawyers out to farmhouses and threaten farmers to pay because the GMOs have cross-pollenated the farmers natural crops. He failed to provide research that shows GMO crops actually have been shown to produce LESS quantity than natural yields, and his noting of the pro-GMO Rockefeller’s research showing promise was a slap in the face. Rockefeller is heavily invested in GMO seeds.

    Mark, go back to being anti-GMO. You’ll have more research supporting your stance, and you won’t look like a sell-out.

    • Dave says:

      A lot of work is done by publicly funded research institutions which will not be patented, I am glad you support this work.

    • OrchidGrowinMan says:

      Jon,

      I presume you are referring to the infamous Seralini paper? And to the mode of action of the Bt toxin (so beloved by Organic Gardeners)? I think you need to go back to your sources: the Seralini paper(s) is discredited, and unless you are an insect, specifically a lepidopteran or coleopteeran or dipteran (depending on the specific Bt), you are in no specific danger. Calm down and do some reading. May I suggest biofortified.org?

    • A Geneticist says:

      That GMO and Tumor study is massively flawed. The experiments were terribly designed and are a total nightmare from a statistical point of view. Moreover the line of mice they used develop tumors at that high a rate anyway. The media grabbed it and ran just like with autism vaccination bullshit, leaving a trail of babbling hysteria in their wake.

    • Jon says:

      http://thedeconstructionzone.blogspot.com/2011/10/monsanto-harasses-indiana-farmers.html

      http://www.i-sis.org.uk/MonsantovsFarmers.php

      Monsanto. Is. Bad. News. Get off their jocks.

      Explain the overwhelming increase in stomach problems across the US. Happens to coincide with the introduction of GMOs in the 1990s.

      I don’t have time to spend here addressing all your inquires, do your own research. And keep eating these frankenfoods, you’re supporting the death of our planet. GMOs also cause sterility in mice. Go figure. I suppose the Monsantos and DuPonts have pills to promote fertility. It is a vicious cycle and you narrow-minded folks are pushing their agenda along like sheep in the flock. Keep grazing on GMOs and we’ll see you unhealthy in the coming years, sadly.

    • Mikeb says:

      ISIS is on Quackwatch’s list of Questionable Organizations:

      http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/nonrecorg.html

      Surely you can do better than that. Or maybe not.

    • Rosemary White says:

      This reiterated claim about stomach problems and GM – I don’t get it. GM crops are released without the antibiotic selection marker, and these days, antibiotc resistance is not needed for selection, sequencing is now so quick and cheap you just need to sequence to select lines expressing your gene(s) of interest.

      And see http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2012/09/20/scientists-savage-study-purportedly-showing-health-dangers-of-monsantos-genetically-modified-corn/ for pointers to very many studies that fail to find harmful effects of GMs.

      If it’s the Bt you’re worried about, then why do some organic growers spray the Bt bacterium on their crops as a “natural” pesticide?

      And if it’s horizontal gene transfer you’re worried about, then you’re clean out of luck. Turns out this has been going on for about as long as life got itself organised into single cells. Just think of all the mothers in the world with their kids’ genes now in their cells. But transfer from digested food into an organism, where’s the evidence?

      And show us this evidence for stomach problems. Can’t see how this relates to GM.

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      Not true. The experiments were designed along precisely the same lines that were used to gain regulatory permission for these crops. The mice used were the identical line as those used by Monsanto in many of their own studies. Clearly you don’t know what you are talking about and instead have chosen to believe the memes thrown out by industry.

      The reality is that while these experiments do not necessarily show that GM crops and / or roundup cause cancer, they do show that that there is an increased risk of these crops.

      The point of scientific studies are to provide replicable experiments. Those concerned about GM crops have asked for years for long term, multi-generational studies on GM crops. They have still not been done. Seralini et al went some way to provide these studies yet have been shot down for raising some concerns.

      Science is not meant to be biased but it is clear that the way it is being used in this case is biased towards discrediting those raising concerns while giving a green light to those promoting GM crops. Hardly sound science in my book. Sorry.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Damn, Glenn – you’re on a roll!

      (And don’t forget that Monsanto’s studies only last for 90 FREAKIN’ DAYS! Whereas, Seralini’s study was 2 years long)

    • Mikeb says:

      “The experiments were designed along precisely the same lines that were used to gain regulatory permission for these crops. The mice used were the identical line as those used by Monsanto in many of their own studies.”

      And…

      “And don’t forget that Monsanto’s studies only last for 90 FREAKIN’ DAYS! Whereas, Seralini’s study was 2 years long.”

      Which is the whole point of calling out the flawed design! These rats are not intended for studies that last 2 years. Seralini knew this, of course, which is why I’m pretty sure he’s a fraud.

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      Quite correct – and the response of Mike b further illustrates how effectively industry spin has undermined the open and transparent publication of the Seralini study, while the Monsanto and other industry studies remain far less accessible or open to critique.
      The fact is that Seralini did not embark in his study to find out what he did. That his work revealed some deeply troubling results was something that he had to publish – he did and true to form industry dumped all over him for doing the work they should have done years and years ago.

      I have debated industry ad nauseam and asked for extended, multi-generational testing. The response? Zilch, zip, nada, nothing, niks. Not only that but all indications are that the industry feeding studies were seriously flawed due to random exclusion of dead or diseased rats which would have shown significant concern.

      Point is that Seralini and many others have raised questions which remain unanswered. That is not good science. QED.

    • OrchidGrowinMan says:

      Also, you and several others keep bringing-up “droves of lawyers” and the like hired by Monsanto to harass farmers. I would like to hear more about that: I am aware of the Schmeiser case, and it sure doesn’t sound like the guy was just the innocent victim of a Big Company, but a deliberate cheater, a bad role-model. Are there more credible “David unjustifiably squashed by Goliath” stories?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto_Canada_Inc._v._Schmeiser

  50. Alexb says:

    Amen!

    You mention that ideology is what drives most of the organic and anti-GM movement, which makes sense. However, it is likely that there are groups with more of a vested financial interest in promoting organic food. Are these traditional farmers in Europe and the US who feel threatened by innovative ways of farming? If so, is there any reason to believe that they would be worse off financially due to the use of GM crops and non-organic farming methods in general?

  51. Eliza says:

    The real question is whether humankind is capable of using powerful and potentially harmful technologies like GM and pesticides without causing huge damage. I’m skeptical on this.

    The author glosses over legitimate concerns, for example the efficacy of golden rice and rise of Bt tolerant insects, brought up by commenters. He presents the contaminated bean sprout incident as an example of the dangers of organic practices, but all foods are subject to this kind of contamination, not just organic. And to say that the risks from pesticides and fertilizers are “trivial”? Am not convinced.

  52. Sardaukar says:

    As a guy with a bachelor degree in Biotechnology, i’d like to hug you.

  53. Art As Social Inquiry says:

    Why does Monsanto fight labeling? With all this wonderful love-fest commenting about GMOs, what is the big deal?

    1. Harmless or not, we still want a choice and Monsanto doesn’t want to give us the choice. Another case of corporate bullying. We want the info on the nutrition label.

    2. Farmers who have not purchased GMO seed but find that their seed has cross-pollinated can and are prosecuted because of the GMO patent. Corporate bullying at its worst. If patented GMO seed strays, neighboring farmers become criminals. It’s not the adjacent farmers’ fault. Let the onus be on the corporation to plant buffer crops and protect their patent. And if their patented seed strays, too bad. Sue mother nature.

    These two reason are enough for me to boycott GMOs.

    • Dave says:

      It’s great then that you support publicly funded patent free research then. There are horrible people destroying that too.

    • OrchidGrowinMan says:

      Brian,

      The problems with labeling have to do with

      1) the cost, the cost of segregating and duplicating the entire distribution system, adding substantial financial cost to EVERYBODY, not just those who want the labels, The Halal, Kosher and Organic labeling systems should be a model, so that those who WANT the labeling are the ones who pay for it, not everybody!

      2) the IMPLICATION of health concerns. Mandatory labels are currently based on rational health concerns, not esthetic preferences.

    • Jon says:

      I love all these supportive arguments for GMO foods. You folks are nuts. GMO nuts. Keep on feeding off this stuff, you’ll wonder why you develop stomach problems later in life.

      Labeling costs extra money. THAT is one of the biggest farces yet I have read for not wanting to label GMO foods. They paid roughly $40 MILLION to defeat the California initiative to label GMOs. THAT is a cost incurred and to be passed on to consumers, right?

      I can’t follow this thread anymore, you’d think some of you were drinking fluoridated water or something ;-)

    • A Geneticist says:

      Well it’s obvious that it wouldn’t be financially desirable to label a food GMO when so much unfounded anti-GMO sentiment exists. It would hurt sales. Why is that so shocking? Why does that raise your hackles so much. We live in a material world.
      I’m by no means advocating Monsanto or other large MNCs legal and marketing procedures; I hate them. The problem is people can’t conceptually separate GMO and Corporation. There’s a feedback loop that will prevent us from bringing anything but mediocre GMO products via the big players.
      Monsanto have almost ruined GM potential for real good, but that can be overcome.

    • Jon says:

      Everything needs a label. It is illegal to not have a label on a friggin’ mattress for goodness sake. Changing the labels is not that big of a burden, because obviously when something is added or removed from a product, the label must be changed. Such a silly argument, the rise in cost to produce labels. I am surprised some of you who appear to be educated are so meager in intellect.

      A three letter anagram GMO is not going to break the bank. As these corporate food whores are making billions and billions, I think they should pony up the added costs for labeling, which isn’t that much. They spent millions to prevent it from happening in California.

      This guy giving the speech, don’t know him, just watched the video and he’s not a very convincing speaker. That’s all, I’m done :-)

    • Leo says:

      WE have the RIGHT to CHOOSE what we eat, don’t we.

    • Pekka Taipale says:

      Leo:”WE have the RIGHT to CHOOSE what we eat, don’t we.”

      Of course. So you can choose to buy food that is labeled to be certified non-GMO. Organic. Whatever. If that is what you want. Set up a duplicated chain of distribution for yourself, if you so desire.

    • Mikeb says:

      It’s possible to be pro-GMO and pro-labeling–if it’s done honestly.

      I believe labeling foods that are genetically modified would promote them in the public consciousness.

      The current crop of labeling activists want labels to function as warning labels, which is unsupported.

      Honest labeling would simply show people that the foods they have been consuming all these years are the results of good technology.

    • Jon says:

      And the rise in stomach problems and new disorders coincides with these wonderful developments. Sounds like a great thing these GMOs. Keep buying into the bullschitt, which is a far better fertilizer than petro-chemicals by the way.

    • Mikeb says:

      “And the rise in stomach problems and new disorders coincides with these wonderful developments.”

      But of course, Jon, there is no such thing.

      Your correlations are just so much Mother Theresa on a bun.

    • Jon says:

      I’ve never seen Mother Theresa on a bun, but I did see Jesus on cheese sandwich once.

      There most certainly has been a rise in stomach conditions since the early 1990s, the same time GMOs first hit the scene. Both have continued to increase, and if you think a Monsanto food made to explode the stomachs of insects can’t do the same damage to a human digestive tract, you’re not using a very broad base of your brain. In fact, you aren’t using your brain at all if you can completely ignore the fact. Exploding pest’s stomachs is what the Monsanto foods do, perhaps not all of the GMOs, but I am talking about the ones which took pesticides and developed them INSIDE the food. Are you that ignorant??? Apparently, a few or more of you are. Good day.

    • Kevin Folta says:

      Amazingly well said. Get ready for all of the antis to start lobbing accusations that you are simply a shill for a company they hate. You’ll get some death threats and mean emails too. That’s the penalty for speaking facts in the Church of Organic and Non-GMO.

    • Kevin Folta says:

      Jon,

      Your grasp of how Bt protein works needs work. It does not “explode the stomach” of anything. The peptide is processed in the gut and binds a receptor specific to certain insects. Receptors complex with proteins that cause the gut to become porous, leading to the death of the insect. Other animals completely lack this mechanism. It cannot harm humans. Bt has been used on organic crops for decades. The more you learn about how this stuff works the less you’ll fear it, and I’m always glad to answer your questions.

    • Charla says:

      @ Kevin Leaky gut syndrome / Crohn’s Disease in humans sounds a lot like what you are describing with the mechanism of bt on certain insects. The process of spraying bt ON a plant where it degrades within a few weeks due to solar exposure may, however, be totally different from engineering the bt INTO the genetic structure of the plants.

    • kevin folta says:

      Charla, it might sound the same to you, however, there is absolutely no parallel. None. The mechanism is so incredibly specific that a Bt protein affecting one species does not even affect other insects. There is no way that this can affect animals using the same mechanism, because the mechanism does not exist.

      If you’d like to know more about it I’d be glad to elaborate or direct you to additional resources. My gut feeling is that you’ve made up your mind and don’t care to talk science here. That’s the hallmark of the anti-GMO mind, and certainly what Lynas addresses here.

    • Charla says:

      Send the links. I spend a lot of time on the computer while recovering from a genetic illness. Would love to look at the research. I am not nearly as close-minded as you suggest I might be.

    • A Geneticist says:

      Nice of you to throw in those comments about our “meagre intellects”; really demonstrates your prowess.
      Whether you like it or not, if they did spend that money on fighting the labelling they obviously thought it would save them more in the long run if they won. That’s all I was saying; I didn’t make any value judgement on it.
      It only really tells you about that lobby’s financial interests and what they think the impact of labelling would be in light of public opinion.
      Also pro-GM doesn’t mean pro-corporation. Pro-GM doesn’t mean anti organic either. TBH I’d be curious about the GM content of anything I’d buy. So I’d be fine with labels. As for stomach problems, that’s down to terrible changes in eating habits/diets and processed food additives more than anything else.

    • Jon says:

      You can attribute the increase in stomach problems with poor eating habits but not an iota of concern with GMOs. You wonder why I used the term “meager”. Yes, spelled the way we do over here in America. I hope Europe doesn’t drop its ban on GMOs, and doesn’t begin to use fluoride either. Or is fluoridation also no longer a concern in Europe? Just curious. I stumbled onto this video by accident, and I wish I hadn’t. It was a waste of a half hour.

    • A Geneticist says:

      Also Bt toxin is only harmful to certain organisms with an alkali digestive tract and alkali proteases of insect gut. Ours is, as you know, highly acidic, so the protein is denatured. Read up on pH and protein structure.

    • A Geneticist says:

      meagre/meager I don’t care about your spelling, man. I thought it was an unnecessary and – ironically – non-intellectual jab, that’s all.
      Of course I am concerned about the safety of GMOs, they should be subjected, like everything else, to testing and approval / disapproval. But the hyperbolic application of moratoria and generalist attack of everything GMO is completely unneccesary. In the right hands with the right minds at work, GMOs can be good for planet and people, but it takes time, money and public interest to get that to work. They are one of many technologies and practices that could do a lot to help and potentially relieve a lot of environmental pressure, but people are shooting it down too ardently.
      Inevitably there will be GMOs which are mediocre and over-marketed and there will be industry pressure to push things through FDA process from large interest groups. The GMO market needs to open to competition, that will root out all the rot and allow us to evaluate their worth in a real way.

    • Jon says:

      Take the petro-chemical giants out of the equation and you could definitely increase support for GM foods. But since they happen to have already patented much of the seed stock used across the globe, that may be a tough one. And as corrupt as these two companies are (I am not a member of Greenpeace or PETA or any of that) I wouldn’t support one iota of anything they touch. They are not too big to fail, and they are not too big to take down to the foundation and get rid of. I hope some of the speaker’s former colleagues succeed in destroying not only the GMO crops in question, but the companies that produce them as well. Good day to you all.

    • A Geneticist says:

      I’m not arguing about Monsanto, I’d like to see them blown out of the water. They embody most of what’s wrong with the corporate world.
      You can’t tar all GMOs with the same “evil” brush just because this company happens to be a market leader / has a monopoly and some awful business practices. The article dealt with this. These ultra-powers are the only ones that can push products through the legislative pipelines such as they exist. That leads to monopoly, mediocre products and crop homogeneity. These ARE bad things, but they have everything to do with the business model and very little to do with GMO as a technology.
      As for using Bt, the only risk to humans is the possibility of allergy, which could occur for just about anything you eat anyway.

    • Jon says:

      Oh yeah, I forgot. What about the bee populations dying off by the droves??? You don’t think GMO pollen is fucking with their stomachs or causing them to die??? Again, why fuck with nature when we are nature?

  54. Brian Tuor says:

    “If” all this was true, then why wont they label products that have this ‘s…tuff” in them. Why are they ashamed of or hiding their product from the people. If it is so good then they should advertise it and make people aware of its presence. Instead they spend 10′s of millions trying to hide it . Doesn’t wash. Just because it isn’t killing us quickly, doesn’t mean it isn’t killing us.

  55. Leo says:

    STUPID ARTICLE!!! I refuse to eat GM and checimals and other shit so that billions of people in India and Africa and Asia have the ability to produce even more useless people. My people have worked hard for generations to achieve the present level of development, and I don’t want everything to go to waste because some idiots have sympathy for the starving. IF YOU CAN’T FEED YOUR CHILDREN, JUST DON’T HAVE CHILDREN!!! I hope when they destroy the world with that GM, the zombies will have a lot of fun eating this author, at least then he would have fed somebody :D .

    • vakibs says:

      Wow, mind-boggling empathy there with everything in the universe. Is that really your Kumbaya moment ?

      Do we really need any more zombies when we have the likes of you.

  56. James says:

    “Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.”

    What: you based a whole belief system and all the associated devil may care problems that could go with a virulently radical activist campaign on nothing more than the “seeming”? I’m sorry, but this is why environmentalists are seen as nothing more than very dangerous fascists!

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  57. Bob Loblaw says:

    Wow, the ignore-ance of conflicting studies, and the larger issue of not only some idealized/infallible science, but the fact that this science you now agree with being the only high-holy science (as intimated in “I discovered science.”), are something to behold (farmer Joel Salatin has addressed this issue quite nicely). Apparently, no science of the compost pile, the earthworm. Of high-yield, non-chemical approaches like permaculture concepts, like forest farming, stacking, symbiosis, synergism, multi-species symbiosis, and all of these kinds of principles which integrate animals, plants, and the complex, diverse, natural characteristics of the type of thing. Or, of Paul Stamets novel approach to controlling pests through the non-direct use of cultivated mycelium in non-spore form. Or, of the amazing rate of soil erosion/organic matter loss with GMO crops and concomitant farming practices.

    You mentioned the miraculous wonders of golden rice, but neglected to mention the fact that a child would need to consume 12 POUNDS of it per day to meet the sufficient nutritional requirements – not to mention stuff like fats that are needed to absorb it, which the rice severely lacks:

    “Even if golden rice is successfully introduced, it will likely do little to ameliorate VAD because it produces so little beta-carotene – just 1.6 micrograms per gram rice (µg/g) at present, with a goal of 2.0 µg/g. Even if scientists reach this goal, a woman would need to eat 16 lbs. of cooked rice every day in order to get sufficient Vitamin A, if golden rice were her only source of the nutrient. A child would need 12 lbs. More realistically, three servings of ½ lb. cooked golden rice per day would provide only 10% of her daily Vitamin A requirement, and less than 6% if she were breast-feeding. Yet even these modest contributions are uncertain. In order to absorb beta-carotene, the human body requires adequate amounts of zinc, protein and fats, elements often lacking in the diets of poor people. Those with diarrhea – common in developing countries – are also unable to obtain vitamin A from golden rice.”
    http://www.public.iastate.edu/~ethics/GoldenRiceCaseStudy.pdf

    And the fact that Vitamin A deficiency is also caused by a less diverse diet. Terrace farming used to involve complimenting rice paddies with fish like tilapia, ducks, and duck eggs – all of which adding to a much more balanced and varied diet. Not so with GMO rice and growing practices. The fish can’t survive the fertilizers/pesticides, and ducks can’t wade through dense paddies. There may not have been as much rice per acre grown, but total output (fish, rice, ducks, duck eggs, etc…) was quite substantial.

    Oh, and your declaration about pesticide-use leaves something to be desired:

    “‘There is mounting evidence raising concerns that insect resistance is developing in parts of the corn belt,’ the EPA said Aug. 31 in an e-mail.”

    ‘Mounting Evidence’ of Bug-Resistant Corn Seen by EPA
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-04/-mounting-evidence-of-bug-resistant-corn-seen-by-epa.html

    “Herbicide-resistant crop technology has led to a 239 million kilogram (527 million pound) increase in herbicide use in the United States between 1996 and 2011, while Bt crops have reduced insecticide applications by 56 million kilograms (123 million pounds). Overall, pesticide use increased by an estimated 183 million kgs (404 million pounds), or about 7%.”

    Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first sixteen years (peer-reviewed Environmental Sciences Europe)
    http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24/abstract

    “Benbrook told me that in areas of the Midwest where farmers have been planting Bt corn year after year—an increasingly popular practice, since the explosion in ethanol production that started in 2006—ag university extension experts are suggesting that farmers spray other insecticides to supplement the failing Bt trait in their corn. ‘The goal of this technology was to make it possible not have to spray these corn insecticides, and now we have to spray them again to bail out this technology,’ Benbrook told me.”

    How GMOs Unleashed a Pesticide Gusher
    http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/how-gmos-ramped-us-pesticide-use

    Monsanto (Still) Denies Superinsect Problem, Despite Evidence
    http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/12/superinsects-monsanto-corn-epa

    And just look at that thriving ecology:

    Cornstalks Everywhere But Nothing Else, Not Even A Bee
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/11/29/166156242/cornstalks-everywhere-but-nothing-else-not-even-a-bee

    Whatever, it’s pointless getting bogged down in your shotgun blast of claims (could mention how distribution and efficiency is more of an issue since 40% of food in most industrialized countries go to waste, or how over 43 million acres in the U.S. alone are being occupied with useless turf-grass rather than edible gardening, etc…). I guess your soapbox polemic is enough to reinforce the “science vs. Luddite” narrative and, moreover, settle it once and for all (“the debate is over, it’s finished.”) – since you were apparently the linchpin to the whole thing.

    Still, would love to see you in a debate with someone like Joel Salatin and/or Tom Philpott. Seriously, insist that they debate you. Joel Salatin had a pretty lively one with Dennis Avery that’s still posted online and worth checking out.

  58. Brad M. says:

    I am but a simple horticulturalist – no fancy degree in Plant Genetics and Biotechnology – still, I have a decent understanding of the subject matter, untainted by ideology.
    That being said, two of my good friends definitely have the authority to address this matter. One is a contemporary/protégé of Dr. Borlaug who worked with him extensively. The other has a PhD in biochemistry and worked for Monsanto for several years.
    The work Dr. Borlaug did with crops in the 50′s and 60′s does not even begin to compare with what’s being done today… Plus, the strains of wheat he developed that saved countless lives in Third World countries, is now being decimated by Rust.
    And I have some knowledge of Monsanto’s philosophy regarding anything, and anyone, that could threaten their grip on the industry.
    Mr. Lynas is either ignorant of certain facts, or he is deliberately ignoring them.

    • Mikeb says:

      So is it intransigence that continually makes you confuse “Monsanto” with “genetic engineering”?

  59. Mikeb says:

    Thanks for citing Salatin at the outset of your screed, for it allowed me to skip the rest of it.

    Salatin is a creationist.

  60. How much did they give you to sell out?

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Sigh. Nothing. Now f*** off and come back when you have a real argument.

    • Mikeb says:

      LOL! Kevin Folta has commented extensively on this phenomenon:

      http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2012/12/six-degrees-of-monsanto.html

    • Kevin Folta says:

      WOW!! Thanks for the plug. I can’t talk for more than 5 minutes to the Church of Anti-GMO before I’m accused of “sell out”.

      I like it because it shows that THEY are the ones making up conclusions with no evidence. It is a clear beacon that they work from ideology and not facts.

    • Mikeb says:

      well, you deserve the plug. You’re one of my “educators.”

      I have a niece that lives in Gainesville. If I ever visit her, I definitely want to have a beer with you!

    • Matt says:

      Oh, wow, I live in Gainesville and have 2 degrees from UF (electrical engineering). Good to see UF well-represented. Keep up the good work!

      By the way, I’m familiar with the FUD about GM plants, and understand organic farming to be of dubious benefit, but what about livestock? What’s the scientific view on organic meats at the grocery store? Is there a good reference website I can read through, for animals like biofortified.org is for plants? Thanks!

    • kevin folta says:

      Mike B! Absolutely. Next time you’re down here we’ll do that. Many good places. If you niece is at UF get her to switch her major to Horticultural Sciences. Big need for educated plant people!

  61. Arthur says:

    Wow! Thank you for that. You are a very brave person for having said that out loud. This has been my sentiment ever since I realized the importance of scientific progress, and the looming population. But it seems that every time the subject comes up, I loose friends or at least gain more distant ones. The world needs to hear this.

  62. jbutzi says:

    I agree with your newly formed opinion on GM crops and find it ironic that you mention your experience with climate change that convinced you to apply scientific thinking in that area. I say that because I find that catastrophic climate change ‘alarmism’ itself is not founded in science. (note: I am not saying that the climate cannot change. It will always change.) I think you are due for another scientific awakening in that area as you discover how much of the thinking and recommendations from that camp are not science based at all. Perhaps and hopefully I am misreading your position in that area, but now more than ever it is apparent that sound science, economics and engineering are not being used by those supporting alarmist positions.

  63. Mikeb says:

    “Ice cap? What ice cap?”

  64. Old Codger says:

    I look forward to a similar work accepting that the authors beliefs about the insanity of “global warming” are equally fallacious.

  65. AnonTK says:

    I’m from Argentina and it looks like our Justice system doesn’t agree with glyphosate being benign:
    http://www.gmwatch.org/component/content/article/14148
    Of course, you won’t be reading this in your mainstream English-speaking media.

    Exposure to this substance has been proven to change the development of animal embryos.
    Yet you call it it benign. This is weird.

    • Kevin Folta says:

      The problem comes from the fact that glyphosate is used all over the world– without effects. if these people are all having problems in one location, the effects observed are more likely due to the land (some other pollutant, etc), water or local problem. Glyphosate has a remarkably low toxicity compared to other ag chemicals– it even has limited effects on plants that are doused in it. Aside for the protein it targets, there are limited (almost no) effects on gene expression and metabolic processes. Some of the amphibian development work is compelling, but the effects are again extremely minor at physiological levels (Rejas,etc). Don’t blame the media for not following this story– blame GMO Watch and other non-scientific sources for making a story when there likely is not one.

  66. Tony McNeil says:

    Mark, I’d highly reccomend doing a TED Talk (http://www.ted.com/pages/about) regarding your experiences with GM and Anti-GM practices. It’s a good way to continue to get your message out there to a wider audience.

  67. Larry Logan says:

    Mark, thank you for allowing science to inform your belief systems.

    Now if we could only see similar in the climate change debate, where the observed data and historical records demonstrate no alarm needed — versus the religion around anthropogenic catastrophic global warming.

  68. Mikeb says:

    Everywhere one goes, anti-AGW quacks abound to hijack threads.

  69. Joe Cox says:

    Mark,

    Thanks for this thought provoking lecture. I have had no firm position on GMOs prior to this but now have much to think about. With regard to increasing overall food availability, I do take issue with your dissmissal of reduced meat consumption as “simplistic nonsense”. As I see it meat production, specifically cattle production, is a much larger part of the problem. In terms of edible weight, a 5% conversion efficiency from plant food to beef should be pretty hard to ignore given the the global trend in meat consumption. Even a 20% reduction in meat production should result in a significant increase in available grain for human consumtion, even without increasing crop yield through the use of GMOs. Not to mention the associated reductions in fresh water use, greenhouse gasses, and health issues associated with over-consumtion of meat.

    I’m not saying to ban meat, but significantly reducing reliance on it as a staple of the human diet has a much larger potential impact on global hunger than increased production of GMOs. We have made it into a desireable “status” food despite the science that indicates how damaging it is to the earth and to our bodies. People don’t need to eat meat, certainly not nearly as much as we do now. Yet we in the West cling to the notion that meat is an essential part of the human diet and “Because we have enough to eat, we can afford to indulge our aesthetic illusions”. I might argue that by increasing crop yields with GMOs we may actually make it easier to prolong the environmentally unsustainable practice of meat over-production.
    Perhaps a combined strategy of allowing meat prices to reflect the actual costs of production (including mitigating the environmental damage) along with increased support for the production of safe GMOs is in order. GMOs alone, without addressing the unsustainable drain on the planet’s resources caused by meat production, will not be enough.
    I am not a scientist, just someone listens to a lot of different perspectives. Feel free to let me know of any contradictory findings that that might enlighten us further.

    • vakibs says:

      Joe,

      As a vegetarian, I think the best way to reduce the amount of meat consumption in this world is to make the hidden costs of meat production directly visible in the actual prices on the market shelves.

      There are massive hidden subsidies given by the government to sustain these dreadful factory-farming techniques for meat production.If these subsidies are taken away and the factory-farms are forced to pay the real costs of environmental pollution and consumption of resources such as fresh water and arable land, the cost of meat will rise immensely.

      Faulting GM or any other agricultural technology for, what is essentially a problem of bad accounting, is wrong. I think Mark actually made one of the best cases for bringing environmental costs into the real prices of products on the market, through his book on planetary boundaries “The God Species”. I hope these efforts ultimately get enough political traction.

      Polluting the environment, over-consuming the dwindling planetary resources, disrupting sensitive biological cycles in nature : all of these will become ethically indefensible in the future. The only question is how long do we have to wait for the tide to turn.

  70. Jim Checkel says:

    Mark,
    Thank you for this review. I farm and also work in a major research center. It is amazing to me that there is still so many, even here at work, who fear GMO.
    One thing that I see very little published on is that about 30% of all processed foods in the US end up in the garbage. I have read numerous articles on the losses in the Us as well as other countires as that result from insects, poor harvesting techniques, improper storage, etc. I feel that a major focus should be correcting these problems that result in losing the crop we already produce.
    Thanks

    • dave timbs says:

      exactly, he virtually debunks the entire need for GM when he states (somewhat misleadingly) that globally we increased yields by 300% since the 60′s by simply improving traditional farming methods. While failing to mention that GM corn is to date the only GM crop to substantiate claims of increased yield. And the increase is minimal.

  71. Dennis says:

    Is there anyway you could update this post with references to the claims you make? It would be nice to read the primary sources and would go a decent ways toward convincing the skeptics of the legitimacy of your claims.

  72. Bill Young says:

    I was lucky enough to hear Mark yesterday. It was the best, GM /organic paper I have ever listened to from what I regard as a totally independent source. Congratulations Mark you will open many peoples eyes and it will help overcome some of the many misconceived perceptions. Well done and thank you – I am now convinced by the force of your argument.

  73. Todd says:

    Nice article… I’d like to see his scientific sources! Anybody have them?

    I’d hate to be tricked into thinking this is scientific just because he says it is…

  74. Spencer Reesman says:

    “anti-science environmentalism”

    Being anti-GMO might deserve this criticism if there was any science supporting the environmental benefits of GMO crops, but there isn’t. We’ve been waiting for years to see studies proving these ‘suggested’ and ‘hinted at’ environmental benefits that GMO proponents continue to tout, but sadly they still don’t exist.

    GMO crops contaminate organic and conventional non-GMO varieties, there is no scientific argument over that fact. That alone is enough environmental harm to justify banning their use.

  75. John Fryer says:

    Not heard of you before (ML) or your views for 15 years that GMO foods are bad for us.

    Horrified that you admit this view was based on total ignorance!

    Your change to accepting GMO as universally good for us in 2013 must be based on slightly less ignorance than before?

    Prof Seralini and his team actually showed harm from at least one GMO product.

    Your dig on organic farming 19 mins in, is one example of ignorance.

    E coli was used in 1971 to start the GMO revolution and at this time was totally or almost harmless.

    Today and directly from all the E coli GMO experiments there are something like 200 deadly forms of E Coli which would not be here today without all the GMO experimenting.

  76. John Fryer says:

    You complain GMO golden rice is not here because of Greenpeace!

    So how come nealry every living food both animal and plants have been altered or fed GMO products?

    How can Greenpeace fail to have stopped an across the board development of GMO according to this logic about golden rice?

    Rumours of harm to Chinese children need clarifying.

  77. Kip Hansen says:

    Lynas — Congrats on your intellectual honesty and integrity on the GM issue.

    I hope I will one day see a similar confession and apology on your position on the Climate issue.

  78. Miles D says:

    So why is Monsanto et al spending millions of dollars to make sure the GM food is not labeled so consumers can make an informed choice? Also GM crops can be patented, making lots of money for Monsanto, and the “herbicides” required to make the GM crops sustainable. This is not about science, but about corporate control of the food supply. Mark is just another sell-out to multi-national corporations. This is marketing and control, not “science”.

    • Pekka Taipale says:

      The choice wouldn’t be very “informed”. But you already have that option: just buy “organic”. But don’t require others to create duplicated distribution channels for something that doesn’t need it.

      The intention of labeling GMO food is to somehow show that it is bad. However, a much more appropriate thing would be labeling of food items that contain ingredients created with induced mutagenesis (i.e. like GMO, except blind and random). But you don’t hear anyone requiring that.

  79. Esther says:

    Mark thank you for taking the time to read and respond to the following comment:

    Re: “my conclusion here today is very clear: the GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm….”

    Mark, I am interested in your opinion concerning the French study recently conducted on rats

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/19/gmcrops-safety-idUSL5E8KJAGN20120919

    in which the conclusion was “The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumours, as well as severe liver and kidney damage.” Does this not suggest that GM products can also be harmful to humans? What is your thought?

    • Another Reuters piece indicates some of the issues with this French study:
      http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/19/us-gmcrops-safety-idUSBRE88I0L020120919

      Basically there are a number of flaws with the design of the experiment, perhaps the most glaring being that the rats used are bred to have an extremely high probability of developing tumours spontaneously, such that one would expect over 70% to do so anyway in these experimental conditions. However becuase the experiment used extremely small numbers of animals (only 10 male and 10 females in each group) the natural variation in numbers developing tumours would swamp any effect of what they were being fed or exposed to, so the results would be more due to chance than anything really going on.

      There’s a better explanation by Steve Novella at http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-gm-corn-rat-study/ and a much more detailed (and more trenchantly polemical) one by cancer researcher “Orac” at:
      http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/09/24/bad-science-on-gmos-it-reminds-me-of-the-antivaccine-movement/

    • Chemicalscum says:

      You can get the original paper here:

      http://research.sustainablefoodtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Final-Paper.pdf

      Read it for yourself. It makes me dubious about eating the amount of corn tortillas I do (living in North America with all that Roundup Ready corn). I used to be cautiously pro GM until the Arpad Pusztai incident in the UK. It demonstrated paranoid hysteria by the GM companies and their allies in the UK government backed up by scientists who should know better in the Royal Society.

      I work in the pharmaceutical industry. The acceptance of a New Drug Substance requires a comprehensive set of regulatory testing to ensure the drug’s safety. There is no equivalent for GMO’s. The concept of “substantive equivalence is fundamentally flawed. It provides a get out for the GM companies to avoid doing any serious long term animal testing. This is what Séralini et al the authors of:

      Séralini, G.-E., et al. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food
      Chem. Toxicol. (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2012.08.005

      were trying to repair by doing some of the science that had been omitted.

  80. The biggest flaw here is the idea that: “yields per hectare are the most important environmental metric.”

    That is simply nonsense. If that was true, then we should all go for super-controlled green house production. Dutch green house growers get 60 kg cucumbers per square meters, while no one growing in the open gets more than 10 kg. But that production is not at all energy efficient.

    A slash and burn farmer mostly get very decent yield per hectares, compared to similar farms not doing slash and burn – but the environmental costs are huge.

    The Zambian average maize yield is 2 tons per hectare, while the wheat yield is 7 tons per hectare. In the US, it is the other way around.

    Yields per hectare is simply not guiding farmers management choices….

    Read more on:
    http://gardenearth.blogspot.se/2013/01/who-says-gaps-are-closing.html

  81. Karen Briggs says:

    I’m a science journalist, and I’ve been making many of the same points in articles for years. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s kneejerk reactions with no attempt to understand the underlying science — and that’s exactly what the anti-GMO camp, like the anti-vaccine lobby, has done.

    As others have remarked, your position is made all the stronger for your confessing that it contradicts your previous stand. Kudos for your honesty, your research, and the clarity with which you’ve presented your current argument here. I will be sharing prolifically.

    • Orrin_ says:

      Karen, You are a science journalist and no doubt well-intended. Do you stop to question the objectivity of today’s university-based “science”, of that which is coming out of labs and being dropped into journals? Do you ever report on what is being studied, and why, and for what purpose? Millions were poured into studying aspartame and books were written on it. Does that prove it safe? Do you consider such ideas even (of why a thing is studied and of what purpose your reporting plays) especially when lab results are so easily drawn to support almost any kind of hypothesis, framed by any and almost all forms of so-called logic (even if such logic is a violation to any measure of sane reasoning)?

      Consider that today’s lab findings are blind man attempts at describing elephants leading to the abuse of true knowledge. As such, journalists become no more than “blind men”, each describing “an elephant” by that part which they were allowed to touch. The tail? “the elephant is lean and strong, like a whip!”. The leg? “the elephant is rough and sturdy, like a tree trunk!”. The ear? “The elephant is flat and bendable, like a tarp!” All of these reports logical, but none of them true. Even if on some level Lynas’ statements are logical, they are far from the truth. That you promote yourself a “journalist of science” does not underscore your credibility as a reporter of what’s true or of what’s good.

      That said, we are not fighting different battles. I tuned into this speech really wanting to believe Lynas. I’m a first year biology student and I want desperately for my developing anti-GMO sensibilities to be proven badly misplaced. I want GMO’s to be shown as a harmless boon for mankind. Unfortunately GMO’s are a total scourge on humanity, and in all directions. Nothing (yes, nothing) I have seen proves otherwise. Yet (Karen please prove me wrong). “Science” seems only to sugar-coat and science (fiction) writers appear as delayers and deflectors of real news of the real and genuine dangers and imminent problems connected to recombinant DNA technology. Such is the stuff relegated to the fringe pages of web obscurity. Not because it isn’t true but because it is anti-establishment. I was laughed at by a UC Davis PhD in genetics bigwig when I stooped to email her on questions pertaining to Seralini etc. Gold is not afraid of fire and heat, apparently her knowledge was not based in something strong enough even to stand the heat of a meddling first year student.

      Calling GMO’s “a total scourge” probably qualifies me as a baby-hater now too. I hear GMO’s are the answer to saving the billions as yet to be born. OK Mr. Mo’santo PR man, you win. I must really hate babies.

      Obscurity here I come.

  82. Kenny D'haeseleer says:

    ‘over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm’
    I’ve smoked for twenty years. I did not die or get cancer. Therfore smoking is harmless.
    Noone eating GMO has ever gotten cancer? Yeah right. Do you want me to believe in Santa Klaus as well?

  83. One point that could have been mentioned regarding the question posed by the BBC reporter on Science vs. ‘Natural’ public perception: It is interesting to note that in the realm of cosmetics, scientific-sounding products, even though they are completely non-sense, are the marketing strategy of choice. So that shows that it is possible to make science sexy and acceptable to the general public.

  84. John Fryer says:

    Mark, you say:

    I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s,

    Where is the evidence for your anti GMO stand in the past?

    I have looked but not found.

    As I was in the anti GMO movement in 1971, I fail to see any sense in your:

    I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s,

    Ever heard of Robert Pollack and his knowledge of SV40 and the worlds most dangerous experiment?

    There is virtual certainty for example that AIDS or SIDA came out of early experiments with GMO.

    Of course today NO ONE wants to find the ORIGIN of AIDS and for some it has proved a LETHAL occupation (various porfessors from OXBRIDGE who died of mysterious illnesses!)

    Your background is politics where the opposite is usually uncomfortably close to the truth.

    No evidence of harm to anyone after eating trillions of GMO things must come as the number two political statement in history after: WORK makes FREE and the end results are the same.

  85. John Fryer says:

    When the two SMITHS who oppose GMO tell us all is well; I will be listening:

    VERY VERY VERY CAREFULLY.

    Until then, Professor Seralini is the number one thousand and how many that have been put down as idiots when they are in fact world class in both knowledge and ACCURACY and insight into harm from late 20th century and early 21st century politicians who support GMO against all the EVIDENCE of HARM. (eg the USA govt for example who have all but bankrupted the country to support GMO)

  86. Cyan says:

    “France, remember, long refused to accept the potato because it was an American import.” Where, on Earth, was this fact taken ?

    Quite the contrary, France made a lot to put potatoes into the kitchens, a major effort done by Parmentier under the order of King Louis XIV. That’s the 17th century ! This effort led to widespread adoption of potatoes in Europe.
    Before that, potatoes were already in use (yes, they were in use, not “refused”), but mostly reserved for cattle food.

    Such a pityful argument is merely a completely unverified fable, which was so easy to check. I’m sorry but resorting to such low-level and untruth argument put a serious shade on the pretentful “scientific” background of the lecturer.

  87. Donald E. Lewis says:

    Mark: Have ou ever been a Farmer or worked with the soil. I had a Dairy Farm in Vermont in the 1950′s. After three years of both Conventional Farming and Organic Farming I changed completely to Organic.I have a book — Learned by the Fencepost — Lessons in Organic farming & Gardening. — Published in March 2011. I have a problem with getting Agricultue experts to read it that are all for Chemicals. The lay people are the consumers and like it. I explain my history of Organic from 1940 and to the present. I have been told it is a story.information and education. I can disguss the advantage of Organic verus chemical anytime. I have experience thru obsevation, experance and logic. I have never taken any money from outside sources as they are in control. I do have an Article I wrote Monsanto is the Monster of our Unhealthy Food Production.. I would like to send it to any one if I get your emil address. It will be a rebulall to Marks belief in GMO’S and Monsanto.
    [email protected]

  88. Matt Lichty says:

    Interesting article, here are my main problems with it:

    “Instead they talk about an ideal world where people in the west eat less meat and fewer calories overall so that people in developing countries can have more. This is simplistic nonsense.”

    Having meat takes up a ton of land space, and is a hugely important issue in making our agriculture system better for the environment. I don’t even know if I can call this taking down a straw man argument because he doesn’t argue against it, he just says it’s nonsense.

    “Who understand that yields per hectare are the most important environmental metric.”

    This is the core of what’s wrong with the article, there’s so many more environmental factors going on in a farm than just yields per hectare. That doesn’t take into account the long term health of the soil, or the water, the consequences of reliance on petroleum based fertilizers, the overuse of antibiotics in livestock, etc. The reason I find organic agriculture so important is because it seeks to make sustainable farms that keep the land healthy. It does this by acting more like nature, having a contained and sustainable ecosystem rather than rely on outside inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. This is the appeal of natural products, the idea is that something made naturally is more likely to fit in with the sustainability of nature.

    Also, if the author finds yields per hectare to be the most important, then why does he support large scale production of crops for meat? That clearly yields less per hectare than growing vegetables for human consumption.

    “There would have been a nice historical resonance to having a blight-resistant potato developed in Ireland, given the million or more who died due to the potato famine in the mid 19th century.”

    The lesson to be learned from the potato famine is that monoculture systems are not stable. Growing only one kind of crop, especially if it is all the same variety of the crop, makes the system very vulnerable to pests, diseases, and weeds. Using pesticides and genetic modification to try to protect our monoculture corn, soybeans, and potatoes is the wrong way to try to produce stability, because as we’ve learned with antibiotics, the pests, weeds, and disease that live despite the pesticides and genetic modifications go on to make more pests, weeds, and disease. They can then evolve incredibly quickly because of our tampering with nature, and it’s an ever constant battle.

    Organic farming and permaculture focus on making a farm more like an ecosystem, by having a diverse array of crops and using companion planting or crop rotation so that the plants are using their natural systems for protecting each other from pests, weeds, and disease. Having more biodiversity also inherently adds more stability, because even if one crop is destroyed for some reason, there are still more crops to choose from. This is again, focusing on natural products because natural ecosystems work well. Diversity in foods is also important for human health, because different vegetables have different nutritional values and eating a variety of them keeps them in a good balance.

    The author also never discusses urban agriculture, which I think is a great way to get more space for growing food as well as cutting down on transportation costs and encouraging people to think about where their food comes from.

  89. Shad says:

    In your books do you talk about the effects of diet?
    Do you point out the science behind the meat industry?
    Curious because this is a huge problem and I wonder if you address it directly or ignore it outright.

    Also curious if you put your ideals before your profits.
    Are your books printed on a renewable resource such as hemp?

    Very very hard to trust a man who would obscure the truth once for no real good reason at all.
    Now we should trust you at a time when Monsanto might actually want you on their side?
    It’s all a bit too convenient. You seem to have too many flaws from the past to simply trust what you say now.
    You can ignore answering… but blind trust in people like you got us to the point that companies such as Monsanto are the only players… As per your own words.
    So I think you do have a responsibility to own up and answer if you want to be taken seriously.

    Otherwise your doing the same as you did before. Talking without answering to any difficult questions. If you had answered questions in the past perhaps you would not have taken so many down the primrose path…

    Anyway about the science of the meat industry…Have you indeed address this in any of your books and if so which.
    Thanks!

  90. Charla says:

    The research of Dr. Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University in soil pathology, has a powerful presentation showing the effects of feeding GMO corn and soy to farm animals. He does consulting with farmers and vererinarians, as well as making presentations to groups who are concerned about the quality of their food supply. I saw Huber’s highly technical 2 hr. presentation at the Weston A. Price Foundation national convention in November, 2012. Several people near me left, explaining that they did not understand a word he was saying. With my agricultural background, I, however, understood 90% of it.

    His January, 2011 letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is available here. http://farmandranchfreedom.org/gmo-miscarriages

    Dr. Huber showed the bleeding stomachs of farm animals fed GMO feed. It is not determined if it is the GMO or the glyphosate residue or some unknown factor causing the problem. He also reports that in the last 5 years there has been a 25% increase in the number of miscarriages and stillbirths of farm animals. He also notes that farmers who stop feeding GMO-glyphosate feed note a reversal in this trend.

    Huber says that many farm animals are being fed daily rations of bicarbonate of soda in an attempt to sooth their stomach lining. He showed a slide bearing images of dissected cow and hog stomachs; one from an animal fed GMO feed and the other conventional feed. The GMO fed animal had a severely inflamed and bleeding mass of stomach and intestinal tissue.

    He also shows the effects of the sterilization of soil microbes caused by the increasing application of glyphosate as a result of planting GMO crops which are then trreated with glyphosate. Soil fertility is falling rapidly and several critical minerals are sequestered by the glyphosate.

    Huber also reported on what he described as a newly discovered pathogen. While the pathogen is not new to the environment, Huber said, it is new to science. This pathogen apparently multiplies rapidly in soil treated with glyphosate and is then taken up by plants, later transmitted to animals via their feed, and onward to humans by the plants and meat they consume. The pathogen is extraordinarily small. It can be observed only via an electron microscope operating at 38,000 power of magnification. It has yet to be phenotyped or named, though that work is almost complete.

    While there are many benefits of GMO technology, it is indeed questionable as to whether the whole picture of genetically modified FOOD is being studied in the proper context.

  91. Warren Bell says:

    (The above is not “my” website, but that of an organization I helped to found a few years ago — Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

    I have never destroyed property because of my belief system, as you have. I have never characterized myself as “outside the system”, as you once did — I’m a practising family physician with 35 years clinical experience. mostly in a small community (Salmon Arm, BC, Canada) — wherein I have had to exercise my understanding of science in the world of people’s quotidian lives. I have not lived outside the world of service, reporting on it, as you have. I have lived in the thick of it. I have never advocated that people be allowed to starve to death so save the world, as Paul Ehrlich did. That is an absurd and inhumane notion, which my patients’ lives are eloquent witness against.

    Having said that, I would say that I have always had an intellectual bent, and a need to confront inadequate or incomplete hypotheses whose proof was manufactured or distorted. Therefore, I have read widely in the scientific literature to do with health — health in the very broadest sense, health in which our wellbeing and survival are not dissociated from that of the world around us, or from its biota. We eat living things. We clothe ourselves in materials made of living things (some of which died tens of millions of years ago, and became oil). We live in structures made mostly out of living things. We live surrounded by non-human living things — plants, animals, and a vast microbial world — that are indispensable to our continued existence, but physical and psychological.

    Your capacity to dismiss the intricate “machinery” of the life forms of this world — not apparently on ideological or religious grounds, but on “scientific” ones — and to assume that a technological procedure like, say, gene-gun mediated insertion, can supplant a few thousand million years of evolution, is as unscientific as can be.

    Consider, for just one example of how absolutely “selective” your interpretation of “science” is. The report whose link is below, from the U of Michigan, but published on your side of the pond (Cambridge) contains a meta-analysis of food supply studies from around the world, showing that indeed, not only can organic food growing feed the industrial world adequately — it can also INCREASE the food supply in the so-called “developing” or “majority” world.

    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=1091304

    Studies have shown that food conventionally grown administers doses of pesticides to humans that exceed recommended (EPA) levels of serious concern, that breast cancer rates with DDT exposure in pre-pubertal women increase five-fold, and that in Sweden, after the banning of 6 enviro-toxins, including 2,4-D, non-Hodgkins lympoma rates — which have climbed since statistics were gathered on them — began to decline right on schedule, 15-20 years afterwards.

    Your science background is in inert materials — geography, primarily. Mine is in the life sciences — human biology, primarily. I’ve learned to read and comprehend your database. I urge you to read and try and comprehend mine.

  92. Warren Bell says:

    I just mis-spoke (or mis-wrote). Your background academically is in history and politics, not geography. My apologies.

  93. John Fryer says:

    First it is good to have a proper debate on GMO and thanks to Mark, though there is or are many who would argue that he is wrong to object to GMO without as he admits any facts either way.

    He is presently wrong in assuming all GMO crops are risk free – something no one but no one would agree with.

    Prof Seralini has spent ten years or more on very few GMO plants and his three year work on Monsanto NK603 corn agrees with all other sources but goes further with a somewhat longer study where troubles come a plenty including cancers that were NOT, repeat NOT expected.

    Force feeding the world with criops that may or may not include those that induce cancer is hardly a humanistic trait but more the trait of DICTATORS.

    I for one DO NOT want to eat any GMO foods even if they are later proven a MILLION times safer than food that has been around for ever.

    To avoid this food costs me in my pocket up to five times more than pre-GMO days.

    And yes this is very close to the tactics used by dictators that according to those who force such things on us that we should not mention.

    We are in fact using wholesale GMO traits not to solve the food problem but to feed gas guzzling cars and other such non-food uses.

    GMO output also comes from forcing first Brazil to adopt GMO or go bust and then destroying the Amazon forest in some non-stop process that has destroyed much biodiversity and exposed ancient tribes to disease, death and almost total annihilation in the name of growing GMO Franken foods to replace an ancient ecosystem far more productive than can ever be achieved by mans feeble attempt to copy nature.

    The chestnut season just passed yields more nutrition per hectare than ever achieved from ordinary or Franken technologies.

    GMO technology is here to stay and has achieved much but that of taking over and making old foods proved safe to eat by those as Don Huber found out causes huge gut problems is hardly a science and hardly even a sane act.

    An exchange of tomato seeds from ancient stock is described here in France as an ILLEGAL activity!

    The current tomatoes are almot indigestible compared to the flavousome older varieties which suffer from being difficult to commercialise because of their fragility.

    And this is at the heart of why farmers grow GMO. Not out of pity or charity for the consumer but just to make most bucks for the least effort. And the health effect on humans as history shows us takes hundreds of years before the effects are laid on the right doorstep.

    Seralini, Huber et al are using SCIENCE to show the problems of GMO and not the FINANCE that farmers, politicians and investors use to assess a good food.

  94. John Fryer says:

    Bt Toxin gets mentioned as causing death to insects but by pro GMO-ers is benign for us humans. So they say and this is almost certainly not true.

    Bees are very close to being insects and their numbers are so low that a growth industry in supplying bees for pollination is now a multi-million dollar enterprise.

    Hardly needed in cities where there is or are GMO free zones;

    Second if its so benign (Bt toxin in humans) then the discovery that we nearly all have Bt RNA/DNA in us naturally leads to more denigration of careful science by independent people.

    Pro GMO-ers seem uncertain if stomach and gut problems are increasing and those that admit truth seem to argue that its not down to GMO and Bt and its effects.

    Just to say that the GMO industry initially had not a clue as to how Bt toxin did its job and were happy to accept it as it worked on killing insects.

    The finding that it does destroy the guts of insects is disturbing given that GMO fed animals suffer mysterious new ills that scientists cannot explain.

    Notably the lack of tightness for tubes and vessels leading to escape of fluids and notably blood from every orifice.

    Don Huber once a supporter of GMO foods and technology is somewhat the reverse of what Mark claims. His experience is grounded very much in knowledge and practice at the coal-face and not as many here on ignorance by the shovel loads.

    When troubles arise it is appropriate to stop digging.

    At present the exposure of the Western world to GMO is almost unstoppable and the changes in health over the past decades are not a good omen for the future even if GMO is found innocent of some or all of the maladies once quoted as a few cases per hundred thousand but now as percentages.

    Pre-clinical signs of diabetes up to 47 per cent cent from less than 5 per 100 000 is breathtaking and SCARY.

    Does nobody worry that 99 per cent of anything growing is not suitable for eating and interfering with proven safe food is not a long term good idea.

    If it aint broke dont fix it.

    I would be more charitable towards GMO if for example they tried to make non food plants fit to eat and left the now taken over small seed companies alone..

    • Mikeb says:

      You’ve just showcased the batshit crazy of the anti-GMO movement. Thank you.

    • Erika says:

      Mikeb,

      I’m following these comments with interest. Not on one side or the other yet, but just responding that what John Fryer said was
      “the batshit crazy of the anti-GMO movement ” is, sorry, kind of vague and dismissive without any actual rebuttal.
      I’d be very interested to hear your rebuttal, even tho I can tell you are frustrated by the whole conversation……

    • OrchidGrowinMan says:

      Erika,

      Mr, Fryer has been pushing his theories of
      1) E. coli was never ever a problem until it was used in labs for experiments; now, somehow that has made it a dangerous menace.
      2) Experiments on E. coli (“splicing-in Plague”) were used, deliberately or accidentally, to create AIDS.
      3) Some underreported plague of mysterious bleeding ailments is obviously caused by Bt crops because Bt “causes insect digestive tracts to EXPLODE!”

      These, and probably more, have all been patiently and politely and repeatedly addressed on Biofortified, and probably elsewhere. He infrequently replies and has never, that I recall, changed hes conviction.

    • Kagehi says:

      Oh, give me a break… We have seen bee colony collapses before. And every time it happens some bloody fools show up and claim that its something they don’t like. What does the science actually say in this case:

      1. Its much more complicated than it seems, and we don’t know all the factors, but we do know that most of the stuff that people claim are doing it are not.
      2. However… there seems to be an effect on the ability of bees to navigate, when they have been exposed to non-GM based, plants, sprayed with natural extracts, from tobacco, which are used by people that don’t use chemical pesticides, or GM BT crops.

      Whoops! But, go ahead and ignore the well done science that contradict your horrible done ‘studies’…

      Second, there is one, and only one, cause for the rise of health care costs: greed.

      The pharma industry isn’t interested in producing things that work, but produce low profits, so they release those to the broader market, which, ironically, contains only about “3″ companies, with a much smaller number of manufacturing locations, who make the older “low profit” medicines. This results in poorer controls, entire batches going bad, and having to be kept off the market, and shortages, often of life saving medications. There are several consequences of this, and the government’s, as usual, libertarian style, refusal to recognize the problem:

      1. The only alternatives are expensive, usually only barely better, but without absolute knowledge of all effects yet, products, which the patient can’t necessarily as easily afford.

      2. Scalpers. One case, discussed by a doctor on this very subject, had a life saving medicine that didn’t have any clear alternative, which the hospital had to by a lot of for $10,000 dollars, from one of these, “buy up a lot, then scam everyone when there is a shortage.”, groups, which ended up taking the cost of the pills from like 10 cents a pill, to more like $10 a pill, or $100 per bottle, instead of $1 per bottle.

      3. Due to the fact that insurance companies won’t cover these overages, and neither will programs like Medicare/Medicade, hospitals are in the habit of spreading out costs. Yep, socialized medicine happens, whether the government is involved or not, because they take part of the cost of that $100 bottle of ****necessary**** pills, that one patient needs, and spread it out, as part of the general costs, to several hundred other patients, so that they don’t end up killing the guy that needed them, purely due to them having no damn way to pay for it.

      4. Insurance company greed. The original idea of premiums, and overages was, “You pay what ever portion of the cost the insurance doesn’t cover.” The first thing they industry attempted to do, and was sued over, but not told to sell back, just pay to create an alternative of, was to buy up the company that went around to hospitals and doctors, and found out how much it **actually** cost them to maintain equipment, perform surgeries, etc., to do their jobs.

      Think about that a moment. They tried to buy up the company that was responsible for figuring out how much the insurance itself needed to pay out, to cover the costs.

      When that didn’t work, they instead spent decades slowly creeping up the overage/premium costs, while cutting back on what they where willing to pay to cover, never mind how much they where willing to pay *period*. But, that wasn’t fast enough. So, they went to congress and said, “You know, we think its horrible unfair that we have to pay 80% of all the medical costs of our customers. We think that the percentage they need to pay is 35%.” Congress said, “Yup, fine by us.”, and passed a law that made it legal.

      Since then they have kept stacking on a) more costs, b) higher premiums, c) more rules about what they won’t cover, and why, and… then someone passed a bill that said, “No, you need to use at least 80% of what you take in from customers, not 65%, like most of you do now, to cover your customers health needs.”, and they, and their supporters in the government, have been fighting tooth and nail to try to find a way to either not do it, side step it, or kill it, since.

      GM has jack to do with “increasing costs in health care”. But, I suppose, if you don’t have a clue, don’t care about being robbed blind by the insurance industry, don’t believe in medicine, or, worse, actually belong to the industry, you might find claims that GM is the number one cause, or will be, of future medical costs, useful/believable.

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      @ Kagehi, your statements cannot stand unchallenged – you claim that someone else is talking rubbish when you are doing worse!
      Bee die-offs are not tied to tobacco extracts being used by those eschewing pesticides. The chemical family implicated are neo-nicotinoids, a synthetic family of chemicals (distantly related to tobacco extracts – btw tobacco dust, a common natural pesticide is frowned upon even by organic farmers as it is so toxic!) used as fungicides in regular chemical pesticide spray programmes on the one hand but more importantly, used by GM and other seed distributors as a seed dressing. The chemicals applied to the seed are expressed through the plant into the pollen and this is one of the primary suspected avenues of bee dieoff. There is extensive published data on this. Don’t suck BS facts from your thumb and make out that others are talking tosh when you are doing far worse.
      Secondly your claim that GM has no link to rising health care costs is not entirely correct either. The reality is that for instance the patenting of the BRCA genetic construct has sharply increased scanning costs for breast cancer as the patent was enforced by a private company through the courts. Ironically much of the research was completed (as is usual) in public research institutions. The reality is that these tests are not so expensive that many developing nations cannot afford them so women are dying. Nice, eh? This is related to opposition to patented crops, gm constructs, living organisms, etc. So again, get your facts straight. This BRCA debate has been widely aired for years and was in a chapter of a book I edited published 6 years back.
      If you are such a wise guy, give your real name and don’t hide behind pseudonyms.
      But then again you have been revealed as a blowhard…
      And so it goes…

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      Sorry, that was meant to be that those breast cancer tests are NOW so expensive, not NOT so expensive……I am sure there is an edit option somewhere but this system has me beat.

    • Kagehi says:

      ” Kagehi, your statements cannot stand unchallenged – you claim that someone else is talking rubbish when you are doing worse!”

      Sigh.. Single cases do not represent “proof that all other cases are the same”, so whether or not there was one case (and I would have to examine to detail of it, since I tend to be skeptical of some of the BS that goes on in court cases. There have been more than a few where later evidence showed that the trial should have never gone in favor of the guy making the claim), doesn’t mean anything, any more than does one study, and that always, for some reason, seems to be what people quote as “evidence” in these arguments, then try to defend as significant.

      Finally, the thing I read on bees… You do understand that its fairly irrelevant if its real tobacco or a synthetic right? That the studies themselves don’t claim, one bit, that they are different, and that the whole “point” of making the alternatives was to make it less costly to use the original. A factor which has “increased” the use of nicotine?

      The fact that organic farmers may avoid it doesn’t change anything else in the argument, especially given all the other nonsense that organic people claim, that isn’t reality based at all.

      My point on the bee issue is that just about everyone on the planet has some “guess” as to the problem, and what we do know about it, if anything, suggests that a) we don’t understand it enough, b) nearly everything people claim isn’t causing it, and c) some of the stuff people claim is “safe”, and, toxic or not, is, ironically, less safe than the stuff which “some” of the same people appose the use of.

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      Well, clearly you don’t know what you are talking about so I wont waste any more time on your illogical response, save to say you are basing what you wrote on bees on one article you read? Hmm, that figures…
      And you claim that tobacco and nicotine and synthetic chemicals are “fairly irrelevant”? What does fairly irrelevant mean, pray? Is it irrelevant, or only partially relevant or how does this play out? Maybe it is irrelevant in your mind that nicotine is extremely toxic to mammals etc but the synthetics have very different avenues of activity that allow them to be taken up by the plant and only to be toxic to insects, not mammals. Irrelevant? I don’t think so mate. Maybe in the mind of a proto…but then you obviously are not a scientist and don’t know what you are talking about. A bit like Lynas really…at least he can string a flawed argument together…

    • Kagehi says:

      Oh, and I use this name everywhere, including in places where my real name is well known, so.. I don’t give an F what you think about my using something other than my real name.

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      Thats nice, what a boykie!
      Civility costs nothing while anonymity makes a fool.

    • Jesper says:

      Regarding bee did off I was actually under the impression that things are starting to look up. Also, a number of things have been implicated in colony collapse disorder, among these virus and mites. Anyway, this problem is/has been extensive in the EU as well, where very little GM is grown (interestingly most approved GMOs in the EU are for decorative flowers with altered colours/colour patterns). Anyway, I understand that neonicotinoids are suspected of involvement in CCD. This is precisely one of the things that can be addressed through use of GM to allow the use of less toxic chemicals.
      Anyway, my main point regarding the able posting is that any chemical applied to the seed is there to affect germination and can in no way be expressed throughout the plant. Genes are expressed, chemicals can only be present or absent, not propagated in the plant.

    • Charla says:

      Jesper, this is rather off-track, but I’ll address it anyway. My husband keeps bees, so I’ve been researching intensely for the last couple of years about the dieoff of honeybees. I, too, suspect that it has little to nothing to do with GMOs. Yes, Kevin, some of my dyed-in-the-wool closed-minded ‘progressive’ friends have seizures when I make statements like this to try to assist in prying open their closed minds.

      In talking with beekeepers that keep bees without the use of mitacides, they point out that mites have always existed, but as honeybees were bred larger and larger to produce more honey, the cells of the honeycomb are necessarily larger, allowing mites space to grow alongside the developing bee. One researcher who has not had any dieoff is working on determining the optimum size of the wax cells for each latitude, as wild honeybees at different latitudes produce different size wax cells.

      The neonicotinoids are a distinct possability, although some have postulated the shifting of the magnetic poles that recently forced Tampa, FL to close runways while realigning signs may even have an impact. This is too widespread, in my opinion, to be from GMOs which are still much more localized.

    • Kagehi says:

      Of course, the shifting isn’t recent. While we have clear measurements of it as it moves now, other methods show that its been shifting for centuries. A lot of people get real confused about what “electromagnetic” means. Light is also part of the EM spectrum, for example, as is ionizing radiation. Some of it, like the earths magnetic field, is so pervasive, but, because of this, diffused, that you might expect an effect from, say, a really big deposit of ore under a be hive, but not a few degrees shift in a pole. Yet, such deposits are around all over the place, and don’t seem to have much effect.

      You have to remember that even if the ore isn’t moving, the bee is, and thus, the argument, which also comes up, that EM from things like cell phones might be responsible would imply that bees flying in and out of areas with such ore deposits should be effected too. Worse for this claim is that cell transmissions used to be in a 3W ranges, for the older networks, like the ones that used for the old “bag phones”, from the 70s. Nearly all such networks where finally shut down entirely, not that long ago, in favor of the 0.6W “max” cell system, which actually adaptively changes is output level, depending on the distance to the nearest tower. So.. If you are “at” the tower, it might be transmitting at like 0.05W, or something. So, while there is more traffic, there is less actual EM being used to produce it, and, in fact, vastly less than, in fact, the amount output by the vast network of TV and radio broadcast systems, which we no longer have either, compared to the 50s-60s.

      Mind, I don’t have exact numbers, but.. just as a rough guess, I would say that if one wanted to implicate EM in bee death, they would have to argue that it was caused by there being “less” of it, not more.

    • Charla says:

      Thank you for your good comments on bees and EM +.

    • Kagehi says:

      Oh, and, if you think about it, this does make sense. When you want to transmit something, without noise, you either have to overpower everything else (which drops everyone else’s calls, and is one reason why some types of repeaters/amplifiers are not used much any more in cell systems), or.. you have to have short distances, at much lower power, and, other than in big cities, this actually means “fewer” cell phones, on each tower, thus, less EM from each cell/tower.

    • Jesper says:

      …in the previous post “able post” should be “above post”.

    • Kagehi says:

      Sorry, I was reading the as a bit hostile, like, I was being somehow dishonest by using something other than my real name.

      That said, I don’t have a problem with the idea that some GM might be bad, but many people have listed here, already, why the small number of studies that claim otherwise are, at best, questionable. I stand by the assertion that, by the standard of the same studies, everything sold in the “altie-med” market should be “safe”, from “studies”, including the ones that later turned out to be dangerous/lethal.

      Here is the thing though. There is no argument that can be made against the idea that having the insurance industry in charge of telling doctors what things cost, instead of the other way around, being a good thing, or in them finding ways to deny you medical coverage. Its even worse that they refuse to cover, in many case, preventative costs, because making a few big payments (from lawsuits, for example), costs them less, in theory, than making a lot of smaller payouts.

      There is no arguing that a profit margin exists that creates an incentive to fudge numbers, ignore possible problems, or short cut scientific tests, needed to determine if a medicine is safe. But, it also can’t be argued that everything else is “safer”, because, ironically, most of it isn’t tested at all, for exactly the same reason that testing on GM is so limited. The law says, if its a food product, or supplement, or otherwise “natural”, the FDA either had *no* right to examine it, short of actual evidence of harm, or *very little*. That GM is tested at all is, in some respects, almost amazing, given this sort of nonsense, “everything natural is harmless”, view that the people who prevented the FDA being able to demand tests of such things presented as their argument. Since then, a number of “natural” things have left the market, and can’t be sold, or contain warnings about what you should avoid with them, but, again, its always after people die from it, because that is the “trigger point” at which the FDA can claim that there is justification for acting, which imho, is pure BS.

      Another, ridiculous, argument though, from the other side of the fence, is that there is, somehow, no profit incentive for people to produce anything that isn’t big-pharma, and thus, you can trust them more. I never understood this argument, because, to use homeopathy as an example, the math just doesn’t add up.

      Lets say I am big pharma. I spend $1 billion and 10 years, to bring some new diet drug to the market, then I use billions in expensive equipment, paying other people millions for the ingredients, all so I can ship a bottle of 50 pills, which each, initially cost $5 a piece, require a doctor to prescribe them, and net me, maybe, $1 profit, per pill, after all the costs.

      Now.. lets say I am someone selling homeopathy. I buy filtered tap water (seriously, no matter how much you pay per bottle or how “pure” you claim it is, everything on the market is still filtered tap water). Lets say I spring for the most expensive stuff I can find, and go for a few hundred gallons of something that is $2 a gallon. I buy a few pounds, at.. $20 a bag, or what ever, of the “ingredient”, then I use maybe half a gram of it, to make thousands of bottles of “medicine”, by paying some people, at minimum wages, the shake it, and think real hard about it “remember” the ingredient. If I am really ambitious, instead of just tossing this into a 10 cent bottle, with a 5 cent label, I buy a few thousand dollars of equipment to make sugar pills, and “combine” my magic water with a pressed pill. Either way, I charge some poor shlub $50 for the bottle of water/100 pill in it.

      Which company, after costs, is making money hand over fist in the above scenario?

      Now, I am sure you will argue that this is somehow a bad example (though I could lay bets that some here might try to defend homeopathy instead), but the point is, you don’t lose the profit motive, just because the stuff being produced is “natural”, or something like that. What you do, is reduce your costs, by not having to go through the corporate mess, and all the testing you would have to otherwise do, while creating a new niche, into which advertising needs to be pushed.

      What does this mean, in a practical sense? It means that a) some people will lie their asses off, to promote the product, b) fudge their facts, c) make a pretense at doing science, so it looks more legitimate, and d) unlike big pharma, or even big-agricultural, their isn’t really anyone properly looking over their shoulder, to make sure that any of it is, at all, honest.

      If I was someone planning to make a hell of a lot of money, by presenting my own products, and promoting the claims of those selling similar products while doing so, I can tell you exactly which side I would be backing, and, it wouldn’t be the existing agricultural industry. There wouldn’t be any profit in risking being caught in by the watchdogs in their particular yard.

      Both sides have dubious reasons for claiming that there is something better about their views, and worse about the others. Both sides, also, have good arguments for why, in some cases, the other sides solutions are just not going to work, or might make things worse. But, unfortunately, both sides would rather win, than figure out what the truth actually is, or what solutions are best, in specific, never mind more general, cases.

      The problem is, the people making the most questionable assertions here, and this isn’t just my opinion, but that of actual geneticists, isn’t the greedy, stupid, corporations, whose job is to serve themselves first, and everyone else second (leading to stupid decisions, which actually harm their own customers, just like every other industry and market, where no one is slapping their hands hard enough when they do it. A reality that is, rapidly, becoming **all of them**, and which would be even more of them already, if a) the Republicans had won, or b) we actually killed off some of the agencies, who, however poor a job they are doing at times, never the less do a better job than not having them would. Before then, not only would you not know which foods where GM, you wouldn’t have even known if it was actually “food” in the package.

      As for the idea of labeling.. How specific do you want to be? If you want a clear detail on what is in the food, not just that is GM, which is the honest report, then we would have to sequence every food in existence, and we would have morons whining about the fact that every tomato, bell peppers, eggplant, or other “nightshade” cousin on the market as, “May contain some quantity of alkaloids.”

      Maybe just, “This product has been modified from its original/wild version.” There still goes half the bloody stuff on the shelf.

      How about, “This product has been modified by inserting genes.” Hmm.. How inserted? This still isn’t, from a genetics standpoint, all that specific.

      And, all those things describe “genetic engineering”, and the last two could both be described as GM, assuming that, at any point, someone sequenced the genes, even to just check that the variety they where getting had the properties they wanted.

      As for the argument, from earlier, about “where have there been examples of genes jumping species?”, unless someone thinks humans are, somehow magic, and this never happens (never mind things like the flu virus, which are considered serious hazards, due to what might jump between species), then how about this:

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-03/snake-genes-27hitchhike27-into-cow-dna/4451308

      I already pointed out, on the thread that lead to the article, how much of a bad article it was, since they are talking about “viral fragments”, not functional DNA, and that you can’t get a “paradigm shift” from something that the author of the article didn’t bother to look up, but which geneticists have known for decades already. The point of presenting this article isn’t to show that it has been discovered to happen, but rather, that, unlike a lot of the similar junk in human DNA (which contains a mess of such fragmentary viral DNA, some which, like that in the cows, keeps adding more of itself), they where actually able to figure out where the heck this “specific” DNA originally came from, which is the only thing at all novel in the whole story, despite the hype of the person that wrote it.

  95. Jessica Denning says:

    I am a science teacher. The word ‘science’ comes from ‘to know.’ If genetic engineering is so great, why are we not allowed to know if it is in our food or not? How can we correlate epidemiological effects if it is not labeled? Why has it never been tested past 90 days and why only on rats? Why must farmers sign confidentiality agreements? Why will Monsanto not give seed for independent testing? How can it be science if there is no independent testing allowed?
    If it is science, how can it be planted in open fields where the pollen has contaminated half of our heirloom corn, according to Baker Creek Seed Company?
    This is not science. This is secrecy. This is the destruction of our treasury of genetic diversity worldwide by bully corporations and corrupt politicians.
    We see that University science is now controlled by biotech de facto because of the shift in funding from public money to biotech money there. The latest horrifying fact: Now we see that the University of California at Berkeley is trumpeting its latest major: Translational Science, to speed its discoveries to market. They might as well just cross out the word science dept and write ‘Monsanto Marketing Dept.’
    Science would have suggested testing these products on humans for several generations, pregnant women, fetuses, and in the true mixed chemical cocktails in which they are applied.Something is lost in the translation at UCB.
    If you cannot see the ‘monoculture forest for the gmo trees,’ Mark, sprayed with herbicides so that it contains no creatures but the one GMO species, and the soil which becomes lifeless for our grandchildren, look to the Wisdom of the Bees. 1/2 of them died here in the US in 2006. 1/3 of them died last year. I am a biodynamics gardener and only through improving and nourishing the soil as well as ourselves and including the full circle of life for all creatures great and small, will we survive as a species.
    We have seen skyrocketing medical bills in the US with the introduction of these clandestinely GMOs to unwitting American consumers.
    I myself become raw all through my digestive tract from eating wheat. This is not GMO, it is a hybrid, having been crossed in the 70′s to increase what yields, but then containing a very addictive amount of gliadin concurrently.
    So it is true that other plant breeding techniques can cause problems. This wheat is now sprayed with Roundup to force it to seed even though it is not GMO resisitant. It’s culture has radically changed.
    It is true that we need to be careful about introducing any of these radical foods worldwide until we have done extensive testing on many species, including bees, soil bacteria and humans. This has not been done. Until then the heirloom species are the foods that will bring us health.
    I am glad to hear you use the term ‘museum foods.’ How honest. With GMOs, the only heirloom seeds will be in the museum. The rest will have been patented and have to be bought each year from Monsanto. Museum indeed. Baker Creek Seeds tells us that their testing reveals that half of heirloom corn is now GMO-contaminated.

    • Alyssa says:

      I completely agree with what you said about the soil. I witness it firsthand as I grind my teeth due to a magnesium deficiency. The foods I eat which would normally have a large content of magnesium in them no longer do. This is because the soil that these foods grow in has been depleted of magnesium. I cannot take supplements because they cause severe irritation. And so I grind my teeth and my gums have receded. My quality of life has been lowered immensely, my teeth bother me every day and it’s difficult for me to function. So we feed everyone, but at what price?

    • Art H. says:

      “University science controlled by biotech”. If it means anything, about a third of the content in my first year intro to biology class at UBC was on recombinant DNA technology and genetics in general. By comparison, in 1993 at the University of Manitoba, genetics was only introduced as a footnote and not until third year (I compared notes with my cousin in Winnipeg who has the degree I am working on, Bachelor in Science, class of 1995). Has biology changed, or has what someone changed what they want me to know about biology? Our textbook at UBC is in fact a wonderful study in propaganda, and a lesser study of biology (Simon, Dickey, et. al.). In every chapter a pleasing turn-of-phrase on this presumably beneficial technology – technology seems to have become “the study of biology”, and biology has taken a back seat. Can anyone besides me see this, and see how backwards this is? Biology is now become the study not of biology but of how we can manipulate biology. The rest we only go so far as to put labels on, and this is as far as our “understanding” of life science needs to go, at least at UBC.

      dear seed companies, biotech companies and propaganda crew, i’m looking forward to seeing what you have in store for me in term two! i speak for all my fellow science students, all eager and most of us 18-20 year olds, all wide eyed, all ready to take whatever you feed us into the labs to churn out whatever results you need to see because – quite frankly – we’re young and jobs to buy us vancouver real estate pays way better than ethics!

  96. tinkerthinker says:

    So I challenge all of you today to question your beliefs in this area and to see whether they stand up to rational examination. Always ask for evidence, as the campaigning group Sense About Science advises, and make sure you go beyond the self-referential reports of campaigning NGOs.

    OK, I’ll bite.

    Science is an ever changing field, making it not so dependable.. I”l give you an example.

    In the 70′s scientists said an unborn baby was just a bunch of cells. Now with technology we can see it is a functioning human being.

    • Kagehi says:

      I am not interesting in derailing this into some unrelated discussion, so, rather than go into why this claim is wrong (which would take pages, and then still wouldn’t convince anyone that believes your assertion), I will just say, “Having all the genes needed to produce a person.”, isn’t “fully functional”, any more than a half built car, with a blueprint tacked onto the windshield, constitutes a “fully functional Mercedes”. The claim that a) scientists in the 70s ever truly made the exact claim you assign them, or that b) science as done anything at all, to alter the position that science itself, as apposed to the people that misread it, for their own causes, claim it now does, is flat out wrong, and/or intentionally dishonest. The whole reason their is still an argument is because some people insist on claiming that things with circulatory systems, but not nervous system, or a nervous system, but not functional memory, or even all of that, but no functional lungs, so it can’t survive the death of the mother anyway, are all “equivalent”. Which is hardly a surprise, since half the bloody country was “on the side” of a dead woman, a while back, who was never going to wake up, had no functional brain tissue, but “looked” healthy, based on identical arguments against pulling the plug on her corpse.

    • tinkerthinker says:

      It is as fully functional as any seed in this discussion.

  97. Alyssa says:

    “But organic is in the way of progress when it refuses to allow innovation. Again using GM as the most obvious example, many third-generation GM crops allow us not to use environmentally-damaging chemicals because the genome of the crop in question has been altered so the plant can protect itself from pests. Why is that not organic?”

    Did you really just ask that question?

  98. Jennifer says:

    Look at Permaculture, Mark.
    Spread Permaculture.

    Beansprout catastrophe was comparable to Chernobyl? C’mon.
    That blows your credibility out of the water.

  99. Cydney Henderson says:

    Since when is the herbicide glyphosate benign? READ THE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH. Take a look @ photos of super weeds.

    After you’ve done that, Mark, perhaps then we could have an intelligent, scientifically oriented discussion.

    Respectfully submitted.

  100. MattM says:

    Interesting Analysis Mark.

    I am a bit of a fence-sitter on GMOs – Borlaug’s green revolution may yet ultimately cause more misery and I think the concerns with population cannot be overstated.

    Every night an additional 225,000 people are at the dinner table that weren’t there the night before. But yet, people carry on as though there’s nothing we can do about it. And this I’m sad to say, is reflected in your analysis. We can do so much about it it’s not funny – yet, for whatever reason, people would prefer to avoid talking about it preferring to let the misery continue for much longer than it has to.

    But case in point, Brazil dropped their TFR from memory from well over 2 to 1.9 through popular TV shows. We can do a lot simply through initiatives that demonstrate the benefits of smaller families.

    According to this site, in 2011, 119 countries still had TFRs of over replacement level (i.e. over 2.1).

    No starving village in India is served by rapid population growth.

    The Gates foundation have recently been instrumental in organising family planning for some 120 million additional women. This would by my count leave around 100 million women who as yet have no access to modern contraception.

    A key target should also be to ensure anyone who wants access, should have it as well as ensuring access to education for women.

    But what does worry me about your analysis Mark is energy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOMWzjrRiBg

    The world’s population may only reach 8 billion or not even that if systemic collapses start to occur as look increasingly likely. Rivers die from the mouth up, cities die from the land in so to speak.

    Perhaps if we put as much energy into having sensible debate about quality of life vs human population and looking at the science which suggests around 500 million to 2 billion people could live comfortable lives on Earth, instead of spending trillions of dollars on weapons, if instead of these we made a concerted effort to encourage just having 1 or 2 children to give us a fighting chance along with the other efforts we are making, we might reduce the misery for millions who otherwise might suffer.

    At least the Gates foundation seems to be tackling these things at both ends.

    I’d implore all in any positions of influence/leadership do the same.

    regards

    Matt

  101. Julian says:

    Mark, I admire you greatly for being prepared to make such a public retraction of your former views. It is a credit you.

    I hope you will now examine the arguments against climate alarmism and understand why so many intelligent people, while accepting and not denying that the climate is changing, do not agree with the scale of the predictions and the extreme measures proposed to counter climate change.

  102. John Fryer says:

    Trillions of foods eaten with GMO shows the arrogance of the government (USA) and industry (MONSANTO) and little if any checks or science done on safety.

    We are TOLD the food is chemically IDENTICAL with old forms of food.

    There is ABSOLUTELY no need to test for safety.

    But unless you have been in hibernation for 40 years since GMO was developed you may have noted increases in cancers? increases in neurological disorders? increases in diabetes, etc etc. Much disputed as baloney by those who want to keep on increasing GMO foods on the world.

    I remember that sailors on very long voyages suffered terrible illness and death hundreds of years ago. The food they ate was IDENTICAL to that on land. It took the best part of a hundred years for one man to convince the governments of the time that VITAL foods in microscopic amounts made the change from killer food to surviving long voyages.

    Professor Seralini just this year showed a similar sort of problem. Harm, illness and death does not come after your first GMO meal or the 250th but does come to some in the following years and decades we are exposed to food just like what our dads ate but not really.

    40 years into GMO foods we still arent quite sure what we need to do to make it SAFE but certainly for some it is HARMFUL.

    How about ANY proper safety tests?

    How about giving real choice to those not wishing to be lab RATS for MONSANTO or the over-lobbyed and misinformed governments?

    The gradual rise of GMO fragments in weeds and supposed heirloom foods is worrying.

    Like all things we will survive simply because those not adapted to GMO food will PERISH.

  103. John Fryer says:

    One argument used by Mark is the development of golden rice.

    This in fact is one of hundreds if not thousands of GMO food crops lobbying for acceptance.

    The notion that it provides us with vitamin A essential for our health is strange.

    Many food commodities do in fact supply thousands of times MORE vitamin A than in this rice.

    In fact many foods have to be taken in moderation as they have LETHAL amounts of vitamin A.

    A wide and varied diet is necessary but to get a nation (the Chinese) to exclusively eat just rice which is GMO for the most part of their life and developed by another nation which would have little use for such food seems at best BIZARRE.

    Reminds me of the ETHYLMERCURY based vaccines supplied to China that are all but ILLEGAL in the home country of GMO technology.

    One argument used to support GMO foods safe or not is that the amounts consumed are very minor. One argument used to denigrate the work of Professor Seralini in that the exosure to GMO were considered higher than reality.

    Ethylmercury compounds are TERATOGENIC, MUTAGENIC and CARCINOGENIC but OK for the Chinese?! So say the USA government and Merck et al.

  104. John Fryer says:

    mikeb says

    You’ve just showcased the batshit crazy of the anti-GMO movement. Thank you.

    As a scientist I dont find this type of response very constructive?!

    First who the xxxx are you and what knowledge do you have of GMO technology?

    if it auint broke dont fix it was one thing I mentioned.

    Basically this means if the food is good and wholesome then why do we need to tinker with it to make it better?

    Sugar is present in many foods and arguably bad to refine as a pure food? GMO substitutions for sugar are for example ASPARTAME used since 1981. The evidence is that this substitute is not good for our health after 8 years or so of constant use.

    One famous promoter of this food (ASPARTAME) is Michael J Fox who managed to get an old mans illness before his 30th birthday. Coincidence or the result of consuming known MUTAGENS and CARCINGENS.

    I am not anit GMO just anti LUNACY.

    The promotion of ASPARTAME at ione time by MONSANTO and now by Japanese companies is one certain disaster for GMO science. For another look into GMO tryptophan.

    I am like Mark willing to look at evidence and reason but not foul mouthed batshit (your words) commentatiors of whatever disposition and covering themselves all over in ANOMYNITY and more batshit?

    And incidentally why are all the USA bats (USA home of GMO technology) dying from this batshit technology?

  105. John Fryer says:

    Some farmers in France are abandoning the monoculture, pesticide, fertiliser concepts of modern farming and finding yields going up by reverting to old fashioned systems of good farm managelment.

    Far from getting disease and crop damage they are in fact reversing the disease and crop damage from chemical farming used for so long it has become a fault and not a benefit today.

    GMO technology is in fact one way to break out of the ultimately damaging chemical system of farming which everyone now knows only works in the short term.

    GMO technology for food production I feel is already failing but the problem is how do you put the cork back on the bottle when GMO weeds are now flourishing while the food produced may in the long term cause harm to some people?

    One shocking example here in France was the discovery that in the CHAMPAGNE region of France (land valued at tens of millions of euros/dollars/pounds) that GMO experiments with grape plants has been going on with unknown consequences if the genes get into this world famous brand of wine?

    Will people be happy to pay 400 dollars a bottle for GMO champagne rather than traditional champagne?

    The E Coli deaths (many occur in France) are not quite out of control today but are one novel type of illness not known of before GMO technology.

    When GMO was unknown so to was this sudden death or serious life time illness from just eating raw food.

    In my view the use of E Coli for GMO experiments and the rise in a new illness is too close for comfort and like all things in science PROOF is impossible.

    The world is made up of ATOMS but this is after 2 000 years still in science terms still only a supposition or THEORY today.

    When people talk that E Coli deaths and the link to altering the genes of E Coli for making GMO foods are related there can NEVEr be proof the two are connected or UNCONNECTED.

    But we should proceed with caution and not stick our heads in the SAND of ignorance like Mark admits once and certainly does today.

    • vakibs says:

      > The E Coli deaths (many occur in France) are not quite out of control today but are one novel type of illness not known of before GMO technology.

      This is so obviously wrong that it gives your entire game away.

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      That is such tosh. E.coli outbreaks are generally quite low in the EU. However in the US they are very high and the most persistent strains are linked to industrial meat production, not to veg. The only reason that it is not completely out of control in the US is because radical measures are taken including irradiation, treatment with serious chemicals and other extreme treatments that are a long way from normal.
      As Michael Pollen says, if you grandparents would not recognise food produced in that way, then avoid.
      Lynas primary flaw, besides those I covered in my initial posting, is that he fails to address the fundamental problems inherent to industrial farming, with which GM technology is so closely intertwined. His volte face is flawed on many fronts and I hope that someone takes the time to rip his argument to pieces. I would if I had time and was paid but unfortunately time is money.
      His claims to follow scientific method evaporate in the face of any sort of examination. Instead of using hard, published science, he has retreated to the quasi scientific netherworld of front groups like (non)Sense about Science and BIO.
      And of course he drags out the normal predictable crowd of supporters who resort to the default name calling to which Lynas has shown himself to be partial.
      Ho hum – and so it goes…

  106. Jesper says:

    So, I have now read through most of the comments, and from what I read the comments saying they are anti-GMO, actually complain about either bt, roundup or business methods. All potentially valid points. Personally I don’t think there are any problems at least with bt and roundup. I do no know the business methods. However, for arguments sake, let’s say all are bad/deadly/reprehensible/whatever. How is any of this an argument against the GMO technology? It is arguments against certain chemicals or modern ways of doing business. Where are the coherent arguments against the technology itself? I would like to hear someone coming up with a biologically sound explanation for how the act of transformation of organims itself, not the specific genes used, is consistently causing cancer and irritated bowels etc. as claimed in many of the posts. Please, don’t just direct me to other sites, but bring these arguments directly into the discussion. Fell free of course to post the links as well.
    And one minor point regarding general written discussions: CAPITILIZING words does not make you right, just annoying. Sound arguments don’t need shouting.

  107. The Musicbox says:

    Thank you, Mark, for coming out as a rational human being. Let’s hope that this world will gain this much common sense for science in 2013.

  108. John Fryer says:

    Mark our host says

    but benign herbicides like glyphosate are still a no-no because they are ‘artificial chemicals’.

    Technically this chemical is an organophosphate. On the one hand essential to every living organism but on the other hand immensely harmful as it is in effect a chemical MIMICK.

    Chemical mimicks have the worst record for mucking up our health.

    Also in this same group comes GB, sarin and VX.

    All decidely unwelcome in any subway.

    Professor Seralini can be safely argued against just for this reason.

    Was he finding cancers because of GMO Monsanto NK603 food or was he finding cancers because of food contaminated with dangerous chemicals used to spray on our crops?

    He and myself and everyone else did NOT expect ANY excess cancers from GMO food but theoretically it is certain that chemicals used to kill life will have such effects.

    Glyphosate is only benign in MONSANTO propaganda. Long term its effects are as sure as found by Professor Seralini: Damage to our vital organs and ultimately higher risk of cancer.

  109. John Fryer says:

    off topic is the ideas of global warming / ozone hole and the use by governments to load another tax on its citizens for the wrong use of CARBON.

    In fact it is most UNLIKELY that CARBON does contribute to our planets demise.

    The idea of many including maybe Mark is that they are looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

    Carbon dioxide in water is the thermometer and not the driving force involved.

    As the world gets hotter, dissolved gases get driven out of water and so increas the gas or carbon dioxide in the air. Hence the seasonal increases and decreases alongside a rise which does CLEARLY show the world getting WARMER.

    First the amount of carbon dioxide is EXTREMELY SMALL so that the effect if any would be close to ZERO.

    The destruction of ozone high up is a major factor and anyone with memory cells left will realise that a hot day in January in England in the 1950′s was a virtual impossibility while in our ozone free planet it is now the NORM.

    Also not normally discussed is the virtual CERTAINTY that global MERCURY pollution is at the root of both the depletion of OZONE and the global warming.

    Something that NO ONE wants to ACCEPT or even investigate properly.

    • Jesper says:

      A very common mistake made in this post. When talking if greenhouse gasses, CO2 is certainly one of them, but by no means the only one. However, in terms of greenhouse gasses, CO2 is normally used as shorthand for CO2 equivalent, meaning that the effect of a lot of other gasses are included in this, but to come up with a coherent and over time comparable number, all other gasses are mathematically converted to their CO2 equivalent and an overall number for the effect can then be calculated.

  110. John Fryer says:

    Thanks for this reference which sums up mans ability globally to control and protect our planet.

    Evidently GMO technology continues the CONTROL if not the protection?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfGMYdalClU&feature=youtu.be

    thanks again.

  111. Mallo says:

    We should downsize the population too. I dream of a global law that only permit people to have two children each. Overpopulation fixed!

    • HR says:

      An interesting idea. Presumably you could be tasked with enforcing such a law. What is your favored method of disposal of any third babies? Drowning? Gassing? Strangulation with your bare hands? Probably throw in a bit of forced sterilization at the same time. Might as well sterilize the whole family, can’t be sure the kids won’t inherit the same fecundity.

      Yes something well worth dreaming about. Not.

    • Kagehi says:

      Or, we could just stop destroying new land, by plowing it into fields, “Urban” communities, and shopping malls, and have everyone move into big cities, where, for some odd reason the replacement rate is like 2.5 children, as apposed to places where there are almost no cities, where its often 2-3 times that… Nah..

    • Chris Harper says:

      I have always found it fascination how so many malthusians just plain don’t understand the type of society it would be necessary to build in order to implement their preferred policies.

      Forced sterilisations , jail time for loving your kids. Totalitarian government in order to implement it…..

      Nice proposal you got there chum, just don’t try and implement it anywhere near me.

    • George says:

      This is of course a straw man argument.

      Sustainable population does not require genocide / mass murder or forced sterilisation (as you well know ).

      It can be effected through access to family planning, education and an understanding of the limits to growth that are so obvious ( when living on a finite planet ).

      In fact the population is already stabilising as women have access to education and choose to have smaller families.

      The real catastrophe here is to exceed Earth’s carrying capacity. We cannot bargain with nature.

    • Chris Harper says:

      I’m sorry, but the only straw man is the one you are constructing. I am well aware that population is showing signs of stabilising, even to the point of exhibiting socially catastrophic decline in some regions. Wealth, education, choice – all these contribute to it. This is why I feel such contempt for the control freak demands of people such as Mallo. He was quite clear, he wants a globally enforced law dictating peoples reproductive rights, regardless of whether such a law is necessary to achieve his ends. In fact, for so many of these people I have dealt with over the years, the control of other people is the aim, regardless of the effectiveness of that control in achieving the stated ends.

      I was addressing not population, but the implications of the nasty little law which Mallo was proposing. And the global totalitarian tyranny which would be necessary if it were to be implemented.

      If you wish to criticise me feel free, but please do it on the basis of what I said, not on what you would have liked me to have said.

  112. Petri Leinonen says:

    Sorry to say, but I found very little “analysis” in your speech.

    One of the biggest problems of this b/w -GMO “discussion” is the concept of agriculture and agroecology. Our modern agriculture in industrialized world is what free access to mineral fertilizers and pesticides have enabled. Highly mechanized, rational (from labour use point of view) monoculture agriculture.

    If and as present GMO development is to develope or heal this kind of agriculture, it may work well in a short run. But, at the same time, it depletes resources from other tracks and ways of agricultural development, which in a long run certainly would be more sustainable.

    Personally, I am not against genetic studies. But genetic modifications are only a small piece of solution “pallette” for future agriculture. The problem is, that public funding is diminishing and commercial increasing. Crop rotations, basic agroecological research etc. cheap or free methods to improve cropping systems do need public, non-commercial funding, since a single company is not able to create income from these technologies. Whereas from a common point of view, this would be most desirable.

    I do wonder, that you, having political and social studies in your CV, consider agricultural development just as choosing a toolbox for the work. And that organic and GM would exclude each other. Maybe your earlier career as frankenfood-alarmist has not been based on any science whatsoever. But the science in your 180 degrees-turn is not convincing, either.

    Petri Leinonen

  113. Julian Flood says:

    Mr Lynas,

    Sorry isn’t enough. Repent, yes, but also do something practical to repair the damage you have done. Maybe a photocall with that cream-covered sceptical environmentalist man, handshakes, front page stories, would go some way to expunge your error.

    Then you could start reading up on climate science — more subtle this, because you won’t be able to reach for a consensus as a security blanket. As you read you will be appalled at the poor science, the opinion masquerading as fact, the advocacy, the entrenched positions, the certainty and the messianic quality of the opinion formers. It’s just like GM in that everyone is so certain whichever side of the argument they are on.

    Good luck.

    JF.

  114. Mikael Fodor says:

    Very disappointed in the people who respond to the man’s honesty with suspicion. Perhaps if you all could be as honest as him and go out and do the science then you’ll learn too.

    Someone mentioned looking at the world around you to get the evidence you need. But that’s exactly what science does, but it takes away all you intuition and gut feeling and gives you raw data. If the data don’t fit then you are either wrong or you collected you data inaccurately. The evidence shows GM is safe, and in fact VERY important for feeding the numbers of people who live on this Earth. The sooner some of you realise this the better. But to read this utter trash about the man being paid off by GM companies to make a U-Turn is typical.

    I’m sure you all love Jesus and homeopathy as well. I mean for goodness sakes grow up! For all our sakes.

    • Katy Richards says:

      Certainly Mark’s speech smacks of a born again Christian, a little too zealous, which may be why some people view his statements with suspicion.

      I, on the other hand, view them with suspicion because his ‘science’ is just plain wrong. One example is that he refers to ‘gene flow’ in relation to genetic interchange between species. I would love him to show me the evidence for this.

      Repeatedly the statements are made that these plants are ‘safe’ but as we all know they have not actually been around long enough to be certain of that – yet.
      The French have carried out trials on mice showing an increase on cancerous tumours when fed GMO material. The trials may not have been as rigorous as they should have been but still…?
      In America where the crops have been grown for a longer time pests are now appearing that are resistant to the pesticides. The manufacturers blame the farmers.
      Some beneficial insects appear to be affected by the pollen of the gmo crops and are not reproducing.
      There are more instances of discrepancies which you have to search for – but, of course, you won’t.

    • J.C says:

      I’m a biochemist by training, so I’d just like to pick a couple of holes in your comment. Firstly, gene flow definitely does occur in nature. The most common method is from viruses, which when they replicate, occasionally take chunks of genetic material from their host with them. These can transfer to other species. It probably doesn’t happen very often in humans or mammals, because the immune system happens to track them down, but it’s fairly likely to occur in plants. Other examples are the formation of modern wheat, which is a fertile hybrid of two different grasses.

      Secondly, if a trial is dismissed as “Not rigorous enough”, by and large it means that the conclusions it generates will be wrong, or at least are irrelevant. This is because we have to rely on statistics. If you’re trying to establish, say, a 95% likelyhood of a correlation between being fed GM food and having, say, a 0.1% increase in tumor development ( I use a very small number, because higher rates would have been noticed by now as a clear effect in humans, as we regularly tease out factors higher than this in medicine) we need to use a HUGE number of mice. Off the top of my head, I’d say that if the trial you looked at used less than 2-3 hundred in the non control groups (that’s maybe 4-6 hundred or a thousand total, depending on experiment). If it’s less than that, the conclusion drawn in either direction is faulty.

      Your final point is correct. Pesticide, like antibiotic resistance, is a serious problem. However, GM technology can be used for vast amounts more than pesticides. If we let the technology get off the ground, possibilities include things like the fantastic golden rice project, which, if it’s not stalled by the recent setback, could save the sight of thousands of malnourished children, to tomatoes that clear salt from areas flooded by sea water, to poplars that remove heavy metals from the soil. It’s a fantastic technology, and one that has the potential to improve human lives for ever.

    • Glenn Ashton says:

      Oh, starry starry eyes – nothing like someone in the industry for an objective take. Not.

      Golden rice is a complete side take and indicates precisely what is wrong with the thinking behind GMOs and the whole reductionist argument that we need technology to solve problems caused by technology. The real solutions to VitA shortages is a proper mixed diet, with green veg, eggs, etc, not some miracle rice that remains a long way from proven. Even the new golden rice requires consumption of significant quantities of rice when it would be far better to just add turmeric, green veg or other components of a balanced diet.
      The real problem is that most people cannot afford such a diet. GMOs were going to solve that too according to the hype. Instead things remain the same, 20 years in on the experiment. In fact increasing amounts of GM maize in the US go to ethanol production, not food.
      The real challenges are inequality, poverty, unequal food distribution, poor food transport, storage, etc. These are far more relevant challenges than actual production. We produce plenty of food yet waste vast quantities rearing meat for an obese developed world, and an increasingly obese developing world.
      It is not the technology we must change, it is the model that is at fault.
      Biotech (not just GM technology – a narrow aspect of biotech) may provide some answers but as the IAASTD study says, GMOs are not key to dealing with the real challenges.
      As usual the debate has devolved into the usual predictable squabbles and fails to deal with the real issues at hand. Scientists yet again show themselves to be poor discussants of the larger realities outside the lab or their narrow field of expertise.
      ho hum. And so it goes…

    • You mentioned the benefits of rice containing the precursor for Vitamin A and indeed such a development, all things being equal (no adverse effects) would be (is) a magnificent achievement. One effect sighted for the previous green revolution which started in the 60′s was that while yields increased as much as three times, the vitamin and mineral content per kg of grain decreased markedly leading to vitamin and mineral malnutrition (the exact opposite of golden rice). There were many other ‘down-sides’ to this green revolution and we will see the same problems with the coming one plus a few that are peculiar to gene splicing. I am not against GM technology as such but am very suspicious of technologies that are put in the public sphere without adequate testing so that the companies in question can make a buck. When I see the way Monsanto has treated people growing organic rape seed when it was Monsanto that contaminated their crops (Berny Schmeitser (sp?)) I am equally suspicious of all their activities.
      http://mtkass.blogspot.co.nz/2009/02/malthus-pyramid-schemes-starvation.html

    • OrchidGrowinMan says:

      Schmeizer was a crook. Look it up. He was just a crook with good PR.

  115. Barry Woods says:

    perhaps in 5-10 years Mark will be reconsidering his position on climate change – ie that perhaps just maybe CO2 is only a minor driver of climate change and not a primary driver of catastrophic global warming, and the assumptions of high feedback, etc is just wrong)

    The Met Office (very quietly) seem to be downgrading their temp projections… (what no press release?)

    http://i46.tinypic.com/123147s.gif

    https://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/major-change-in-uk-met-office-global-warming-forecast/
    (Prof Richard Betts, Met Office, Head of Climate Impacts, IPCC lead author makes an appearance in the comments)

    All the ‘tricks’ that the environmentalists have performed with GMO they have repeated with spades for AGW, not least denigrating people.

    Mark has said Deniers – Halls of Shame are shameful, yet the denigration of sceptics continue, the latest with some prof saying deniers should be executed, listing those in the Desmogblog ‘denier disinformation database’ as those on the list – Bjorn Lomborg of course being one of them (and he only ever disgreed on policy anyway)

    and ABC presenters and Prof Lewandowsky equating/linking sceptics with pedophiles. Meanwhile, of course China and India have over 800 EXTRA new coal fired power stations planned between them, whilst millions of UK citizens end up in fuel poverty.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/20/coal-plants-world-resources-institute

    Why not let UK pensioners have 20GW of cheap coal (or shale gas), vs the 1400GW planned in the non-kyoto countries? which will make not the slightets dent in global temps, etc.

    When in China’s case Per Capita emissions are now surpassing the EU’s and even will broach historic emisions very soon. (and match America, per capita aswell)

    if by 2020 we have minimal warming, or the plateau continues, or even a slight fall in temps, we will have further evidence that climate sensitivity is on the low side, and model projects have ran to warm.

    That said, I’ve an invite to the Met Office to see Richard Betts, would Mark like to come along with me, to keep things interesting?

  116. Robin says:

    Good writing with some compelling points.

    Unfortunately I’m not overly familiar with the criticisms against biofoods or with the evidence debunking the criticisms so the short summary you give of the actual reality of the situation aren’t doing much to enlighten me.

    I have to echo previous commenters in asking for sources for these claims. Or of anyone knows of a good source to explain the criticisms against biofoods with an explanation of scientific evidence around the issues, please do share.

    I agree that saying ” for sources, please buy my book” is just not acceptable. Science needs to be open access. Similarly I don’t particularly like your suggestion that good science is only in prestigious journals. Peer reviewed journal articles can be manipulated a fair bit – read Bad Science or Bad Pharma.

  117. Ewen says:

    Hi Mark,
    Re: Irish study that is currently ongoing, the cisgenic potato that we are studying was not developed by us but was developed by Wageningen University in The Netherlands through their Durph project (www.durphproject.nl). Also Teagasc were not taken to court but rather it was the regulatory agency who awarded us the license who were challenged and the case was not successful. Lastly, our work is but a part of a much larger EU wide project, termed AMIGA, which is tasked with researching the impact of specific GM crops on the environment. The goal of the Irish component is to evaluate the impact of the cisgenic line on soil biodiversity and critically on the blight organism itself to see how it responds to such strong sources of durable blight resistance.

    Thanks
    Ewen
    Teagasc

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Thankyou for the clarification and apologies for the conflation in my speech. Can you tell us whether you are continuing the outdoor trials then, and what the likely timescale might be for full commercialisation in the EU? Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    • Ewen says:

      Yes. We intend to complete field studies in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

  118. Wade Morris says:

    This is worth reading. I would just caution that there are no short cuts in this world. Some of the GM seems worth reconsidering and there are many compelling arguments here. However, the reality that it will not be easy to feed the growing world population does not mean we should necessarily take the “easier” path of modifying plants with genetic manipulation. History is full of technologies with unintended consequences. I’d hate to find out after its too late that we have created something that is harmful and beyond our control.

    The point …all options should be on the table but we should wisely tread very carefully with the journey into GM. We could end up in a place from which we will want to return but can not.

    • David Flint says:

      Wade, I agree that all options need to be on the table. But the GM option won’t be on the table – ready for use – when we need it unless we do the necessary R&D. Crop development is slow even with GM so we need to put more money in and ensure that the antis stop destroying research sites.

  119. Sum Yun Gui says:

    It takes a strong man to admin he is wrong. To admit he is wrong, has been for years, has passionately argued his point and knowing that he will be ridiculed and abandoned to saying so… well, that’s quite a thing. You’re a brave man….

  120. HR says:

    Dare I say you sound like a Skeptical Environmentalist!!!

    Now all you need to do is to look at the sources of certainty underlying your assumptions about the causes of climate change.

  121. Bob Phelps says:

    Most of this discussion is about commercial products, not science! On my visit to Monsanto’s world Headquarters in St Louis Missouri USA in 1988, company executives told me a genetic manipulation (GM) revolution would soon dominate world farming and food production. I saw their research into:
    • injectable bovine growth hormone (BGH) to increase milk yield from dairy cows;
    • crop plants that make their own Bt insect toxins to kill some caterpillars; and
    • Roundup tolerant crops, able to survive being sprayed with the potent weed killer.

    These products were launched in 1996 but the company also promised higher crop yields; nitrogen fixation in grains; leaner, more productive animals; salt and drought tolerant crops; longer shelf life, healthier foods; and much more. They still do but no such GM products exist now. US farmers still grow 45% of the world’s commercial GM broad-acre crops – soybean, corn, cotton, canola and sugarbeet – with just the Bt and herbicide tolerance traits. And BGH (now owned by Eli Lilly) is approved for use only in the USA. Canada rejected it after Monsanto was accused of trying to encourage officials to make a favourable recommendation. Most GM products go to animal feed and biofuels as people don’t want to eat them.

    Though GM is useful in epigenetic and genome research, the commercial GM product juggernaut stalled long ago. The promised traits depend on many genes interacting and these relationships can’t be cut-and-pasted using crude GM techniques. As the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO Plant Industry) Dr Richard Richards concedes: “GM technologies are generally only suitable for the single gene traits, not complex multigenic ones.” And Dr Heather Burrow, former CEO of the Beef Co-operative Research Centre, says: “… hundreds, even thousands, of interacting genes control important production traits like growth rate, feed efficiency and meat quality – not the handful that researchers had originally believed.”

    In Australia, the Gene Technology Regulator licensed herbicide tolerant GM canola in 2003 but state bans based on market uncertainty kept it out of NSW and Victoria until 2008, and WA until 2010. Elsewhere, Australia remains GM canola-free to this day, just like 160 other nations and dependent territories. GM is not a global industry.

    Clean, green, GM-free farms and foods give Australia a huge competitive advantage over GM producers like Canada. Strong demand for GM-free canola has ensured premiums of up to $50/tonne since 2007. Last season, Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) analysis found GM canola was $150/hectare less profitable as GM growers paid GM seed royalties, used brand-name Roundup weed-killer, and had extra segregation and transport costs to the few GM silos. Roundup Ready GM canola was officially claimed to be about 8% of the crop.

    GM canola is also a contamination risk. Tasmania has monitored GM canola trial site contamination since 2004 http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/webpages/cart-6795×9?open And West Australian organic grower Steve Marsh lost his certification after GM seed blew over his fence. Roadside contamination is widespread too. Percy Schmeiser’s case is not unique: http://tinyurl.com/amdng6p

    The GM giants use patents on seed to own and control the global food supply. At the Patents Office they say that cutting and pasting a single gene makes their seed an invention, but at the regulator’s office say GM is just an extension of traditional breeding and need not be specially assessed or subject to the Precautionary Principle. The companies should not be allowed to have it both ways.

    Monsanto (the largest commercial GM and conventional seed company with around 27% of the global market) retains ownership of its GM seed under its contracts but transfers liability to GM growers. Farmer Protection laws are needed to make the GM industry automatically compensate any farmer hit by GM crop contamination, without going to court.

    The burden of proof that GM foods are safe to eat rests on their patent owners, not regulators or the public. Scientific American (August 2009) and Nature Biotechnology (October 2009) report that GM companies withhold seed from independent research and adverse findings are censored.

    Even so, published papers show some GM soybean, corn and canola harm experimental animals and may pose health risks to people. And industry does not contest some of these research findings. For instance, the Australian National University found CSIRO’s GM field peas, containing a gene from a bean, provoked immune and inflammatory responses in mice (Prescott, et. al., J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005, 53, 9023-9030). Similarly, the Brazil nut gene in soybean provoked allergic responses in susceptible humans. The appropriate response is more research on GM food safety to resolve these uncertainties, not vilification of scientists.

    GM crops can’t deliver on their false promises of plentiful food and fibre. But their empty claims take research resources away from sustainable farming and food production systems based on healthy soils. These are needed to feed, house and clothe everyone well, in perpetuity. With oil and phosphate reserves diminished, land and water scarcer, and global climate changing, we must begin the transition from industrial agriculture to ecological farming systems as soon as possible.

    GM is a dud only propped up by subsidies such as the US Farm Bill. let’s move on!

  122. Bob Phelps says:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8594427

    N Engl J Med. 1996 Mar 14;334(11):688-92.
    Identification of a Brazil-nut allergen in transgenic soybeans.
    Nordlee JA, Taylor SL, Townsend JA, Thomas LA, Bush RK.
    Source

    Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 68583-0919, USA.
    Abstract

    BACKGROUND:

    The nutritional quality of soybeans (Glycine max) is compromised by a relative deficiency of methionine in the protein fraction of the seeds. To improve the nutritional quality, methionine-rich 2S albumin from the Brazil nut (Betholletia excelsa) has been introduced into transgenic soybeans. Since the Brazil nut is a known allergenic food, we assessed the allergenicity of the 2S albumin.

    METHODS:

    The ability of proteins in transgenic and non-transgenic soybeans, Brazil nuts, and purified 2S albumin to bind to IgE in serum from subjects allergic to Brazil nuts was determined by radioallergosorbent tests (4 subjects) and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis (9 subjects) with immunoblotting and autoradiography. Three subjects also underwent skin-prick testing with extracts of soybean, transgenic soybean, and Brazil nut.

    RESULTS:

    On radioallergosorbent testing of pooled serum from four subjects allergic to Brazil nuts, protein extracts of transgenic soybean inhibited binding of IgE to Brazil-nut proteins. On immunoblotting, serum IgE from eight of nine subjects bound to purified 2S albumin from the Brazil nut and the transgenic soybean. On skin-prick testing, three subjects had positive reactions to extracts of Brazil nut and transgenic soybean and negative reactions to soybean extract.

    CONCLUSIONS:

    The 2S albumin is probably a major Brazil-nut allergen, and the transgenic soybeans analyzed in this study contain this protein. Our study show that an allergen from a food known to be allergenic can be transferred into another food by genetic engineering.

  123. John Fryer says:

    Bob Phelps gives some commercial reasons why GMO food can be bad in the long term for farmers who choose the false promise of better profits.

    His 1988 visit shows well the over-hype of what GMO food companies promised. Propaganda or was it already known to be LIES?

    Sadly the USA government bought into this and have propped up the GMO food industry far too long to the detriment of consumers around the world;

    The science of this type of food has been proved again and again to be playing with fire for reasons difficult to explain in less than a huge book.

    The research of Professor Seralini cost millions of euros/pounds/dollars involved hundreds of animals and committed research by teams from around the globe for years.

    The denigration of this excellent research as flawed shows the kind of propaganda witnessed first hand by Bob 25 years ago.

    Prof Seralini looked at one GMO crop out of thousands approved and in development. The world has been eating this food for more than ten years.

    Most of this GMO food is eaten in the USA.

    The health of this country has dropped from top or near the top to the bottom or near the bottom of many advanced nations. Due to GMO or other reasons will be a 100 years in the proving if ever. But surely reason must take over eventually.

    If we assume Seralini and many others are correct it will be a very difficult, long and maybe impossible job to right the wrong of inserting for example E Coli into GMO foods and possibly be at the root of why harmless varieties of E coli found by the kilogram/pound in our bodies are now being threatened daily by substantially equivalent but deadly pathogens that can damage our guts, cause our digestive/excretory system to be liquidy and abnormal. and worse many around the world are now dying in droves or becoming ill from possible GMOd E coli.

    Cynically the giant food industry blames not itself but the small food producers rapidly going bust under false accusations. Regard the current economic situation in Spain not helped by false accusations of contamination of cucumbers, tomatoes et al.

    The GMO food industry controls most of the worlds food, is mostly in the USA and consists of a handful only now of companies.

    I remember in mid 19th century UK the failed efforts to stop monopolies taking over and many such huge monopolies eventually imploded (the UK car industry for example).

    Monsanto has endured financial hardship from its expediotion into GMO and probably stays afloat by government subsidies and money from its useless patents. One case cost the patent breaker more than 1 000 000 000 dollars reminding us of the South Sea Bubble? Money not from GMO but from EMPTY promises of ELDORADO and delivering more like ARMAGEDDON?

    Financial support for GMO does make long term commercial lunacy.

    After nearly 50 years it is surely time for the GMO companies to make profits or allow proven safe foods to return?

    The start to GMO soya decades ago was a cynical attack on the very people who regarded chemical farming and hormone treatments of animals so repulsive.

    Today soya which is mostly now GMO has been shown to have changed from a safe, secure and good food (non GMO soya/soja) to one with dozens of bad health effects in the short and long term (GMO soya/soja).

    Blanket accusations are always bad but again Bob shows peer reviewed accurate proof of at at least one GMO soya variety and why it is bad for our health.

    GMO soya is the staple diet of ALL or most USA children arguably now with the highest amounts of brain disorders shwoing up within 3 years of an almost exclusive GMO soya diet.

    Proofs are never possible but even the CDC and government/state figures show exponential rise in autism and similar ills which cover a huge range from virtually no effect to handicapped for life and needing an army of human supporters.

    In the pre GMO days most of us had never even heard of autism. A rare illness studied by one or two doctors most of whom had the same wrong ideas of causation (we dont know and dont blame us) that make us reflect on the brain cells of GMO proponents.

    Is it logical to assume that giving children decent food and holding back from lots of medical interventions is good for them or should we continue with ramming GMO food into them alongside lots of toxic drugs whenever there is a suspicion of a sore throat et al as in 2012?

  124. Bill Young says:

    I was lucky enough to be in Oxford and hear Mark deliver his paper. It was outstanding and it answered any doubts I had over GM’s and confirmed my organic opinions. Mainly because itwas so creditable and delivered by someone who is totally independent and has no axe to grind.
    To me the GM debate is now over – let’s move on as we need the technology to feed the world.

  125. Adam Smith says:

    Man, you most be an idiot or someone is paying a lot of money to defend GMOs…

  126. John Fryer says:

    Scientific proof is totally impossible for most things but there is a lot of ignorance and heaven forbid that I am pushing anything.

    Basically nobody here has the power to do anything but at least the ideas need floating so that those with power can listen or ignore.

    Someone commented about E coli and the change from safe to lethal. And of some spurious site that proved this was nonsense.

    My science education started well well before GMO days and books still in my possession do show the harmlessness and the essentialness of E Coli and in a text suitably academic and comprehensive.

    Most people now seem to think E Coli is harmful and for over 200 types it is now harmful where before it gave at most a stomach ache at worst.

    I cannot understand how any blog can dispute this radical change in what is an essential human gut bacteria.

    100 per cent proof of the origin of E Coli harmful species on GMO manipulation may be possible if research and money was available but if there is work on this I do not know of it. But considering every university and most schools now have biotech departments and most do change the nuclear structure of this once benign species by splicing anything and everything to it it is no wonder to me that there are now 200 lethal strains.

    Why only 200 I ask myself?

    There is one very interesting research project on E Coli that has mapped natural changes to E Coli but even this suffers from the disadvantage that it may have started with an unstable E coli form from early GMO manipulations.

    Having said that to date there has been in several decades only one major change in this lab species.

    E coli dates back to the start of life and has had ample time to change so why pick out of millions of years just the time when people in labs break it open put in other things and then wonder why it BITES US?

    • Kagehi says:

      I cannot understand how any blog can dispute this radical change in what is an essential human gut bacteria.

      Uh.. Because a) different strains exist in different animals, b) even not that long ago, this wasn’t a clear, or known fact, c) people did die from it in the past, but it was lumped into nonsense medical phrases, which, because they didn’t know the cause, where just called something, based on similar symptoms, and d) some food habits have changed, such as sashimi and other raw fish type foods becoming popular, intentionally undercooked beef, and the odds that you not only won’t be able to find something like a “kosher” meat market, but that you wouldn’t know one if you did. While their views on how an animal should be killed are reprehensible, their method, which the rest of the world only recently started to follow, intentionally separated beef, fish, and poultry (which is the actual strain that our bodies react badly to), and never letting bowls, knives, spoons, or anything else, to the point of not just reason, but absurdity, ever touching each other, precisely because, unlike the rest of the world, they didn’t understand why cross contamination made people sick, just that, when you didn’t do so, people didn’t get sick/die from it.

      So, no.. Its not that E. Coli suddenly got bad, its that, in the last 20 years, we have gotten a much better understanding of when people actually had it, instead of chalking up deaths as some other thing, with similar symptoms.

  127. John Fryer says:

    Bill Young, you are easily led by anyone who sounds convincing. Just do some more research. The lecture is here and doesnt convince me of anything except that the admitted lack of knowledge of GMO food continues for him until today.

    He is a politician and journalist and not a scientist. This is not to say this bars him from talking of it but does rather mean we need to look closely at what he says.

    As a journalist he claims he gets nothing for his change of views? This is niaive as many journalists have had their careers brought to an abrupt end by researching GMO food to well. Have a look at a certain Jane Akre for example whose 8 month research led to her being terminated. The threat to her career and that of FOX came from Monsanto.

    Their history is told here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ0Drb0oZwc

    The only change is a possible hardening and more cynical attiude to the human race.

    • Bill Young says:

      Well all I can say I was a floater with considerable doubts on GM’s. This is after 35 years in agriculture and included a one on one trip around Monsanto at St Louis 11 years ago. Mark convinced me on Thursday that GM’s are the way forward and all the bile and lack of scientific evidence coming out of the ant stable is just hardening my opinion. The people who are saying they do not want to eat GM’s are saying that because they are not hungry. If they were their attitudes would change. If we don’t change there are going to be a lot more hungry people out there – unless the anti GM and organic mob want to use starvation as a means of population control? Wheat yields have now plateaued off and we need to go to the next stage and GM’s are the means to do this. Well done Mark for pointing this out.

    • Katy Richards says:

      Bill, by all means be convinced that GMO will end all hunger but please do not be convinced by someone who makes so many scientific errors in his arguments.
      His speech is so full of inacuracies and half truths that it does indeed raise, for me, a question about his transformation.

      Perhaps this will clarify a few things:

      http://www.newappsblog.com/2013/01/should-we-be-persuaded-by-lynass-conversion-from-gm-critic-to-gm-proponent.html

  128. Thomas Schmidt says:

    Dear Mark,

    Thank you for taking the time to get to grips with this problem. It takes a very large person to look so critically at their beliefs, let alone stand up in public and repudiate them. I wish you luck in this endeavour.

    As a biotech researcher, I’ve always felt a deep sense of commitment to the principles I see as espoused by folk such as Norman Borlaug: a pragmatic drive to help people that positively affected millions of lives at one of the most basic levels (food being almost as basic as it gets).

    All of the people I personally know doing research into crops are motivated by a commitment to helping other people: farmers, their fellow countrymen, the world. Nearly all of them work in the public sector. So I have always felt injured by the attitude of the anti-GMO movement, one that has seeped into the very concept of environmentalism. To be demonised for trying to help people is always painful. To have it become the dominant paradigm: this anti-scientific notion that a particular technology is inherently evil and must not be used even where it can improve lives is… more so. We seem to have become resigned to it as a whole: the other side (no matter how un-scientific) has all but won. Public research leading to GM crops is now such a long, hard road that nobody but the largest multinational corporations can stomach it (something that you have already pointed out).

    There is, however, a way forward: to convince large environmental NGOs to propose (and fund) research into new crops with the explicit purpose of developing sustainable, environmentally friendly GMOs. After all, who better than skeptical, deeply conservative organizations to make sure that the much-talked-about dark side of genetic manipulation never rears its head? And who better to supervise the research, production and distribution of these plants to the less-fortunate people they so often claim to represent?

    I guess my naive wish is to see people I admire, folks who genuinely try to use the tools we have to do good (and without even the promise of good pay, at that), be given the opportunity to use their skills. It would still take a long time (the laws in place mean decades of testing), but in the end researchers and environmentalists could both get their wish: a second green revolution, with the emphasis on ‘green’.

    • Petri Leinonen says:

      I have no doubt most of the GM-researchers are do working for a better planet. And find the multinational-business-frankenfood -critisism insulting.

      What I wish to hear from these people, that they would stop defending this “not-so-well-behaving” companies (since they are also working with the techniques that they are employing as well) and clearly declare the complexity of the agricultural development. Even a slightest critisism against these socially and ecomically nasty manners of these actors would increase your credibility markedly.

      Petri

  129. Margot says:

    I’m a rural resident with a non-chemical farm in the midst of GMO cornfields. It’s interesting that this lecture is going around now, when Roundup-Ready crops have become ineffective due to weeds that are resistant to Roundup. The next generation of GMO crops will be resistant to 2,4D, which was 1/2 of the chemical called Agent Orange and sprayed on the jungles of Vietnam. It’s also a proven cause of Parkinson’s Disease and a list of other diseases verified by the Veteran’s Administration in the U.S. So my GMO neighbors will be spraying 2,4D all over their fields, planting crops that resist it. And, see, this will be happening all over the globe as more and more weeds become resistant to Roundup. I wish, as a farmer, that everyone knew more about farming and food than they know now.

  130. Karen Briggs says:

    Wow, I have never seen a comments board so full of logical fallacies in my life. The incidence of cancer is rising (is it???), therefore Bt corn must be at fault? Big cities have pigeons, and big cities have high crime rates, therefore pigeons cause crime …

    • Matt says:

      Well said! Makes me chuckle, so if something poses a risk, I.e. round up weed resistance, we will adopt an approach ( the way you describe it) more dangerous than most things in order to correct a minor problem? I don’t know where you got that from lol, but gm companies are like drug companies, products don’t just get approved because a few scientists ‘think’ it might work.

      Please don’t worry so much, personally for what ideas we have available in agriculture so far, GM (specifically Phsyn improvements) are looking to be the most impressive. To appose these ideas on scientific misunderstandings, fair enough, but to hate on them? Well that’s just incredibly glass half empty

  131. George Lisowski says:

    Mark, if I could just comment on one of your central claims regarding organic farming:
    “We also know from many studies that organic is much less productive, with up to 40-50% lower yields in terms of land area.”

    This is strongly at variance with what I’ve read: where did the figure ‘up to 40-50% lower yields’ come from? (furthermore ‘up to…’ is not very helpful wording – it only gives us information about the worst results).

    A recent comprehensive meta-analysis published in Nature paints a somewhat different picture

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7397/full/nature11069.html

    “Our analysis of available data shows that, overall, organic yields are typically lower than conventional yields. But these yield differences are highly contextual, depending on system and site characteristics, and range from 5% lower organic yields (rain-fed legumes and perennials on weak-acidic to weak-alkaline soils), 13% lower yields (when best organic practices are used), to 34% lower yields (when the conventional and organic systems are most comparable). Under certain conditions—that is, with good management practices, particular crop types and growing conditions—organic systems can thus nearly match conventional yields, whereas under others it at present cannot.”

    An earlier study published in Science, 31 May 2002 also paints a different picture
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/296/5573/1694.abstract

    “We found crop yields to be 20% lower in the organic systems, although input of fertilizer and energy was reduced by 34 to 53% and pesticide input by 97%. Enhanced soil fertility and higher biodiversity found in organic plots may render these systems less dependent on external inputs.”

    Organic yields are lower (although not as low as you imply), but energy, fertilizer and pesticide use are also lower – and this should be taken into account.

    The Wikipedia entry, which draws on a number of studies, including the above, also gives a different overview:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_farming
    “Various studies find that versus conventional agriculture, organic crops yielded 91%,[59] or 95-100%,[60] along with 50% lower expenditure on fertilizer and energy, and 97% less pesticides,[61] or 100% for corn and soybean, consuming less energy and zero pesticides.[clarification needed] The results were attributed to lower yields in average and good years but higher yields during drought years.[62]”

  132. Andy says:

    I dealt with similar non-proof activists whose damaging non -science-based claims dogged me for years in a public research setting. What I found from the constant harassing I received from anti GM activist is that they are generally ideological and completely illogical. They have no proof for their claims…everything is anecdotal, they have nothing to do and all day to do it in so they spend countless hours badgering lawsuit-fearing governments with their outright lies and fabrications and they are bolstered by an organic lobbying and marketing firm called Fenton Communications that spreads even more fabrications to a sensation driven, “cupcake” (pretty face but full of empty calories and missing brain function) type Media. Having worked in public (non-biased, science based) research on the efficacy trials of Round-up, I can guarantee that table salt has a scarier LD50. I can also attest to the rooms filled with binders of verification trials conducted under every condition imaginable to ensure safety to humans, animals, insects, water, soils and the environment in general. Monsanto’s claims had to be unequivocally reproducible and proven. None of us really liked Monsanto but their technologies were outstanding and scientifically sound.

    The sad thing is that so many people do not understand that science and discovery are fluid and are constantly improving on themselves. When I spoke at various venues, I used the car as an analogy for innovation and discovery. Maybe all the organic activists should transport themselves in the first model T on our highways. I dare say the lack of headlights, seat-belts etc. etc. might pose significant risk. Their destination might take a while to get to as well. This is the ideology of the activists’ rationale, to go backward and think of nobody but themselves.

    Keep up the good work! You need to speak to government leaders and policy makers. It is tragic the numbers of people who die from organic produced crops and not only from eating them. Copper sulphate (because it is “Natural”) is still being used as an organic fungicide in vineyards in France. Farmers and their families are being systematically poisoned by this practice all in the name of being labelled organic.

    Thank you for this…you made my day!!!

    • John Fryer says:

      Andy

      Monsanto but their technologies were outstanding and scientifically sound.

      As a person investigating ASPARTAME, I find that this product is anything but safe.

      Used as a food additive it comes with a restriction level of just 40mg.

      A cupful of this would be 10 000 timpes more than recommended.

      For a food additive of zero benefit (except for those using it to make EXTRA profit) this toxicity ADMITTED is scary;

      Further continual use means higher risks of many health conditions chief of which is Multiple Sclerosis possibly?

      No proofs but strangely decomposing to a substance known to make you blind. First symptoms of MS often this temporary blindness and may be leading to inability to walk.

      Just one example non-GMO of Monsanto products. 5they eventually saw the light and moved on or out depending on whether the current firm is a front for them?)

      Anti GMO people base their ideas on anecdotes? There are NO other anti GMO people known to me that look at the history of the worlds most dangerous experiment and the conferences that knew this manipulation could be not only hazardous but EXCEPTIONALLY hazardous.

      Take E Coli. Do you know why it was chosen to do GMO manips? Chosen for SAFETY. Today with 200 plus dangerous types (up from ZERO) this claim like the safety of GMO is a joke.

      And another bad joke is to blame non GMO food for every E coli death which is kept from public eyes except in cases where the event is too big to cover up.

      The only people I know who use anecdotes are the pro GMO lobby but most of the time they use NOTHING not even anecdotes.

      I mean to talk about todays work and the fly that had its legs growing out of their eyes is hardly good for your job prospects in GMO INC.

  133. David Wahl says:

    The wheat seed that Norman Borlaug distributed was produced by wheat breeder Orvil Vogel at Washington State University. Borlaug himself said that Orvil Vogel was as deseving as he was of the Nobel Prize.

    It is very nice that you have continued to seek a better understanding of things scientific. The most basic principle of science is understanding and admitting mistakes so that one can proceed with a more correct approach. Science is never settled.

    I am of the opinion that the global warming assertion exaggerates the effect of human production of C-O2 and does not sufficiently take into account changes in climate due to the effects of variations in the sun, especially the 22 year Hale cycle. There appears to also be an assymmetric modulation of 180 years (100 for one polarity, 80 for the other) applied to the 22 year Hale cycle. Tree ring data from the Bristlecone Pine goes back 10,000 years and is indicative of drought cycles.

    Sincerely,

    David Wahl, BSEE, MSEE, PE, Farmer and poet

    • Kagehi says:

      I am of the opinion that the global warming assertion exaggerates the effect of human production of C-O2 and does not sufficiently take into account changes in climate due to the effects of variations in the sun, especially the 22 year Hale cycle. There appears to also be an assymmetric modulation of 180 years (100 for one polarity, 80 for the other) applied to the 22 year Hale cycle. Tree ring data from the Bristlecone Pine goes back 10,000 years and is indicative of drought cycles.

      Except, we now have fairly clear evidence that trees are not always “reliable” ways to determine such things, while ice cores, sort of like rock layers, tend to be much better sources of data. Also, while the solar cycle might be on an upswing, the results seem to, based on every model used, to not be significant, especially since the earth is on the farther point from its wobbly orbit from the sun, and that, itself, also has an impact on variance, of about 1 degree. The most shift indicated by any source of data is, like 2 degrees, I think.. We have already seen a bigger shift, in a shorter time, than any other projected pattern, from any other source of data, and if we would on the closest part of the orbit, to the sun, we would be looking at an even bigger swing (and not one that would be predicted as possible). Even a lot of scientists who, like you, where previously skeptical about it being wrong, are changing their minds, and, nearly all of them that are left work for places that are payed to produce results/studies, *for* the energy industry, when they are even scientists. Most of them, are not even researcher, or scientists, but the equivalent of GPs (general practitioners) in medicine. They don’t know the specialties, don’t have access to all the data, and spend almost all their time reading weather reports, off of maps that other people make, using the same climate models they insist are not accurate.

  134. josh says:

    I nominate Mark for a Nobel peace prize!

    It’s very true that the organic movement is not based on science – it is based on marketing. They started with a grab-bag of common misconceptions, such as the natural is safe fallacy, and then re-enforced them with marketing and psuedo-science. All towards the purpose of selling higher-priced premium food.

    If people want to pay more for that, it’s their right – but allowing the ‘organic’ movement to influence regulations over other people makes as much sense as allowing Taco Bell’s ‘Fourth Meal’ marketers to have veto power over FDA dietary guidelines.

    • sis says:

      Why won’t an insect eat a GMO? Think about it. Why should we? Perhaps it is contributing to our health issues. Perhaps our cells are being fed unnatural substances and our bodies are responding to them as toxins. Why don’t you do a study on those topics next? I’d like to know!!!!!!!!!

    • Shad says:

      “If people want to pay more for that, it’s their right – but allowing the ‘organic’ movement to influence regulations over other people makes as much sense as allowing Taco Bell’s ‘Fourth Meal’ marketers to have veto power over FDA dietary guidelines.”

      Former Monsanto employees now have powerful positions in both the FDA and the EPA.
      Taco Bell is a huge proponent of GM corn.

      So what you propose as preposterous is in fact really close to reality.

  135. Phange says:

    As a scientist (a degree in biology and a medical student) I can honestly say that ignorance about GM food is extraordinary, and much of it boils down to simply not understanding what I call the “snake oil salesman” approach to pseudoscience.

    In short, it’s the kind of pseudoscience that sells “organic” foods, “ion balance” bracelets, and “Kangen ionized water” machines. They’re all bogus. Organic foods often leave a larger carbon footprint than their conventional alternatives, balance bracelets are rubber and nickel, and kangen water would have to violate basic laws of acid/base chemistry simply to create the substance it promises (and even if it did, your kidneys would undo the alkalinity through your bicarbonate system).

    The problem is there’s a whole mess of people who are persuaded by word-of-mouth, or “testimonials”, or “documentaries”. It’s the blind leading the blind. Until you understand how to read peer-reviewed literature and process legitimate statistical data, you’re not truly capable of sifting through what is legitimate and what is bogus. This is not “arrogance of scientists”, this is the flat-out truth. In the same sense that James Randi has offered $1 Million to anyone who can prove they have any manner of psychic or paranormal skill under controlled laboratory conditions for the last 30 years. There’s a reason nobody has claimed that money. I can’t tell you how many full bottles of homeopathic sleeping pills I’ve swallowed to prove my point to nonbelievers.

    • Rio says:

      Phange,

      It is our entire society today, no one knows what responsible journalism is, never mind to search for the facts themselves- most people don’t get what facts are. And that permeates our entire world, most people are spoonfed whatever point of view their favorite media outlet feeds them and they just go with it. This is something that I have understood since I was very young, and I am extremely grateful for it.

      On the topic of documentaries- I am an avid documentary watcher, I love them. That being said, like any other media source, you need to watch out for responsible reporting- while most everyone will report with some form of emotion, it is important that they attempt to report the facts neutrally. This rarely happens, of course, so my favorite thing to do is pick a subject I want to learn about, and watch three docs about it if I can. One for, one against, and one about. Usually by the end of them all you have a good understanding of what happened and what is opinion.

      One that I would strongly suggest you check out is a BBC documentary called The Century of Self, you can find it on the internet. It is a recent history piece, looking at the professions of psychotherapy and public relations, how they began, flourished, and impacted the way we live our lives today, tracing back from WW2 to near present. It is a perfect example of the butterfly effect, and while you are a scientist and probably like working with tangible things like cells and organisms, it is a great watch for anyone alive today.

  136. Tom Nunlist says:

    Mark,

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been wanting to read this article for a very long time.

    Now excuse me while I forward this to some highly vocal friends of my own…

    Go, Science, Go!

    Tom

  137. Perri says:

    I have been a natural/organic foods advocate and gardener for many years and believed just as you did that GMOs were frankensteinian, unnatural, and thereby dangerous. (Would the pig genes in my corn somehow make there way into my own DNA?) As of this reading I am going to loosen up a bit on my ideology, not just because it makes good sense to do so but, because I recently became seriously underemployed and my organic food costs are unsustainable. Thanks for the lecture.

  138. farm2me says:

    Being a democratic medium of conversation, everybody should have a say. I am in agreement with the notion that there is nothing wrong with GM if it is adequately tested (a lifetime, not just within the confines of the labs).

    Unfortunately, when somebody backs off from one’s previous statements with improper justification or because it will provide one with political or monetary mileage, it is unacceptable.

    In my opinion, prior to his talk, Mark should have visited countries such as India (BT Cotton) and COlumbia (Dole Bananas) and share these thoughts with the families who have lost their loved ones and the bread earner and get their perspective. I am sure his views would have differed from what he has reflected in his address.

    Mark, thank you for helping the masses understand the ABCs of GMOs. Please do not take them to dark ages again. Rather assist in the proper implementation of non-GMO products as well as assist in building literacy on where to be cautious in use of Organic products.

  139. Nari says:

    Labor day weekend of 1998 I became sick with symptoms I had never experienced before. I had inflamed joints all over my body, knots on the bottoms of my feet, burning patches of skin, and the only explination I had was I had eaten a lot of corn meal that weekend.
    I have a very sensitive metabolism and had suffered with severe allergies since the mid 1980′s, but I had finally gotten treatments in the early 90′s and had not broken out in hives since then. But what I had now was more than hives and more painful. Because of my history I was very good at staying away from anything that bothered me and corn was not something I had problems with. But that weekend was spent with a lot of travels and family gatherings and I was eating foods made with corn meal everyday. So when I got sick and my friend asked me what I had gotten into because I was always so careful I made the comment ” I ate my annual allotment of corn meal this weekend but corn has never bothered me before”.
    After a couple of weeks of suffering with the joint inflamtion moving from joint to joint and having to walk and work with these sore hard knots on the bottoms of my feet I finally got in to my internist. This is where I learned about GMO corn. As a matter of fact the Dr. had a copy of Time magazine with an article on Frankenstein Foods in his waiting room and I happened to pick it up while I waited. As I flipped through the pages I remember seeing a picture of someone standing in a corn field, their arms full of corn stalks and a gas mask on their face. My thought was, another crazy radical article to scare people. Then I turned the page and saw Taco Bell tacos, which I had had that weekend. Jiffy Corn Meal mix, which I had heard family member after family member say, it is a new recipe, you just use Jiffy Corn Meal mix and…… Corn chips at almost every picnic you go to. I was shocked, my own words echoing in my ears. I turned back to the beginning and read the article. I had never heard of such a thing as GMO before.
    I carried it in to my Dr.s exam room. When I showed him my symptoms and reactions, then the article and asked if this could be my problem. His response was with my alergies it definately could be. He then treated me with steroids and I was finally feeling like myself in about 3 more months. I have never touched non organic corn meal since. I only indulge every couple of years. I did try one of the main stream brands that say they use organic once and I ended up with inflamation in my joints again cursing myself for being so weak as to try to get away with eating corn puffs again. Not worth it and can not trust the labels on foods any more.
    My Dr. diagnosed it as Chemical Induced Arthritus. I can only imagine how many people suffer the side effects from these “foods” but don’t put it together with the food they are eating. We all know the arthritus increase we are having in our society where we do not have the freedom to know what is in our food because big political players are making a personal fortune from GMO’s. Even in children we are aware of the increase in these symptoms and fill people full of more dangerous drugs to releive their pain.
    Quit speaking for the masses till you REALLY know what you are talking about Mr. Scientist. Walk a mile in my shoes and others who suffer because you want to be a major player and know it all. Reminds me of Al Gore. Maybe you can sell something and make a hundred million too.

  140. Rio says:

    Personally, as someone who has been against GM foods in the past, I will say that this has made me take a moment to pause and ask some more questions for sure, which in itself is a success, however the neither side at this point is close at all to convincing me.

    Whether it is safe or not, or good or bad, at the very least I believe the consumer should have the right to know if it is in their food or not, which is something that North America, at least, is behind in. Whatever the outcome- we should have the choice. But transparency in the food production business is lacking in more ways than one.

    I plan on taking time to watch the actual video, but as of yet I have only read the transcript and I wasn’t impressed at all, without question I have learned more about the actual facts from some of the comments coming from the scientific community. The point in the conversation that summed it up for me was when Lynas replied with Monsanto’s “policy”. I read it and it does not actually state any guidelines at all that are used to determine whether to go ahead legally against a farmer or not. This is how I found what I’ve read as a whole so far.

    Mark- you are telling me that you are an expert, and asking me to believe you, but you are giving me nothing but extremely vague answers. While you have made a good case why GM could benefit the world on a whole, and why we should keep pushing forward with research, but you have barely even tried to convince me that GM is safe to eat, RIGHT NOW. From reading the transcript above, I think I have learned more about the science involved in your climate change research than the science involved with GM foods as they stand today. While another poster has made a good case that the study currently being touted as the proof that GMO is awful is definitely flawed, I haven’t been presented with any study that proves that it IS safe. I’m on the fence, and based on your answers thus far, I’m not yet sure that your book will convince me either. Although I am very interested in the subject. I’ve seen you reply to a few other people, and I was very curious to see if you would reply to me. I’m 50/50, on the fence, waiting to be converted. Link me to ONE good source that supports your argument, and I will read your book.

    Looking forward to hearing from you,

    Rio

    • Brian John says:

      Take a look at this, Rio:

      http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/lynas_school.html

      The Lynas School of pseudo-scientific environmentalism
      Twenty-two pieces of junk science from the Lynas Manifesto

    • Rio says:

      Mark, I know it might seem I am against you, based on my criticism of my speech, but I really am open minded- I know I am just some stranger on the internet, but I am being 100% honest right now. One source. It doesn’t have to be a single source that proves that GMO is harmless, but give me any one source that supports the safety of GMO technology that was not conducted by a company selling it, and I will buy your book. I will buy it, and I will read it, and if the scientific research included is as great as you claim it to be, I will tell all of my friends to read it as well. I’ll post about it on facebook and tell all my friends friends to read it.

      All I ask is for one good source- after researching a whole book it should be super easy. Even if you don’t have an exact webpage and just want me to google something. That’s cool! I have fingers! I know it might seem like an inconvenience to get one person to read your book, but if all you want is to spread the message, it would be a fairly simple ordeal- that I would greatly appreciate.

      Thank you,

      Rio Larmand

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Rio – since you ask nicely, I’ll help you out. I’ll do better than to give you one source – I’ll give you two!

      First: ‘Genetically modified plants and human health‘, from the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine – you can get the full-text online; it’s not behind a paywall unlike most peer-reviewed literature. That details most of the basic issues and has a lot of useful references for further research.

      Another good source is this EU publication detailing the studies that have been carried out with the 300 million euros of public (not corporate) funds examining GM safety over recent decades. It contains this important sentence in the introduction: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”

      That’s 200 pages long, so it will keep you busy for a while. I’ll offer you a deal – read the whole thing, and you don’t have to buy my book. Then come back and post again and tell me what you think.

      Best wishes
      Mark

    • Brian John says:

      Mark — that famous EU study is much cited. The trouble is that those studies are NOT safety studies, whatever you may think. They are studies of all sorts, and there is not a single long-term safety or toxicology study included. That much dosh down the drain, and we are no further forward on GM safety. Please be honest about this.

    • Jon says:

      Hi Brian

      See the following review of available long-term safety studies with GM. It covers 12 studies between 90d and 2years and 12 multigenerational studies.

      Hope it’s of interest.

      https://www.evernote.com/shard/s146/sh/cf877355-2c1e-49db-86db-eaa7939a4f78/068be4175d01b61d2ca7b2940b6326fc/res/6db557a0-ae67-4cf5-9bab-a7fc3a5ca953/Food%20and%20Chemical%20%20%E2%80%A6%202011%20Chelsea.pdf

    • Brian John says:

      Thanks Jon — yes, I’m familiar with this. It flags up the inconsistencies in methodology and results — and also demonstrates how many nutritional studies are flagged up — quite deliberately — as “safety” or toxicology studies. Seralini and his group are pointing the way — it’s up to the rest of the GM science community to adopt his methodology — or improvements on it — and to conduct proper long-term feeding trials on mammals. Then let’s see whether the conclusions of Snell et al can be supported — I don’t think they can, on the evidence they have assembled.

    • John Fryer says:

      Hi

      Thanks for the reference to a review which is now just over one year old. It is actually a review of the good studies done on GMO food. By good I mean they all appear to show that all is well.

      Mostly up to 90 days meaning that you can eat the stuff for 90 days with no problems.

      In fact I have looked at many of these good studies and in nearly all you can see niggles they have where bad points are in the main body of the text but not in the abstract. I cant think of any even here where the food is claimed to be better for us but only for the farmer.

      There is no mention seen by me of those scientists who have discovered more problems than benefits (many hundreds).

      It has the benefit only of listing those studies purported to show the safety but in fact as pointed out are feeding studies.

      And animals and insects arent the same as humans.

      With a trillion meals of GMO fed to us you might expect the odd human resaerch for safety and if so please tell me which one?

      My own anecdotal encounter with GMO was not good and also someone else claims muscle disorders after GMO food with both cases claiming benefit from non-GMO food.

      These two anecdotal cases actually outnumbering industry investigations on humans for over 40 years.

      Just two I looked at and found all was not well was the Brake study (one of the first) and the Sakamoto study (in Japanese!) but hardly worth explaining to those with fixed views as I would have to go through the papers very carefully again as I dont have a photographic memory now.

      Sakamoto problems for me must have come from the diagrams and charts only as my knowledge of Japanese is the same as those who see no danger in this technology.

    • Brian John says:

      oh — please not that trillion meals nonsense again……… The 90-day studies are not long enough to show chronic effects. You must distinguish between acute toxicity and chronic toxicity. Of course nobody is going to keel over and die immediately from eating some GM food in their diet. But there have been signs of chronic toxic effects kicking in within 90 days, and what Seralini has done is simply confirming the suspicions from many other studies of physiological damage / cell changes appearing after 3 months and then becoming very noticeable. We are big mammals compared to rats, but rats have traditionally been used for identifying toxic effects — and it is hugely irresponsible of the GM industry (and people like Mark Lynas) to seek to “shoot the messenger” and pretend that GMOs are harmless. They aren’t. Go to the GM-Free Cymru website and go to our Pivotal Papers section — and that’s just a small proportion of the things you might like to look at…..

    • Rio says:

      Thank you for your reply Mark, I will look this over.

      Rio Larmand

    • Kagehi says:

      “it’s not behind a paywall unlike most peer-reviewed literature.”

      Sadly, this is becoming more common. PubMed even had a fight over it recently. Its not that the people producing the science want it hidden, its that the people publishing “journals” make huge money off of having scientists, doctors, etc. all *buy* a copy, in the journal it was published in, so, simultaneously releasing it in a public accessible archive, where everyone else, including the people that don’t want to waste half their own limited research budgets, buying up searches for, and actual papers, from the paywall sites, costs the journals money they would otherwise be making. Much like the, “Music played in public in a restaurant is a performance, so if you have more than 10 people in there, you have to pay use more money to play it.”, BS that the already overly paranoia prone music industry tried a few times (screw, btw, the people making the actual music), the journals have all, recently, gotten it into their heads that everyone should pay to read it. The result is, more and more, of the original studies are buried in some pay site, and less and less is accessible to anyone else, never mind the public.

    • David Flint says:

      Come on Rio. If you care about this you can afford to buy a small book!

  141. Bob Phelps says:

    See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/20/europabio-gm-ambassadors-europe

    Biotech group bids to recruit high-profile GM ‘ambassadors’

    Leaked documents (live link) from a PR company working for Brussels-based EuropaBio claim to have “had interest” from Sir Bob Geldof; the chancellor of Oxford University and BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten; former Irish EU commissioner and attorney general David Byrne, and “potentially” the involvement of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and pro-GM science writer Mark Lynas.

    The 10 or more ambassadors will not be paid directly, but the lobbyists have offered to write, research and place articles in their names, arrange interviews and speaking engagements with the Financial Times and other international media, and secure for them what could be lucrative speaking slots at major conferences.

    “I have never had any contact of any sort with EuropaBio, nor any ‘Christopher Flores’, who seems to have written this letter. I have not been asked to be an ambassador, nor would I accept such a request if asked,” said Mark Lynas.

    • Kagehi says:

      Because.. No one, when confronted with a large movement of people that are denigrating their products, whether their own claims are true or not, would hire people to try to give them good PR instead. Next up: Dog Bites Man.

  142. Clauce says:

    Hello Mr Lynas,

    What a debate, you have to say, it challenges even the more fierce anti-OGM.

    I’am an anti-OGM (worst, I am french !!), and I am a scientist. I understand science. And I think there’s a lot other out there like me – even experts, imagine ! We are not just a bunch of sceptic idiots. So, no, the debate can not be closed just like that.

    Your arguments are very intresting, and so idealistic that we nearly want to believe you. We want to believe you because it seems OGM will be the solution to all the world’s problems.
    But that’s it. It is just a speech – a brilliant one I say – but it is IDEALISTIC, to not say simplified.

    It’s years that governements says it but it’s not true : OGM won’t save people from starvation, because starvation is a political and social fact first. And a strong one. Your ideas can work in a world where humans do not make mistakes, do not want to rule the others, do not want to make money just to make money… Like Marxism or Communism – and I don’t have to comment that.

    I would like to see you in a debate with anti-OGM : would you cope all the questions and relevant facts against OGM ? Maybe in a debate, you would add some – intresting – nuance to you speech.

    I would have liked to be in the assembly and ask you some questions.

    And my first one is : what do you do about de scientific facts against OGM ? Because, they do exists and demonstrate health and environnemental problems.

    As an environnementalist, I may be OK with the idea that OGM could be one solution to balance human activity and wildlife. As we live longer and better, we could in some way accept the damage it can causes at long term on human health.

    But can we accept to endanger the biodiversity you cherish so much ? What do you do of gene transfer between crops and wildlife ? Yes, gene transfer already exists in nature and is admitted to have a great role in evolution, but I do not have heard of any plant in wildlife that has in its genome an aggressive pesticide gene.

    You say you are for diversity and that every one has the right to choose what they eat, natural or OGM.
    But the big risk is that, some day, no one will ever have the chance to make that choice again because crazy genes will contaminate every thing.

    I’am shure you have some right points, but it has some failures and I feel it was dangerous to trash that mental food so easily.

    And I am really not shure you had the right to make the OGM choice alone.

    • LOT says:

      Je ne sais qui vous êtes, mais je souhaiterais échanger avec vous, car j’applaudis des 2 mains votre intervention dans le débat. M. LYNAS semble ignorer qu’à part le “succès” -grave à mes yeux, comme vous le soulignez- des PGM tolérantes au Roundup, aucun des objectifs annoncés par les firmes et certains chercheurs (résistance à la sécheresse, résistance aux virus,etc..) n’a été atteint après 25 ans. Les tribunes publiées dans “Le Monde” reprennent cette antienne. Plus grave, cette “conversion d’un écolo convaincu” circule à tout va, véhiculé par les “sommités” des Instituts, comme une revanche sur les adeptes des “pseudo-sciences et autres créationnistes”

    • Kagehi says:

      You don’t say what branch of science. And, one of the unfortunately realities about science is that compartmentalism happens. There is an effect described when talking about some of the more serious examples as, “The stringent and careful rules that someone applies in their own field of study are too often ignored, the moment they start looking at someone else’s field of study.”

      There are many examples of this. One of, to me, most insane ones was the astro-physicist (the guys that deal with things like black holes, but not, say, lasers) who, without consulting biologists, or even a more general physicist, about any of it, leaped to the bizarre conclusion that, because he couldn’t imagine something producing flashes of light purely by accident of the way chemistry works, it had to be “purposeful”. This, right from the start, is just nuts. But, he went one step farther than that, brought in one of the single worst “psychics” currently out there, and tried to use scientific instruments, and various scientific methods, all of which, if applied to something sane, might have been valid, to try to see if this psychic was reading the mind of the subject, by somehow “picking up the subjects thoughts, through flashes of coherent light”. :head->desk:

      Needless to say, predictably, it didn’t work. Last I heard he was still convinced there had to be some explanation for how a complete fraud conned a complete fool, other than the glaringly obvious, well known, and in the case of the psychic he picked, really bad at, magic tricks.

      Now, just to be clear, I am not saying that you are at all like this. Just that, we all have huge blind spots (I have run into a few myself, where I didn’t understand something clearly, until someone explained it in a less.. complex way), but people with scientific training have a really bad habit of assuming that 1) if they know a lot about field (a), then they can’t be wrong about their assumptions made in fields (b), (c), (d), etc., and 2) they can, and do, through out some of their own rules, when applying them to those fields, drawing conclusions without the same level of care and verification, especially if they already have an idea what they think about the subject, and no real understanding of the procedures actually being used to conduct things in that field (other than assuming that they are, loosely, similar to their own).

      As such.. Without saying what field you are in, your assertion that you are a scientist doesn’t mean anything. And, even if its in a related field, that does not, automatically, mean that you know enough about the “specific” field to make 100% accurate assessments, or that you would show the same rigor towards data from such, or even could, as someone in it. As such, when you are “out of field”, you have to be even more strict, and careful of personal bias, not “less”.

    • Clauce says:

      I don’t know when your guy lived, but he was not a scientist, he was insane.

      So Mark Lynus says he learned SCIENCE and you take him for granted. I say I’m a scientist, and it doesn’t mean anything ?

      No harm there, I see your point and you made me think of an other one about Mark Lynus speech : there is not ONE SCIENCE, but only scienceS.
      To take this big word as a dogme is dangerous.

      Sciences help society to answer question, improve our understanding of the universe and, a lot of times, our way of living.
      SCIENCE is a matter of politics, not scientists.
      SCIENCE, with its great promises, has proven in past history of being wrong.

      Let us think about intensive agriculture, center of this debate… well, pesticides and fertilisers made a “scientific consensus” in the 1950′s. “The World progress was on the march, we were going to be all so much intellignet, beautiful, life was going to be so easy, thanks to SCIENCE”.
      Let us see where we are with this 60 years later…

      Worst of all, SCIENCE when used by propaganda led human race onto terrible paths.

      Maybe one thing society has learned to do since then is to think by itself. And that is not falling into obscurantism. It’s liberty.

      Because untill now and as I said in my previous comment, Mark Lynas statement is only a speech, a succession of ideas very well built.
      But it’s surely not a scientific approach. No CQFD at the end.
      And as an ideaology, it can only be opposed to other words and other ideas.
      For now, it’s merely a dialectic exercice.

      Today, I’m still an anti-GMO. Mark Lynus didn’t convince me.
      But I’m not a sceptic and as I did in my first comment – like a good scientist – I do not refute, I ask questions. I await facts. Nothing more. I want Mark Lynus to be precise.

      If Mark Lynus has had a revelation, if he truely unravelled the myths of GMOs, let him pour his knowledge on us.

      By the way, I have a degree in biology and botany, and I am a naturalist.

    • Kagehi says:

      I picked an extreme example, because its a lot harder to explain why a much less mad one is wrong. And, no, he wasn’t insane. A large percentage of scientists still think that, despite all of the reason why such a thing is an unnecessary addition to the equations, with no predictive power, nor provides any actual answers to anything, had to have created the universe. There is a much smaller percentage of the scientific community that thinks this, compared to the general public, but they are still there. None of those people are “insane” either, but they shove everything they don’t understand well, can’t explain, or can’t be bothered to learn, into one category, and claim its explained by this non-explanation, and then go right back to the lab, and use clear, precise, careful, rules, to do their job.

      No one is 100% true to their scientific methodology, when they step outside of their own field. How far you vary from that differs from person to person, and some of them go absurdly far off the rails. Others just commit absurd errors, like projecting, against all evidence to the contrary, that there is going to, for example, be some sort of “singularity” which bridges the human brain and computers. A rank absurdity, given that you can’t even map the operation of the brain, without dismantling it on a molecular level, with sufficient precision to record more than a highly limited statistical view of what its doing. Nor, short of some sort of technology which would allow such a thing (a Star Trek teleporter perhaps?) will we see such a thing in the lifetime of the prediction they made, *if ever*.

      You still haven’t said what your field is in, but I have seen enough nonsense from people actually “in” a field, never mind, for example, an engineer, or computer scientist, pontificating nonsense about Evolution and genetics, and what they thought had to be true with those fields, to think that I have a valid reason to wonder. Heck, I have seen people get degrees, produce non-unique, but otherwise entirely sound papers, and then turn around a week after leaving college, and being hired by the Disco Institute, to rant and rave about how everything they had to comprehend to write the paper was lies and propaganda, and they could, but never actually manage to show anything, prove that the great Arkleseizure, during a bad case of… oh, wait, sorry, wrong creation story.

      But, I think you get my point. I know nothing about your background, specialty, etc. in science, but.. you have drawn conclusions that I think are not sound at all, based on evidence that a whole heck of a lot of geneticists think are questionable, and you want me to take your word for it, over a guy that at least eased his position on the subject (I doubt he reversed it 100%, but even then, this **has** happened in the past, like the guy that now works for the forest service, having concluded that Greenpeace, which he himself founded, went off the rails, and started to increasingly ignore facts in favor of dogma.

    • John Fryer says:

      Hi Yes science is very compartmentalised and it is not easy to get from one field to another.

      Having said that there are many exceptions and sadly the biggest exceptions are where scientists or even non-scientists get into power and position where they can say yes or no for example to any particular GMO food plant;

      This is the reason I believe that GMO foods are here, doing harm and no one has noticed and those that have are ignored, demoted or ousted.

      My own dispute with GMO goes back to 1971 and the worlds most dangerous experiment.

      Today those early days and history seem to have been forgotten with science fighting over the minutiae but neglecting in theory the GMO concept for feeding the world is not bad, not dangerous but a lethal one long term for those that cant adapt to dangerous foods.

      Adulteration of foods has been with us for generations but in my childhood I did think it was mostly a thing of the past.

      GMO foods (eg aspartame since 1981) have changed completely this aspect of food adulteration. GMO food is the worst case or adulteration and all the so called feed or safety as they call them experiments use only small fractions of GMO feed.

      For those humans (especially babies) where the amounts of GMO are high we are in a world with a steep learning curve except we are learning of disorders but failing to join any dots.

      Autism risng where it affects millions in many countries with not one fig of an idea why.

      With the total lack of knowledge about most illness and its true origins we must surely place GMO food and our ability to know the effects on humans as supreme amongst the dont knows of today.

      The debate here consist of two types:

      Those that know they are totally safe

      AND

      Those that know they are totally dangerous.

      Indicating a knowledge and science base so close to zero or maybe that is being optimistic.

    • Kagehi says:

      Autism risng where it affects millions in many countries with not one fig of an idea why.

      Yep.. We have no clue what is causing it…

      http://israel21c.org/news/israeli-study-finds-genetic-connection-between-autism-and-schizophrenia/

      Oh, wait, no.. That should read, the anti-vax people, and the ones conflating earlier reporting, and broader definitions, as a “huge” increase, while not bothering to check to see if there is a plausible explanation out there, are saying that.

      Sorry I don’t have the a link to the more detailed paper on what is going on there, but, in simplest terms, there is a sort of arms race between women suppressing certain behavioral traits in men’s contribution to one’s genes, and men’s contribution suppressing those from the woman. The age of the father has a major impact in his own suppressors of the female contribution, often “over-suppressing” them when below a certain age, and “under-presupposing” them, when over 30. The effect of under-suppression grows, the older the father, thus, in the latter case, increasing the odds of autism.

      More to the point, in the developed world, in the last few decades, where this “massive increase” has happened, there has also been a massive increase of men, and women, waiting until their 30s to have any kids. Hmm…

      Other articles on the genetics of it:

      http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=study+autism&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C3&as_vis=1

      This brings up specifically “scholarly” articles on it. What they all pretty much have in common is:

      1. Evidence.
      2. Plausibility.
      3. A clear mechanism.

      What the GM and vaccine connections have is.. pretty much the exact lack of any of these, but a lot of anecdotal claims that such things are the *only* causes the parents can *imagine*. Which, imho, worth about as much as 500 people agreeing that the markings on a piece of toast looks like Elvis. Correlation doesn’t mean causation, if you can’t come up with an explanation of how, and most of the stuff you claim as a “what” either isn’t actually in use (in the case of vaccines), or isn’t at all plausible, without the missing “how”.

    • Clauce says:

      Hello Kagehi,

      I had your point from top to end, and I didn’t dispute it, more, I prolonged it, because I totally agree. Sorry for using a bit of humourous sarcasm, I thought you’d get that. But that was maybe a french nuance not getting through in english.

      I am also sure Mark Lynas didn’t reverse 100% percent his position. But that is not how he stated it in his speech : “the debate is over”. And that is exactly why this debate is raging. I’d like to see some nuances.
      (And no, sorry, this change of position it’s not the same thing as the guy from Greenpeace, not the same effects)

      So had your point, don’t think you got mine – may you accord to it or not.
      I am not an expert in any field, so I am not going to be pretentious and try to comment scientific evidences here. I leave the true scientists do that. But I am a biologist, so I perfectly understand a study on GMO’s and I am capable to forge myself a good opinion on the subject.
      On top of it, I am profoundly intrested in the matter, I ask questions, I spread the word, and I like to look at it with phylosophical, historical, political and social light. Because, that’s important too as it’s not only a scientists and scientific subject.

    • Kagehi says:

      Ok. Just, in a thread like this, humor, if not clearly marked, isn’t likely to be interpreted at humor. lol And, I prefer clear data, which doesn’t have strange artifacts in it, or somewhat odd things, like trying to use the same control, across multiple tests. There is a reason his gets taken apart, while the ones done by industry isn’t. We have **all** of his data, so we know everything he did, and can question how it was done. We don’t have all of it for most of the stuff for corporations, so we don’t know what flaws there are in their own. I, personally, wouldn’t trust either, except, in science, accumulation of data is what matters, and one study is meaningless, by itself, unless backed by others. So, when you have dozens, which say one thing, and one that says something else… it doesn’t matter where the study came from. You can’t prove your case, never mind even claim one, from one single study.

      The other ones that bug me are, like the guy posting towards the end of the thread here, who says, “Anecdotal evidence shows me that autism is dietary.”… Uh, sorry, but depending on the severity of autism, it ***can and does*** improve, over time anyway. That is why its called a, “spectrum disorder”. ADHD, which is the other one he mentions, *could be* caused by diet allergies, and has been linked to some of those things, in some cases, like allergic reactions to some food colorings, common in quite a few sodas. Its also sometimes considered to be over-reported, over-medicated, or just not actually real, in some cases, because the people testing for it only see one solution to the problem, and its medical, not behavioral (i.e., they would rather try to give someone a pill, than try to convince a parent that their own behavior(s) are negatively influencing how their kid acts and thinks, that being a big no-no). Like all things genetic/behavioral, its complex. But people don’t want to hear complex, so they will a) go for simple, when ever possible, even if wrong, and even b) convince themselves that something has improved dramatically, rather than admit that its minor, or normal improvement. It derails any attempt to really understand what is going on.

  143. Brian John says:

    I don’t think I have ever before seen such a stream of junk science as that in Mark Lynas’s talk. Time for a reality check. Please take a look at the following:

    http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/lynas_school.html

    The Lynas School of pseudo-scientific environmentalism
    Twenty-two pieces of junk science from the Lynas Manifesto

    ….. and please read the references too. Thank you.

    • Jesper says:

      I read through the link you posted, and I will restate a point I made somewhere above. None of what is in there is an argument against GM technology. It is arguments against specific uses of it (such as round up and bt), but this has nothing to do with the technology. It is the equivalent of saying that we should no longer use hammers for anything because they can be used to attack people or it is possible to hit the fingers holding the nail. I would love to see/hear someone come up with a coherent biologically sound argument against the technology itself that you and others seem to want to deny the world. Business models and specific uses are one thing, and you may or may not like them, but lets not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    • Jesper says:

      …and please look at the Schmeisser case and court rulings again. You will find a very different story to the one you suggest if you look at the court rulings.

    • Brian John says:

      As I recall, the court rulings in the Schmeiser case hinged not on whether Schmeiser had suffered harm (he clearly had, both in terms of his personal freedom and economically) but on whether patent infringement in Canada took a greater priority in law. They decided that patent protection took priority, demonstrating that the law is sometimes an ass.

    • Jesper says:

      As I read it, he did have accidental spread of transgenic crops into his field, (although it would be interesting to know why he used roundup elsewhere on his farm to control weed). However, what he was found guilty of was deliberately collecting seeds specifically from the round up resistant plants and sowing them again the next year, leading to almost completely using round up resistant plants. Had he not specifically and deliberately selected these plants to collect seeds and sow from, he would not have been convicted of anything, because it would be deemed accidental. However, by his actions he allowed himself the option of using round up on his crop should it become necessary. That is using the invention as it was put. He paid no damages or court costs for Monsanto.

    • Brian John says:

      That sounds very much like the Monsanto version of events. Knowing what I do about Monsanto, I am not inclined to believe it.

    • Brian John says:

      Jesper, I fear you haven’t read that very carefully. GM is highly complex, very time consuming, and doesn’t work very well. There is a huge failure rate. And it also seems to do something to the plant genome that triggers toxic responses. Why should anybody want to bother with such a rubbish technology?

    • Jesper says:

      I read it fine. Creating GMOs actually isn’t that difficult in itself. You are right that there is a big ‘failure’ rate, in the sense that there is position effect and such like that influences the expression level and pattern of transgenes. This is also why a lot of lines are tests before you move on to the next stages of selecting lead products which are then further tested and characterised. These things takes years, but are much quicker and more specific than introducing similar traits with conventional crosses. This is one of the reasons they are attractive. But even if it was a highly complex procedure, should we never do anything just because it is complex?
      Finally, you did not address my point about an argument against GM other than the use of certain genes.

    • Brian John says:

      GM crops do not appear to be safe to consume. Do I make myself clear? I will continue to believe that unless and until we see independent long-term toxicity studies completed — which the GM developers will fight tooth and nail to prevent. Can you quote me a single long-term safety / toxicity study that demonstrates safety? Apart from the recent Seralini study, that is. The one that got the full “shoot the messenger” treatment. If you didn’t like what Seralini found, go away, do the experiment again, and then come back and argue with me.

    • Jesper says:

      You make your position very clear. That, however, does not necessarily make you right. Even if Seralinis findings are right, and I seriously doubt they are, as he, like the industry is accused of, also has not released his full dataset and allowed independent examination of his data, this is only an argument centering on round up. It has no value at all when looking at other transgenes. In order to show an effect of the technology of creating GMOs itself, you would need, as a minimum, to have several different transgenic crops in there. Also, as I understand it the animal model that was used have, under normal circumstances, a vey high, ~70-80%, tumor development rate, so really, the control group with I think around ~20% cancer rates should have alerted them that their findings were unsound. If the control fails, as it did in their experiment, the whole experiment becomes unsound and you will have to do it again.
      Anyway, unfortunately I am not in a position to do a study such as the one both you ands I would like to see, although do different reasons. And I am still missing an argument against the technology itself. If anyone has one, I would still love to see/hear it.

    • Brian John says:

      Nobody ever did a perfect experiment. the criticisms of the Seralini work are disingenuous and manufactured as part of a coordinated campaign of vilification. Seralini has answered every single point thrown at him. If his results are deemed flawed, every single industry study purporting to demonstrate GM safety is even more flawed — most were looking at nutritional equivalence, not safety.

    • Kagehi says:

      Both failure rate and toxicity are likely a result of immature tech, not the tech itself. First off, we are not building a genome from scratch, we are inserting a gene into something, without replacing some of the stuff already there. Obviously, if some small percentage of the population is allergic (and lets be fair here, the truth is, its a small number, despite the claims otherwise), then introducing some things to a different plant could cause a reaction, simply because, maybe, the person in question never ate the source plant before, or ate it only in much smaller amounts. You could also get a sort of.. amplification effect, maybe. If you are like 1% allergic to food (a), but not enough to bother you, and 2% allergic to food (b), but, again, not enough to be a problem, eating both at the same time might make it 3%, or more, allergic.

      But, hundreds of millions of people are eating this stuff, and, to be frank, other than a large percentage who are radically changing their diets (and, yes, there are enough differences between, for example, gluten free and wheat product foods, that its not just the gluten you are taking out), that the significance of removing X item form their diet isn’t identifiable. They might have already been having problems, which they didn’t know, with that specific vegetable. Or, as much as I am likely to be chewed out over saying it, there is vast evidence that you can convince your own mind to do things, within certain limits, that could result in simply mental suppression of a symptom, as a result of thinking you found a solution. As much as people like the believe otherwise ***everyone*** is susceptible to that sort of self-reprogramming. Its just harder to reprogram the head of someone who doesn’t believe in GM allergies, than it is to do so to someone that does.

      In any case, the insertion problem is… an interesting one. Optimally, you actually want to knock out the gene that is producing the wrong result, and replace it with the one that produces the right one. But, this tends to be hit or miss. You could use viral repair, now that they are experimenting with it (but this is like ***very recent***, but then, you still get a 10% replacement, or so. For, say, engineering a plant that only produces a “good” version of a gene, or enough of it that the result you want actually shows up, its like getting lucky with a shot gun, while aiming to one side of the target. For something like a disease that results in lower, or higher production of, say, a key enzyme in a person.. it might not matter if you only replaced 10% of the cell’s faulty code, the result would still be a huge improvement (say, insulin production, for example). But, this method is new, and involves basically placing markers in the virus code that “finds” the part you want replaced, and sticking the corrected copy into the viruses’, “replace it when you find it, with this”, part. Existing methods, including the ones used for GM foods, work more on the theory, “Slap this in any place you can, and hope it works when it gets there.”, since it can’t shut off code you don’t want, or replace it. Hence, the tendency for it to fail a lot.

      Of course, the fact is, the process improves all the time, and new version have less of the problems than old ones, save for the unquantifiable ones, like, “I feel better not eating them.”, which, I don’t care if I get yelled at for saying, are not more provable claims, or verified by facts, save where a real genetic disorder, like Celiac, is present, than the equally large number of people that swear they have better balance by wearing a rubber wrist band, which I could buy *identical* from China, and glue a sticker onto, for about 2 cents a piece.

      What a lot of people just don’t understand is that human health, pain, etc. are all so heavily dependent on internal feedback systems that the data to noise ration, in some cases, may be a high as 60% real effect, to 40% total noise. Worse, for things where the pain, perceived problems, etc., are within the range of the 40% noise to start with. This is precisely why absurd lengths are gone to to test placebo effects, and, sometimes, they still fail to detect fail positives. You could say that otherwise healthy people are the worst possible category of people from which to get useful information, even in scientific studies, because of this.

      There are whole categories of, what is called meta-analysis, just dedicated to figuring out what data in such indirect, often self-reported, data, is relevant at all, and just what was total noise, and, more specifically, why.

    • Clauce says:

      Sorry to say, but what we don’t like in GMO in agriculture… is precisely its use ! Nobody has ever critized the technology in itself.

      GMO is used every day in a wide range of biological study and since decade. It helps to understand how living organism work, from plants to humans, it help to track genes and understand their role, it help to understand deseases and design cures,… who says that’s wrong ??

  144. Jon says:

    I’m playing GMO bingo here:

    Percy Schmeiser (check)
    Indian suicides (check)
    Accusation that Mark has been paid by Monsanto (check)
    Seralini’s statistically insgnificant rat cancer paper (check)
    Assumption that GM wheat is in the food chain (check)
    Assertion that no independent GM testing has been done (check)
    Assumption that terminator technology has been used by Monsanto (check)
    Assertion that Monsanto don’t allow others to test their seed (check)
    Assertion that GM does not increase yield (check)
    Assumpion that all GM traits relate to pesticide tolerance (check)

    I think we have a full house……BINGO

    For me Mark outlines exactly the reasons for his change of heart in a very clear way here. The sorts of comments above are exactly the ones he is talking about when he says that if you do even the slightest bit of research you find are not actually true.

    To those raising the bingo points above maybe you should do too. Go away and really look into these issues. E-mail Monsanto and politely ask if they ever use terminator technology. Look into the yield stats from the Indian cotton industry since the introduction on Bt varieties. Read the court proceedings from the Percy Schmeiser case and find out what proportion of his crop was GM. Look at the numbers of farmer suicides in India over the years and see if there has been an increase or peak since GM was introduced.

    It’s when you actually do this for yourself that you find that the facts about GM that the “antis” seem to so aggressively repeat are actually not founded in any reality.

    It was when Mark did this that he saw he’d been misled and changed his mind. That’s why he is writing this very speech. It’s telling that so many anti-GM people seem to have come to his website to reiterate those same arguments he has researched and found wanting. The irony is that you are providing perfect support.

    Mark says:

    “I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM – even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding. I don’t think I’d ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science even at this late stage.”

    It is when you personally do that proper research you discover the lies and deliberate misleading of the anti-GM movement’s key arguments. Its a shame a lot of people are too scared of what they might find to do the same.

    Good on you Mark.

  145. Mary says:

    Mark – this speech should be posted on You Tube.

  146. Shad says:

    If GM is harmless then why spend 45 Million dollars to obfuscate it’s use in foods rather then spend it on educating the public of the scientific reality of it?

    Why lie (by omission) to people instead of just telling the science?

    Why on earth would these GM companies purposefully obfuscate truth and fact?

    Kinda weird to hear Mark blabber about how important truth and facts are when the companies he is so affectionate for do nothing but trying to hide and lie facts and truth…

    Sorry but when you spend so much hiding truth you cannot be expected to be taken seriously as a truthful source of fact…

    Is that not obvious?

    • Jesper says:

      What truth has been hidden, and where do the figure of 45 million come from? Who is lying by omission (and about what)?
      I am sorry, but no, it is not obvious.

    • Brian John says:

      Agree with that. The GM industry has made it normal practice to attack and vilify any scientist who finds anything “uncomfortable” about GM crops and foods. The scientific community has repeatedly complained about this — but nothing will change. Monsanto and the other corporations have too much to hide and too much to lose — the last thing they want is the truth.

  147. Sofía says:

    Hey you should see this video, it’s really interesting some OTHER points of view, and really ponder what you feel and think what should be the best for the planet, animals, humans and you.. I don’t think or feel this synthetic liquids are the answer—
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vznWaksdXk
    And you really have to consider (and ask why) the fact that this methods are prohibited in most of the countries..

  148. Colleen says:

    I am sorry sir but just because you deem the discussion closed is not actually very comforting to me. There are a large number of well respected scientists who have deemed that they are not safe or at least that there is insufficient evidence to show that they are safe for me to put blind faith into a man who advocated one way and then the next. It actually makes me very suspicious for such a dramatic turn around with such lame arguments.

  149. Meimi Nezu says:

    I think the brushes being used here are far too broad. There are many different types of GM, and there are many factors involved in calling something “organic”. Some aspects (and supporters) of each side are “good”, while some are “bad”. As far as I’ve been reading, the science behind each of the different factors is still being explored, and I think declaring one side or another as “better” is dangerously oversimplified and rehashes other debates like low-carb vs. low-fat vs. low-calorie diets. By now, we’ve found that there are good carbs and bad carbs as well as good fats and bad fats, and the carb vs fat debates were oversimplifying the situation and asking the wrong questions and creating misinformation that resulted in a lot of negative effects. Likewise, I think there are some good genetic modifications as well as good aspects within “organic” concerns, but there are also a lot of bad ones.

    So, the “anti-GM” side has valid scientific concerns as well. For example, http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm says, “there was a clear negative impact [...] in rats consuming GM maize varieties for just 90 days.” The science and studies are still in progress. I think science needs a lot more time and resources to figure out everything that’s involved. Living systems are complicated.

    Ultimately, both sides have valid concerns and have scientists working to figure out what’s going on. I think it’s unproductive and downright deceptive to call either side “right” or “wrong”. Dismissing the concerns of either side as “evil” or “anti-science” seems to shut down conversation, exploration, and “peer review”, and THAT is the definition of “anti-science” in my dictionary.

    I should hope that the scientists of both sides realize that they have a lot in common and are all working towards a better understanding of what’s going on with our food and of how our bodies work in general.

  150. Jim Birch says:

    Thanks for having the whatever-it-takes-I’m-not-sure to get up and admit to being wrong. It’s just about a lost art. Or a lost ethic.

    Most people, including myself, have been leery of GM but there been just about zero negatives in the last few decades to back up the scarey mythologies. Malnutrition is, however, very real and very nasty. We don’t have to go hunting for examples or harm or rely on our imaginations.

    And even if people aren’t actually starving they have a right to a good life, which includes sufficient good food. Wishful thinking ain’t enough.

  151. Mr Wolf says:

    You are all missing the point. Its not so much the GMO’s that will effect you, but the glyphosate that is used to spray the crops with. The build up of these residues in the soil is not only impacting the health of the soil which in turn affects the health of the food but it is tying up the nutrients that cannot be utilized by our bodies. (Google Dr. Don Huber for more info.)Furthermore the glyphosate is not working anymore because the plants are becoming immune, so now they are recommending using 2-4-D. For anyone that doesn’t know 2-4-D is the component used in agent orange and we all know what that stuff does. Not to mention the residues that leach into our river systems that is consumed in the form of H20. I’m wondering how much Lynas is being paid for changing his tune.

  152. Mr Wolf says:

    You are all missing the point. Its not so much the GMO’s that will effect you, but the glyphosate that is used to spray the crops with. The build up of these residues in the soil is not only impacting the health of the soil which in turn affects the health of the food but it is tying up the nutrients that cannot be utilized by our bodies. (Google Dr. Don Huber for more info.)Furthermore the glyphosate is not working anymore because the plants are becoming immune, so now they are recommending using 2-4-D. For anyone that doesn’t know 2-4-D is the component used in agent orange and we all know what that stuff does. Not to mention the residues that leach into our river systems that is consumed in the form of H20. I’m wondering how much Lynas is being paid for changing his tune.

    I would also add that chemical companies are a lot more predictable than climate change. Anybody that claims that they can predict weather is simpler than the people that believe they can.

  153. Mr Wolf says:

    I find it interesting that Mr Lynas reads his speech from a piece of paper. One would think that if he was passionate and knowledgeable about the topic he would be able to speak from the heart. I wonder who wrote that speech for him to recite.

    • Bill Young says:

      If you had been there like me you would have seen the passion Mark has. If you spoke to him afterewards like me you would realise those are genuinely his views, his speach and he is truly independent.
      I went into the conference with many doubts but have come out with no doubt that GM’s are the way to prevent mass starvation.
      What is even more worrying is the lack of constructive argument from the abti GM lobby their arguments appears to be based on a whim and not science and this has lead to a lot of bile being posted Mark’s way to make up for the lack of scientific back up in the anti camp.

    • Brian John says:

      Bill — I suspect that most of us who study GM issues are genuinely embarrassed by the pseudo-science on display. Rest assured that we (ie those who want nothing to do with GM technology, crops or foods) have not gone away, and rest assured that we know rather more about science than you think we do. Don’t patronise us. Mark Lynas, no matter how passionate and committed he might be to his new cause, has been seriously misled. His arguments are old, tired and already discredited. Please read this:
      The Lynas School of pseudo-scientific environmentalism
      Twenty-two pieces of junk science from the Lynas Manifesto
      http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/lynas_school.html

    • Bill Young says:

      Hi Brian,
      I apologise if I sounded patronising that was not my intention. All I can do is report what I saw last Thursday and in my opinion it was brilliant and is the best pro argument I have heard – well balanced and argued backed by independent science. I have had 35 years in agriculture and that includes a one on one session at St Louis, Monsanto to try and convince me as to the virtues of GM’s. I left unconvinced but Lynas has changed my opinion. Even more surprising was that there were a number of prominant pro organic anti GM activists in the audience last week and not one felt in a position to challenge Mark publicly.I have had a look at the link and you need to get someone from your camp to collate all this and launch a counter paper backed up by science. It also needs to be articulated and presented on a major platform in front of a mixed audience as Mark did but the vitrionic sound bites posted annonymously on this forum are doing little to persuade me otherwise. Why not try to get a slot at Oxford next year or at the Sentry, AIC or AICC conferences this year to present it.

    • Brian John says:

      No problem Bill — I accept your good faith here. I am afraid that no matter how well Mark Lynas might have presented his case, he did not present any sound science in the course of his lecture — he simply said that he was backed up by sound science and by a “scientific consensus” by some mysterious scientific community. Standard tactic. More fool the audience if they believed him. You ask people like me to back up our case with sound science. How many more references do you want me to present at the end of my document? PLEASE read at least some of them — I have tried to provide URLs and links where possible. My references do not come from GM industry sources or from “anti-GM” sources. Check that out for yourself. Sound science will win out in the end, in the face of endless GM industry spin — helped by people like Mark who cannot be bothered to do their homework properly.

  154. Mr Wolf says:

    It is unreal as to what big business will do. Brainwashing and propoganda, I thought was for countries that were undemocratic.

    Control the food – control the people.

  155. John Zube says:

    My objection is mainly to GM which makes plants poisonous to insects, fungus, virus and germ infections, thus not quite harmless to human beings, either.
    However, if GM foods are clearly marked as such, then the sovereign consumer can make his choice, pick his poison of his kind as well.

  156. Sabitri says:

    Mr. Mark
    Please imagine to human kind if you change one gene. You are a scientist of developed world and you know well. You know better than us with your high technology. Mr. Mark,science is not everywhere. There is tradition, culture and ethics to be civilized and world of its own. We have culture of saving seed and 80% of population in my country based in agriculture. You know saving seed is saving grains. The speech you gave may be right for your country but not for whole world. Are you warming up the world and attract attention to the world to think about GMOs? If so thats great job !!!

  157. Mike says:

    Interesting article. The pro-GMO side is definitely under-represented, which is unfortunate, because it allows some ridiculous claims from the other side to go unchallenged for too long.
    However, like others I have to question some of the hyperbole in this article.
    1) Comparing chernobyl deaths to the deaths from E. Coli infectedGerman bean sprouts.
    2) Zero-risk from GMO’s? Trials into long-term health effects only last 90 days (look up any credible peer-reviewed article testing GMO health effects). That hardly seems appropriate.
    3) Using the comparison of auto companies to GMO companies to illustrate fear of technology. Note: Auto companies don’t have a patent on the wheel. GMO companies do have a patent on the applicable genes. To rephrase a tired point – it’s not the technology that bothers a lot of people it’s how the returns are distributed.

    Some other points that would be nice if they were addressed:
    1) The specificity of GMO crops currently necessitates monocultures. Monocultures exacerbate the red queen effect. How long can technology keep up with pest adaptations before productivity is compromised?
    2) Broaden the argument beyond production when you’re talking about food security. An unethically significant amount of food is wasted due to inefficient delivery systems.

  158. ned says:

    Bt sprayed on the surface of plants by organic farmers degrades quickly in sunlight. Bt spliced into a plant gene is not exposed to sunlight. So that “Organic people use BT too!” argument gets tossed out rather quickly. Granted, since it is deadly to invertebrates, which we are not, it is possibly not harmful to us directly… but it is certainly showing signs of effecting our internal fauna. Prilosec anyone? Activia? Got IBS? Glysophate does not “break down”. On the contrary, it builds up in the soil & destroys delicate root exudates and soil microbes that are necessary for various chemical & mineral exchanges. It also “chelates” minerals, like Ca, Mg, etc., making them unavailable for uptake by the plant. (See Dr. Huber for more on that. And how non GMO plants grown in old GMO soy or corn fields show signs of disease & lack of vigor.) We have been eating RoundUp laced (it is a systemic) mineral deficient food since 1995. We are becoming Pottenger’s cats. Malnutrition based obesity is rampant. Autism is now 1 in 85. It’s not so much the icky gene splicing that’s the problem- it’s the loss of nutrient dense food from this method of agriculture. RoundUp works by supressing the plant’s natural immunity to soil borne disease. So by using RoundUp, soil microbes are killed off, root exchanges are compromised, minerals are locked up & soil borne disease is encouraged to flourish. We are turning acres & acres of soil into lifeless, disease ridden potting mix. And we are undermining the long term health & vitality of the human species by eating nutrient deficient (and RoundUp laced) food over generations….

    • Max says:

      Some thoughts and info, without trying to spark a heated debate…

      Plants are most definately exposed to sunlight internally as they rely on molecular light interception for photosynthesis. So i’m sure that bt spiced into a plant gene will be exposed to sunlight, albeit at lower amounts. Look through a leaf into the sun, light clearly makes it through.

      See in particular section 11-12 of this Material Safety Data Sheet for a common roundup product sold in to UK, not particulary readable/understandable I find, but worth a look, as it lists many of the tox studies carried out. Note animals tested on have short life spans and the intention of these tests are to replicate long term effects on a range of organisms as best is feasible.

      http://www.monsanto-ag.co.uk/publications/MSDS_Roundup_Ace_120509.pdf

      BTW its many references to ‘long term effects on the aquatic environment’ are really refering to aquatic plants. Actually some round up products are approved for use in open water courses to control invasive non native weeds for environmental benefits. Obviously the intention of the warning is to avoid iresponsible use resulting in contamination of waters with healthy native ecosystems.

      The half life of roundup in the soil is listed as 2-174 days (to save you finding the figure) so accumilation is soil will depend upon the number of applications made during the season, as well a soil type, weather, temperature etc. Ceasation of applications will result in it breaking into insignificant quantities over time. If damage to soil microbes is made as you claim, not to say you are wrong, but I can’t comment on how this can be reversed.

      See following crop restrictions below.

      http://www.monsanto-ag.co.uk/publications/Roundup_Ace_2011.pdf

      It states ‘ upon soil absorbtion the herbicidal properties of Roundup ace are lost permitting drilling of crops 48h after application’
      Following crop trials will have been conducted by applying roundup (also with 2n doses/controls) and drilling a range of crops afterwards to arrive at this conclusion.

      From wikipedia

      “Glyphosate’s mode of action is to inhibit an enzyme involved in the synthesis of the aromatic amino acids: tyrosine, tryptophan and phenylalanine. It is absorbed through foliage and translocated to growing points”

      Amazing what you can find if you read about isn’t it?
      (and honestly, no provocation intended with that comment)

  159. Matt L. says:

    It seems to me that many of the issues raised in this article are merely common sense. Too many people have confused science with politics these days and a quick look at the epistemology of science is very worthwhile when confronting these issues. “Science” is not a set of facts such as GMO is good or bad. Science is in fact a methodology. Broad statements such as GMOs cause cancer are rarely scientific. Anyone who has actually done scientific research knows that the questions that one investigates are very narrow and hence testable. Test-ability equals falsifiability. How can one falsify a statement like GMOs are bad for you?

    My point is not to come down on one side or the other on this debate. Instead I simply want to suggest that this is not a scientific debate and the inclusion of “science” in public policy has more often than not impeded science and resulted in inefficient policies.

    • Scott says:

      You are ABSOLUTELY correct. This political hack Mark Lynas knows nothing about what he is talking about when it comes to agriculture. It’s like he went from total ignorance to now just enough to be dangerous! Both his positions are wrong. He is just as wrong now as he was when he was anti-GMO.

      Sometimes I wish he would just SHUT UP and take 2 years to educate himself about BOTH sides before saying another word. Either that or let real farmers and agriculture scientists hash it out between themselves. He is actually hampering and obscuring the real science with his ridiculous talks both then and now.

  160. Matt says:

    Does Monsanto have Mark Lynas guy strung up by his balls or what? I wanna see this guy drink the kool aid first. I mean literally – Mark Lynas should go drink a gallon of Round Up, then pour another gallon of roundup into his neighbor’s ground water source.

    Chances are he won’t die, but you never know, things could get interesting!

  161. John Fryer says:

    Rio

    The review paper you cite is good in that it gives the views for the safety of GMO plants.

    http://jrsm.rsmjournals.com/content/101/6/290.full.pdf+html

    I will study this and it will take time to digest.

    But towards the end it does mention the serious concern of genes escaping and the plants designed to produce drugs would not be welcome in ones breakfast, dinner and supper meals when you are or were previously fit or like me not taken any drug prescribed by a doctor for about 30 years.

    The home for testing GMO non food plants to produce drugs et al is in Hawaii.

    All the big companies own large tracts there and they are small islands thousands of miles from any continent and especially USA.

    Both pro and anti GMO people seem to have the same dread for results and we can all welcome that drug GMO development is not in land on the outskirts of New York or Washington.

    But despite the myth that apart from those few dozen dead and few hundred permanently ill from E Coli then if drugs can escape from GMO drug plants why cant toxic E coli escape from all GMO foods which is an awful lot and you only need one escape per trillion plants to cause permanent E coli outbreaks everywhere.

    This was decided back in 1971 as a worry at the conferences looking at GMO safety.

    In 2012 this worry and danger is still omnipresent abnd doesnt get sorted by ignoring it.

    • Rio says:

      Hello John,

      I have not cited any papers as of yet, only asked for them. I too have yet to digest these.

    • Brian John says:

      Remember that that review is five years out of date, and that it is seriously biased. If people think that material from august bodies is always accurate and free of political / commercial bias, think again. The Royal Society, for example, cannot be trusted to tell the truth about anything related to GM — it has its view that GM is wonderful, and it will stick to that, no matter what evidence comes into the public domain.

    • Kent Healy says:

      The Brian John, for example, cannot be trusted to tell the truth about anything related to GM — he has its view that GM is evil, and it will stick to that, no matter what evidence comes into the public domain

    • Brian John says:

      Don’t presume to know what I think. I have no problem with GM as a research tool into how plants work, or in medical research if there are realistic and benign treatment outcomes — but I have a major problem with GM crops being pushed into the food supply when there have been NO epidemiological studies to establish their safety and when the GM patent holders refuse to allow independent scientists to conduct safety or toxicology studies and also vilify scientists who discover “inconvenient” things about their products. Once there is clarity, transparency, full access to research materials and proper toxicology testing, and if it is shown that there is no problem with GM, then I will probably change my mind. In the meantime, I do not like what I see in the peer-reviewed literature, and on that basis will continue to fight against GM in the interests of public safety. Got that?

    • David Flint says:

      There’s a parallel here with drug research. Ben Goldacre’s new book, Bad Pharma, is a devastating critique of the pharma industries’ abuse of science, trials and publications processes. I doubt that commercial firms developing GM crops are any more ethical so we need to be suspicious of their published research.

      But Goldacre shows that publicly funded research is better and that’s probably also true for GM. There is publicly funded GM research, as at Rothampstead, and we ought to respect it.

      There’s also a non-parallel. Everyone knows that doctors need drugs and the facts that some are poor and that some companies behave badly does not change this. We should take the same approach to GM crops. There may be good health and environmental reasons to reject some but GM is a a toolkit. It makes as much sense to reject everything made with it as to reject everything made with carpenters tools!

    • Kagehi says:

      You know.. I am really going to hate myself of asking this, but.. what exactly do people think the mechanism is by which, say, an artichoke, and a tomato, if you inserted a gene from one into the other (remember, its not even legal, at this point, to do the animal->plant one some people insist on bringing up), would make it suddenly toxic? I can sort of see the Bt argument, only.. I don’t exactly either, because I can’t help but think of some of the most toxic substances on the planet – snake venom.

      Snake venom is not like bee venom. Its not a single, one size fits all, protein/toxin. More often than not, its actually dozens, or even hundreds of proteins and enzymes. A few of those are even fairly precisely catered to prey species, and that they may cause a mouse to lose all sense of pain, but the same thing will cause pain in any number of other species, or do nothing at all to them. Its dangerous precisely because the mix is so complex that you are not dealing with one single thing you might be allergic to, or which might happen to match up with some cell receptor site, or which your body can’t break down quickly enough to keep it from dissolving tissue. Quite a few snakes in Africa have complexes that are primate specific, but where the “don’t feel pain” protein doesn’t work on every species of primate. There has only been one in the entire world *ever* found to contain one that works on humans. The rest if that where the only compound in them, would either do nothing to us, or not what it adapted to.

      My point? You won’t get a peanut allergy (it has quite a few different compounds in it too) from something with a peanut gene, unless the specific protein that it codes for happens to be **in the group** of proteins that cause that allergy. So.. It can’t be an allergic reaction.

      Maybe, “When they combine they become toxic.”? Only, that doesn’t work either. A lot of the stuff exists in other sources, that is kind of the whole point, in fact, that you are taking something that exists already, and may also be edible, and putting it into something that you think needs more of it. If plant A, with the gene inserted, was somehow toxic, but plant B, which already had it isn’t.. How does that work exactly. Understanding that complex compounds/proteins do not general interact, at all, in a cell, other then when being built, or taken apart, and their intermediaries are generally not reactive either. Where is the mechanism by which this happens, and how?

      The third option is even more questionable, since it implies that cooking the food, which does break down compounds into less complex chains, might create a set of simpler ones, which will combine, to produce the toxin. Well… maybe, but, you still have the same problem. It would happen in plants that already contain the same compounds, when/if cooked, along with what ever the one you plan to insert the gene into. So.. still not all that plausible.

      To quote something Robert A. Heinlein once wrote, for his character Lazarus Long, “What are the facts? Again and again and again — what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” — what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”

      I see a lot of speculation, opinion, and the mirror twin of wishful thinking, “fearful projection”. But.. the math has some serious problems, and no one can tell me the decimal places at all, especially with respect to showing not just, “This might be happening.”, but, “Here is how it is, specifically, with decimal places.” And, no, “I, he, she or it, ate something, and things where bad, therefor…”, is **not** a “how”. How requires explaining not only why it had that effect, biologically, but also, like with the case of the cows, having stomach bleeding, being as sure as you would be in a lab, that there is *no* way something else could have done it.

      The rat trial, has other entirely different problems, as people pointed out, not the least of which being that you can’t just have one small batch of unbelievably healthy controls, which defy all reason in how few problems they had, and assume that your statistics from the others where not, similarly, a case of having unbelievably unhealthy ones instead in those. There is a reason why “preliminary” studies are not used to make policy, even in corrupt systems. Because, like cold fusion, they can be **completely, and embarrassingly** wrong.

      So.. Mechanism? Other studies that show the same as the first one? Something, other than wishful thinking’s darker twin? That is all I want. Well, and people to stop lumping Bt type products in with things like Golden Rice, as though adding a multivitamin to your soup was the same as adding rat poison to it.

    • John Fryer says:

      kagehi

      what exactly do people think the mechanism

      We are here talking of why GMO could ever in a million years cause any health effects to us humans.

      Well E coli for a start is used in GMO manips. This has changed from benign to some decidely nasty forms that would actually make snake venom look benign.

      This is my own input that no one much seems to understand.

      Moving on:

      The human genome is 30 000 genes.This controls we know more than 100 000 pathways. How does it do this? WE DONT KNOW!

      But I think it is obvious that one gene has much more than ONE JOB!?

      So when we are told we have added a gene to protect it from X eg (Round up) then we have obviously been likely to cause on average several more things than this. What are these things? WE DONT KNOW!?

      Is this a concern? WE DONT KNOW!?

      This jumps over a myriad of other concerns.

      Eg PERMANENTLY turning on promoter genes.

      OK good for the GMO trait wanted so it wont go away.

      BUT here we are on more sure ground.

      DNA experts tells us one thing WE DO KNOW.

      Cancer is caused in part by GENES failing to get turned off.

      See anything to worry you when you get your next fix of Big pHARMa food?

      Seralini found cancer was a problem from hi examination of just one GMO food.

      For me it came as an absolute CERT.

    • John Fryer says:

      kagehi

      Stop lumping Bt GMO with Golden Rice where we add a multivitamin.

      We are here talking of and paraphrasing what you say.

      First thanks for agreeing that Bt is a dodgy concept.

      So adding a multivitamin is just fine!

      Well yes and no.

      Lots of people do take multivitamins good or not and they make that choice.

      We can all choose not to take Golden Rice. Its yellow not white etc etc.

      But the problem is that as more and more gets GMOd and often over and over and over then the choice of refusing GMO moves from hard to impossible;

      Would this matter if it was HARMLESS.

      Well yes actually.

      But it isnt HARMLESS.

      And is golden rice harmless or dangerous?

      WE DONT KNOW.

      Rumours of strange reactions to golden rice are rumours WORTHLESS.

      But China has globally moved quicker and more severely to autism damage to children than any other nation.

      Is this connected to GMO? WE DONT KNOW.

      I havent specifically looked at this GMO plant so cant comment much.

      But there are other ways to get multivitamins eg from Big pHARMa pills or from other foods and this is the rub.

      Some foods contain so much of the vitamin in golden rice that it would be logical to use VERY SMALL amounts of this food instead. But in the GMO food industry LOGIC is the next casuality after our long term health.

      And lets not forget it isnt just adding those multivitamins you talk of but the bacteria (E Coli AGAIN), viruses, antibiotic markers (2), promoter genes etc etc. You get these all for FREE!

    • John Fryer says:

      kagehi

      ALLERGIES

      Snake venom is not like bee venom. Its not a single, one size fits all, protein/toxin.

      your knowledge of snake venom is awesome;

      But allergies are difficult territory.

      Chemicals on the skin can cause itching as can many foods and I wonder if GMO food test are done yet??

      Eating foods can cause allergies and peanut allergy has gone from non-existent to a well known even if not yet large problem. Lethal for the VERY VERY few.

      There is a clear unambiguous reason to suspect why we are now suffering from this;

      Its not to do with GMO so wont open up more wounds.

      But just as Paul Berg got his nobel Prize for GMO work so too Charles Richet got one for his work on ALLERGY.

      While we argue if Paul did the worlds most dangerous experiment for his prize we know that Charles got his for another DEADLY experiment.

      And this is done to every USA child by the time they are 8 weeks old! And agin nothing to do with GMO so I wont go down the road any further.

    • John Fryer says:

      kagehi

      you mention cold fusion

      The chances of this being correct are about the same as getting a safe GMO food into the shops.

      Enuf sed?

  162. Nathanael says:

    That was an excellent lecture. You touched on just about every important point surrounding the whole GMO and organic debate. Since commencing my studies in agronomy, I have come to realize the importance of all these issues, and have been frustrated with those who listen to the popular opinions over the scientific. Thank you for presenting this; it was very well said.

  163. KlondikeKate says:

    So everyone arguing the GM food is bad is in complete denial of climate change, right? Or the fact that essentially every crop grown by mankind was genetically modified by man, from prehistoric strains?
    You people really are anti-science. Ignorant as well. As the world continues to heat up, fertile areas dry up, and food prices go up, people will clamor for affordable, nutritious food.
    Sad to say, but after 150 plus years of emitting the residue of fossil fuels into the atmosphere, there wont be any other way.

  164. Scott says:

    I was blown away by this guys ignorance. Just as I was blown away by his ignorance when he was anti-GMO. In a way I am glad the conventional Ag guys have him on their side now. Maybe he can destroy conventional Ag with BS like he almost destroyed organic.

    His biggest fallacy from the beginning is that organic was anti-science and stuck in 1950′s technology. That is total BS as any Phd horticulturist or agronomist can easily attest, even if they don’t specialise in organic. Funny how he says organic doesn’t produce equal to conventional, which has stagnated. Meanwhile in industrial countries modern organic has caught conventional and in many cases out produces it in food produced per acre! Organic production per acre continues to rise and hasn’t even come close to its potential!

    In fact conventional agronomy is constantly taking scientific developments from organic and adapting them to conventional agronomy. Where do you think no till came from? Where do you think Bt came from? That’s right, ORGANIC scientific advancements that conventional agronomy borrowed to help prop up their failing non sustainable system. That’s why the 2 biggest GM crops are glyphosate resistant mutagens and Bt transgenics.

    Instead of accepting no till the organic way, they took no till and added herbicides and are genetically modifying the crops to resist that herbicide. After all that locks farmers into buying even MORE herbicides. No money to be made in selling mulches. Can’t patent mulch.

    Instead of using Bacillus thuringiensis as a natural and incredibly effective and safe pest control like organic models. They made a Bt transgenic using just a few genes from Bacillus thuringiensis plasmids. This has 2 effects. Makes them a ton of money selling Bt transgenics. It also lets them create a new transgenic with new Cry and Cyt plasmids each time their transgenic fails due to pests developing insect resistance. Something incredibly less likely using Bacillus thuringiensis spores since most spores used for pest control contain at least 6 or more Cry and Cyt toxins! The odds of a pest developing resistance to one toxin is significantly higher than the odds of a pest developing resistance to 6 or more toxins simultaneously by many orders of magnitude! It is so stupid it is ridiculous! Just so they can make a buck for years to come, they would be willing to gradually step by step destroy the effectiveness of the safest pest control discovered? Hopefully organic can destroy these ass holes in the market place before they cause too much harm.

    Then maybe just maybe people with ethics can be put in charge of developing GMO’s, and maybe just maybe GMO’s can be developed safe enough and wise enough to be accepted by organic.

    Of course this idiot Mark Lynas may have screwed that up too, when he was the idiot that helped push through the total ban in the first place!

  165. G von Gross says:

    You’re born some 200 years too late Mr. Lucas.. For lesser crimes than the pseudo-lecture above.. we could enjoy the public executioner correcting the faults of false pretenses.. Any way – search the web – I stumbled on a “best b/w 2012 picture ?” of a Fruit Fly – GM – growing legs out of her eyes… You shouldn’t be what you are and where you are.. Is the lecture prepaid by Monsanto ?

  166. John Fryer says:

    GMO wheat

    I and the whole world has stuck to the myth that there is no such thing as GMO wheat. Hence the current people who swear that GMO wheat has harmed them are being stupid for there is no GMO wheat.

    In fact the situation is more complex than this. Nothing can stop anyone from GMOing wheat. The only brake is that you cant get the whole world to grow GMO wheat until it is approved.

    So no approval for mass planting of GMO wheat does not mean people have not eaten GMO wheat or suffered from its effects or benefited from its advantage over normal wheat.

    It has been detected (GMO wheat) for more than ten years in wheat crops tested for GMO inputs.

    And for example even as recently as last year GMO trials were being done in England where most GMO food growing is frowned on.

    Of course this does not mean even that all those complaning of GMO wheat harm and the need to source gluten free wheat are suffering from GMO wheat harm. They could be suffering from the changes in make up of wheat to suit the industrial baker rather than the independent bakers. Leading to bankruptcy or near bankruptcy to most bakers still baking traditional bread in the UK for example.

    Also what is taken for GMO wheat may in fact be harm from GMO soya for their children. Todays USA children are being fed in many cases a diet of GMO foods that supass those of their parents.

    We are basically what we eat and following the changes in health as we moved from organic food, through heavy metal pesticides, to organic pesticides and now GMO foods there is remarkable appearances and disappearances of health problems to the unluckly few.

    I came in when mercury et al was the best pesticides to use and remarked how old people especially women had twisted hands (not blaming mercury but this problem is now less today). The start of organic pesticides has led to paralysis peaks, pyschiatric peaks (again no proofs or disproofs) and with GMO foods coming through the change in health and new illnesses or increasing old ones are hotly debated. Has autism increased or not and has it anything or nothing to do with GMO foods. Hair growing where it shouldnt et al is still denied or put down to nutcases (rather like ME was.) Also the bleeding of animals for no known reason which is again a novel illness following BSE which struck only UK and only the Holstein breeds mostly. in the USA an earlier and bigger catastrophe – Downer Cows has been called not the same as BSE but this may just mean the toxic exposures or whatever are slightly different USA to UK.

    It also means that possibly normal developments of new foods is also to be tried with caution when it involves massive changes to our diets where any new forms of harm are just shrugged off as said above – nutcases at work.

    While we still think people live longer there are more and more isolated cases of sudden death before children reach one year of age making entry to our GMO et al world a difficult transition despite the fact that globally the rise in population is worrying now, tomorrow or for the future.

    The Chinese have a well placed system for sensible future growth which the rest of the world might do well to adopt. Using dubious and dangerous medico/feeding schemes to control fertility, life expectancy et al seems complete lunacy.

    One autism child can demand permanent help from 5 others and with this disorder of the brain rising at times exponentially or arguably so then not knowing the cause as we block out obvious science that tells of GMO harm then in the long term we will go from bad to worse.

    I can remember times when the ordinary man did not know of autism, ME or Alzheimers etc etc. Sadly today the only people not aware are those suffering one or other of these illnesses.

  167. John Fryer says:

    Just a plea please for RESPECT. Too many people running others down and especially our host Mark.

    Lets remember that blogs change nothing.

    GMO food is fact.

    We pay now or more likely the next generation will pay tomorrow.

    The only change is from ideas people forget or reminding that cheats, liars and fraud is part of human nature where no decent, honest person has any chance where money comes into play.

    My fees for decades of work to explain, annoy and educate is one free ticket for the first vCJD conference and to see 99.99 per cent of my ideas science and knowledge hit a complete brickwall of government disinterest.

    One group I worked with actually attracted a police ban to operate in the UK anymore THE PORTIA GROUP responsible for freeing many life prisoners exposed before as VILE but found out with science to be INNOCENTS.

    One sad case was the double life in prison for Sally Clark achieved with the perjury of one Sir Professor Roy Meadow reputedly a millionaire from convicting women in open and secret UK courts.

    Secrecy is one of the ways that GMO is kept in commercial production.

    Professor Seralini for example would do well to avoid going to the USA where he could be arrested for daring to test GMO corn but the gathered clan of GMO supporters miraculously found his ten years worth of research was rubbish withing 5 minutes of it being published. (his research breaking many restrictions – placed there for obvious reasons to prevent opposition to its growth)

    Strange that.

    • Jon says:

      John

      “Seralini …… the gathered clan of GMO supporters miraculously found his ten years worth of research was rubbish withing 5 minutes of it being published”.

      You can’t expect it to take more than 5 minutes for any knowledgeable scientist/statistician to point out that your work is utterly meaningless if you perform a 2-year cancer study in a rat strain with a 70% chance of developing tumours in that timescale anyway, if you don’t present controls claiming “All data cannot be shown in one report” and if you have only 1 set of 10 control animals for 9 different sets of 10 experimental animals.

    • Brian John says:

      Are you suggesting that the industry-funded 90-dy feeding studies (many of them not even toxicology studies) are somehow more reliable? There never was a perfect study, but I know whose work I would put my money on — and that is the researcher that has no commercial interest in his research outcomes.

    • Jon says:

      I’m not suggesting that in the slightest, just that if you test anything for carcinogenicity for 2 years in a rat strain that naturally develops tumours in that time frame and then try to hide the fact that the control non-GM fed rats suffered similar fate (sometimes better, sometimes worse, never significant) you can expect your study to be pointed out as useless.

      Why have one control group for 9 experimental groups? Believe me, you just can’t do that if you want to draw statistical conclusions. Why also not use 50 rats per group as per OECD guidelines to test for significance over 2 years? Bad experimental design from the start. I’m sure if Seralini tossed a coin 3 times and it came out heads each time, he’d write a paper saying a tossed coin always lands on heads.

      Hopefully the obvious and widely discussed flaws of his cancer study will be taken on board and the whole experiment can be repeated so that the truth can be clarified.

    • Rat in the kitchen says:

      Jon,

      Seralini’s study was a chronic toxicity study, not a carcinogenicity study. The increase in tumour incidence was a surprise outcome.

      Moreover, Séralini correctly used the same rat strain that Monsanto used, in order to make his study comparable to Monsanto’s. This is in line with the recommendation of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its chronic toxicity protocol 453. The Sprague-Dawley rat is a standard choice for long-term (2-year +) studies for tumour-causing and carcinogenic effects by independent and industry-sponsored researchers. The National Toxicology Program in the US uses the same SD rat from the same source as Séralini’s rats (Harlan) for its long-term 2-year carcinogenicity and toxicology studies. None of these researchers or research programmes has been challenged over their use of SD rats.

      http://gmoseralini.org/category/critics-answered/

      Why is anybody debating with Lynas? His speech is blatantly dishonest. His pathetic attempt to smear the Greens in Ireland vis-a-vis the Irish potato trials is nothing short of a disgrace. The trial already went ahead:

      The Irish Times – Friday, September 7, 2012
      Controversial GM potato trial to yield results in weeks
      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0907/1224323695414.html

      There’s a word for people like Lynas but I won’t use it here.

    • Jon says:

      PS Most (all?) of Seralini’s funding comes from greenpeace, the organic movement, anti-GM retailers. Assuming he has no conflict of interest or that he doesn’t stand to gain financially is a little naive.

      [ad hom] Also, his main collaborator and co-auhor (de Vendemois) is a homeopath too so I’d also question their critical scientific skills. [/ad hom] :)

    • Kagehi says:

      I think the default assumption by supporters of those groups is that *they* are not corrupt, or have an agenda, which they are willing to distort facts to promote, but everyone else does. You see the same logic, if I dare say it here, with the gun lobby, PETA, and well, just about anyone else that includes groups like Greenpeace among their numbers. They can’t be wrong, but everyone else just doesn’t understand, or is part of the conspiracy.

    • Rat in the kitchen says:

      What kind of corruption are you referring to I wonder? *This* kind perhaps?

      ” Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers….

      …But agritech companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta go further. For a decade their user agreements have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research. Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects…

      Research on genetically modified seeds is still published, of course. But only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal. In a number of cases, experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering. “It is important to understand that it is not always simply a matter of blanket denial of all research requests, which is bad enough,” wrote Elson J. Shields, an entomologist at Cornell University, in a letter to an official at the Environmental Protection Agency (the body tasked with regulating the environmental consequences of genetically modified crops), “but selective denials and permissions based on industry perceptions of how ‘friendly’ or ‘hostile’ a particular scientist may be toward [seed-enhancement] technology.”

      Shields is the spokesperson for a group of 24 corn insect scientists that opposes these practices. Because the scientists rely on the cooperation of the companies for their research—they must, after all, gain access to the seeds for studies—most have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. The group has submitted a statement to the EPA protesting that “as a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology.”
      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research

    • Kagehi says:

      Yeah, some of that is definitely a major issue. Except.. If the thing is intended to grow in drought high areas, and it does, while others fail, for example… its kind of hard to argue that it didn’t work. As for environmental damage. Even without the seeds, you can make projections, based on precursors needed, i.e., soil nutrients, etc., so its disingenuous to claim that you can’t even predict what the results would be, for most of them. Again, we are back to, “Bt might be different, due to what it is.”, but.. you still need to explain how something that wasn’t growing in an area is going to have more of an impact on species that didn’t eat it, than planting something they will eat, but didn’t have before, which…. I don’t know, maybe I am stupid, but invasive/non-from the area species, is still going to have an environmental impact.

      This is a bit different than the dishonesty I was talking about, which involves lying about motivations. PETA, claims that it is about animal well being. Many species can’t survive wild. Normal people’s conclusions would be, “don’t abuse animals”. Their view has, on multiple occasions, proven to be, “The breed would be better off extinct, than someone’s pet.” That isn’t “animal welfare”, its “animal liberation”, as well as imho, sadistic, evil, and heartless.

      I would think that its fairly obvious what the problem I have with the gun lobby is, but, again, in case you can’t work it out, its, “We know there is a problem, that they are dangerous, that no one can/should/does use certain classes of them for **anything** legitimate, but we will insist that having an RPG in the classroom would make it safer, if enough crazy people started buying RPGs.”

      They are not just overprotective of their copyright/patents, and suspiciously unwilling to have a few claims tested, they are ***outright*** lying about their real motivations, in both cases. If the three companies in question had a whistle blower pop up and declare that they are running a tobacco company style misinformation campaign, while secretly knowing that Bt causes people to grow extra limbs, or something, you might have a point about dishonesty. Unfortunately, for your case, corporate lawyers, the way the patent system vs. public works, operates, etc., its quite possible that even allowing such research might be seen by some pencil pushers in them as, “An unacceptable risk, not actually mandated by law.”, and it wouldn’t matter of the damn CEO himself thought they ought to allow it to be done.

      Yeah, its bloody stupid, and suspicious, but… hell, I have dealt with this sort of BS in software often enough to realize to just what extent some companies legal department will tie their hands, and make adequate testing, or even reporting of problems, nearly impossible, all to prevent someone else from finding out how some trade secret works, or other tidbit, which **might**, I don’t know.. let people know how the hell to make their own computer work right, never mind reverse engineer anything from it. I can’t imagine the biotech industry’s legal staff, and other pencil pushers, being somehow less paranoid, or stupid, than the ones I deal with, without, ironically, “big government” showing up and telling them, “You will do this!”

      That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. It just means that they do not, currently, have a requirement to, and won’t do it at all, if they can avoid it, out of pure idiocy. And, one should never attribute to malice what can just as easily be attributed to stupidity, unless you have good reason. Its usually stupidity (Just look out how much time Microsoft has spent pulling this sort of safety/security via just not telling people how things work”, BS, and ruining what little reputation and respect they might have otherwise have ever had, in the process. Nor, short of bankruptcy, will they ever stop pissing people off with it. No actual malice involved (or, well, not towards it customers, anyway).

    • Scott says:

      With all due respect to you, there is no way I am going to say anything respectful about Mark Lynas on this issue. He was a fraud when he was in the anti-GMO movement, and he is a fraud now that he has changed sides to the pro-GMO side.

      He is nothing more than a parasite that has learned to make money off of peoples fears.

      First he got a ton of people afraid of GMO’s and has admitted now that was all BS he made up. Now he is trying to make a gloom and doom case for what will happen if people DON’T use GMO’s. It’s all a scam.

      The only question I have for Mark is this, “Do you actually believe your own BS and are simply mirroring your own fears? Or are you purposely trying to scam people with your propaganda techniques?”

      I tend to believe he actually means well and is involved in self deception as well as deceiving others. However, there is a tiny part of me whispering that he knows full well what he is doing.

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Scott – that’s your last post. Don’t post again, or I will remove you. If you can’t be polite, go elsewhere.

    • Scott says:

      Mark,
      Since you are here, and posting, I will be happy to talk with you about the issue in a polite way, assuming you are up to it.

      I fully admit your speech got me spitting angry. It isn’t even your position on genetically modified food that got me angry. It was your trashing of organic that got me spitting mad. Organic is and always has been from the beginning science based agriculture. It also is every bit as productive per acre as the best modern conventional agriculture.

      However, if this really is Mark Lynas, and you feel like I am being unfair in my criticisms, then I am more than happy to discuss them point by point for your consideration and to give you a chance to address each point without flaming you personally in any way.

  168. pete k says:

    My second climate book, Six Degrees, was so sciency….

    “SCIENCY” ?? well that certainly got my attention!

    and then, i read the whole thing too!

    at last, a human with a rational endocrine system! willing to use reason and thought before ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater” and re use the water over and over too!

    self discovery, not of the outside world, but that within the epidermis we must survive in, is such a great experience.

    my accolades to you , Mark L, for not becoming another sheep of the reactionaries and their human/life progress abatement mentalities!

    we are all mutating, whether we like it or not, and it’s not going to stop until the planet vaporizes in a supernova.

    best regards,
    pete k

  169. Nathan Roland says:

    Yet again they have broke in another horse and put the blinders on..

  170. Dr. Patrick M. Duhigg says:

    Gee Marcus baby you’ve seen the light and realize what we in the scientific community knew all along and now you think your mea culpa’s will fix the problems you and your exaggerated emotional henchmen have created in antiquated Europe, India, Africa and other countries in desperate need of the advances scientific research has provided the world.

    I’d say your confession isn’t good enough and you need to spend more of your time fixing the problems you and your overzealous environmentalist community have created. Start with the fools in Europe and perhaps some of your effort will trickle down to other countries who can’t seem to see the problems with food production they are facing and will continue to face if they don’t do all they can now to increase economic yield production of the crops they depend on for their sustenance. We the rich who can afford two organic tomatoes at $2.00 dollars a piece must realize we’re very lucky to have that option and only spend 10 to 15% of our income on food compared to those in Africa and India who spend much more more just to put a meager meal on the table.

    Ok your sorry. So am I and thousands of scientist in the world community who followed Borlaugs lead and devoted themselves to facts not fantasies.

    The greatest irony in all of this is that you now sound very much like your pie in the face victim Bjorn Lomborg. He makes sense, keep emulating him now and perhaps others will realize that you can also make sense.
    Dr. Patrick Duhigg
    Plant Breeder, USA

  171. John Fryer says:

    John Dalli

    The resignation of this commissioner was we are told about some tobacco related subject. (Oct 2012)

    Personally if anyone still thinks there is anything good in tobacco they must be interested in the work of Doll and his 1 500 pounds a day for idling the tail end of his life away?

    My complaint about Commisioner Dalli was his unmitigated approval of many GMO foods in record time when previously there was a block on approvals.

    How did a new commisioner approve so many GMO foods in such record time.

    And do I believe in smoke without fire?

    I do feel sorry that a person with no apparent qualifications gets to the very top where he can improve the health of 300 million people is sacked.

    But when he was in power and rubber stamped the approval of so many GMO foods for 300 million of us to be exposed to I can admit to pinching myself to see if I was in HELL and guess what I discovered; we were in a European HELL. a European GMO HELL with millions of the stuff coming in every year.

    Is it too much to ask EFSA to CANCEL each and EVERY GMO food approved by this person found wanting in some other area and needing to defend his GOOD NAME?

    Anyone who understands anything of GMO manipulations and GMO manipulators MUST demand all his good works (Dallying) be thrown out and restart from SQUARE ONE.

    Or do we continue to build on the type of honesty he brought to EFSA as for previous bosses now working for Big pHARMa in the best traditions of Michael Taylor, Uncle Tom Cobblers and ALL. Some lady GMO boss whose name escapes me.

  172. Dr. Z says:

    Than you for your beautifully written essay. Since you clearly demonstrate the rare ability to change your mind when the facts change I urge you to reconsider your opinions about global warming or, as it is now called, climate change. Your apparent current opinion is: “For me this anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change. I published my first book on global warming in 2004, and I was determined to make it scientifically credible rather than just a collection of anecdotes.”

    But that cause of alarm also is now open to very acute scientific challenge and I believe that we can say with certainty that the situation is completely uncertain.

  173. Stefan Meier says:

    Dear Mark,
    you have a very pointed and sneaky way of selectively presenting facts as they fit your case. Let me just take 2 examples from your treatise:

    “I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.”
    You are trying to deflect a general claim ‘increase use of chemicals’ with a specific example ‘pest-resistant cotton and maize need less insecticide’. What you fail to mention is that OVERALL the use of chemicals has drastically increased due to GM crops, as layed out in this peer reviewed scientific study:
    http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24/abstract

    “I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.”
    You fail to mention that Terminator Technology is ireelevant because it’s really patent laws that companies use to rob farmers of the right to save seed. From Monsanto’s website: http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/why-does-monsanto-sue-farmers-who-save-seeds.aspx

    These are just 2 examples to show how elegantly you twist the truth in whatever direction that suits you.

    This conscious and deliberate misleading of readers that don’t pay as much attention is in my eyes despicable.

    Stefan Meier

    • Scott says:

      Stefan,
      There are a whole lot more twisted “facts” than only that! Although I completely agree with you post, it is the tip of the iceberg.

      The one that got me the most angry was he lumped together all primitive agricultural techniques including those in many third world countries or in areas that are not very fertile to begin with, and then tried to say organic farming is 1/2 as productive as modern conventional agriculture.

      It couldn’t be further from the truth. Modern organic agriculture using modern scientific methods is at least as productive or more per acre than modern conventional agriculture.

      A good example is Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing, a method developed by permaculture. It is up to 5 times more efficient than conventional grazing or more! It is even more productive per acre than conventional grazing + finished in stockyards. All the while being a net carbon sink instead of a net carbon emitter.

  174. Michelle F. says:

    I read the article with an open mind as it was sent by a dear friend and former professor. Here’s what I know for certain. When my 2 sons were diagnosed, one with Autism and one with ADHD, all the research I did led me to an organic diet. We went militant overnight. Within 1 week we felt changes, one month huge changes. Two months in we eliminated milk products as well. Afterwards we had a little boy, 3 years old, who could now utter sentences and look us in the eye. Before this eye contact was scanty, tantrums and stimming the norm. He was also chronically constipated and needed medication to eliminate daily….that also disappeared. Some may chalk this up to normal development. I teach preschool, it was anything but. Our 8 yr old wasn’t eager to try anything new or organic….crying and accusing me of punishing him for having ADHD. I bribed him to try it for one month. It cost me dearly, but was well worth it. He himself came to me at the end of a month asking if he could remain on the organic diet as he felt so much better. As for me, I lost 22 lbs without reducing my caloric intake and joint pain I had been experiencing for more than a decade disappeared. I look younger and feel younger, and my brain is sharper.
    Glyphosate is not benign. It has been implicated as a neurotoxin and banned in parks and on school grounds in NYS as well as many others states. In my opinion it is the next asbestos.
    I believe we all have the right to eat what we want. So why are GMO companies fighting so hard to keep these ingredients secret? We have a right to know what’s in our food, so we can avoid the toxins we choose not to ingest. Monsanto has been suing small farmers for years for patent infringement when crops cross pollinate. These are facts…. defend that. Health issues, autism, adhd, obesity, fatty liver disease, etc are skyrocketing. Bees are dying and GMO fields are strangely devoid of life, insect, bacterial and otherwise.
    Man is a very clever animal, but often opens Pandora’s box with the best of intentions. Personal experience is the best teacher. I’ve made the transition to organics and biodynamics. Aside from costing a bit more, which I gladly pay for all the benefits listed above and more, I have no regrets. Life on conventional food was not nearly as rewarding….not even close. And that’s the honest truth.

  175. Kagehi says:

    Homeopathy is water, or sugar pills, not medicine. The explanation for how it works, when you find someone honest enough to admit it, or just nuts enough, defies every lay of physics there is, before you even get into biology or chemistry, which it contradicts completely as well. Of course it doesn’t “harm” people that take it (aside from the ones that die, because they fail to take what actually can cure them, but.. those never get counted anyway by advocates..)

    Where are we getting some of these people?

    • John Fryer says:

      kagehi

      Of course it doesn’t “harm” people that take it (aside from the ones that die, because they fail to take what actually can cure them,

      We are talking of homeopathy and people that die because of not getting the cure offered by Big pHARMa.

      I havent taken either Big pHARMa or homeopathy but am not dead quite yet.

      But I feel that those taking the cure (VIOXX, THALIDOMIDE plus a thousand others not so well known) might argue that this action isnt always the MIRACLE CURE either.

      There is always the problem as to why we got ill in the first place.

      Take cancer, take kidney damage, take legs growing out of our eyes. Now where in GMOtion can these ills very occasionally come from if not Big pHARMa?

  176. Sandi Fisher says:

    I have been saying this for 20 years . You can’t use science to prove one thing and deny it when it suits you. I have always been pro GM foods as it has been happening naturally forever.

  177. David Flint says:

    A real danger. So we should be asking for more public funding of GM crop research to produce a better evidence base.

    • Brian John says:

      Quite agree. If people don’t like what Seralini found, let’s get another truly independent study which can replicate his experiments and test his findings. And will Monsanto provide the NK603 and Roundup raw materials for the researchers to use? Not the slightest chance of that happening, I’m afraid……. they know full well what will show up.

  178. James Lovelock, the proposer of the Giya hypothesis, suggested that sometime this century we will be down to about 1b* people on earth; that the earth will shuffle off most of us. With the ever accelerating effects of climate change surpassing the most pessimistic estimates by our best scientists, he could well be correct. A single year of complete crop failure in the Northern hemisphere would set us off on this path. A decade would pretty well complete the job. We used to have around a year’s food in storage. We are now down to about a month. How could crop failure occur. Try a sudden shift in the climate zones brought about by a reversal of the Polar Hadley cell as the Arctic Ocean becomes a giant solar collector. We have had a warning in 2010 and again this year. You don’t have to read the tea leaves. The signs are clear and obvious. http://mtkass.blogspot.com/

    *sometimes referred to as the Lovelock number

  179. John Fryer says:

    Hi Michelle

    Your story is powerful. Sadly these stories are anecdotal also.

    You had a child who could not communicate, you chose organic foods and within a month improvements began;

    That is wonderful.

    You also mention problems with the bowels and therefore imply diarrhoea or constipation or an odd mix of both perhaps?

    I had similar problems after decades of normal movement and find that good food returns me to the normal. Nothing really bad and for me I put up with odd things and think its old age. But it is strange that whereas before your diet caused no problems and now it causes not dangerous problems but your body behaves in ways it never should;

    Many years ago I even had a more severe life threatening condition cured or with one return back to this oscillation of bowel movements from normal (preGMO) to not the way I think is normal.

    This type of problem is exactly what an extension of Seralinis work would suggest in humans. I worked this out for myself many years ago.

    It does mean an almost total exclusion of any SOYA/SOJA but with chocolates having this in the form of SOYA LECITHIN it is something I have given in to over Xmas;

    This is the problem I know in theory France labels GMO. To heck they do. There is supposed to be a numbering system but 99.99 per cent of people would fail this and further what is to me GMO (aspartame) is in over half of some types of food I eat. This means buying the small producers decent stuff compared to GMO pushed by Nestles and all the big names.

    There are lots of known causes for autism and many suspected and from Seralini work 90 days for animals to suffer means that for babies after 3 years on GMO baby food we can marvel at the capacity of most children to get through without too much trouble.

    In 1971 the only worry for my child was well NOTHING. No AIDS, NO E coli killers, and best of all NO GMO anything.

    What a wonderful ERA!

    everything is done for money and while GMO sugar substitutes save the big companies fortunes we see cynical use of more and more GMO for fuel while they lie that we need GMO to feed the world.

    If Seralini and his work means anything there is RISK but no BENEFIT to us the consumer.

    Transitory benefit to farmers, companies et al but in the long term its another South Sea Bubble for me.

    People say giver us time remember the first computers, remember the first cars. But GMO appeared in 1971. 40 years into cars we had decent cars, 40 years into planes we had super planes and 40 years into computers we havent got there yet. (1981 we had 500 bytes jobs).

    Today we eat GMO that gives us cancer, damages our livers, damages our kidneys and thats only what one research team found this year for one GMO food. Just as everyone that makes GMO laughs at this we know nothing of 1 000 plus other GMO types and of course there are well placed BANS on GMO not disputed or argued about in every GMO company and regulator canteen.

    Strange that!

  180. John Fryer says:

    Hi Kagehi

    Thanks for your comments: Autism and schizophrenia may be wandering off topic unless it has a GMO food cause? What do you think?

    However the fact the two are confused is not new science but old science. Autism was once thought of as childhood schizophrenia and as childhood Alzheimers Disease maybe?

    Lots of people are normal and get schizophenia when older and maybe after taking recreational drugs dare I say.

    The first and biggest known cause for autism was exposure to rubella live virus. But the unknown bit I refer to is the inability to explain increases and changes in its expression.

    For example once present at birth but today typically seen after a year of so on modern diets (GMO mostly for some?) and then an agonising delay while doctors with no 100 per cent test finally admit autism or autism spectrum type illness.

    Furthe rcomplicated by splitting hairs on other conditions as you mention( schizophrenia, kawasaki etc etc)

    Has it increased? Has it decreased? Is it the same? Government agencies appear to point to exponential rise. Accepting this genetic cause is absolutely impossible for most autism seen today.

    Add to this research claims of nearly every chromosome and nearly every part of every chromsome involved and you begin to see why Seralini one study one consistent lots of findings is so different to most research which confuses, conflates and is often flawed to an extent that is almost hilarious.

    GMO risks are not funny. I have not seen GMO food benefit in 40 years and autism has gone from 4 cases per 100 000 to a level where this type of event is only made to look normal when you say 2.5 per cent of boys suffer from autism today.

    You can hardly tell the public we have 2 500 cases per 100 000 when cancers, Alzheimers, Parkinsons yes and autism so long ago were approx not 4 but 0 cases per 100 000.

    Just a damn good job we got rid of smallpox or we would have little to gloat over health wise today.

    And why does the advanced nations top health country USA go from top position to bottom matching GMO development.

    And no cause implied of course and not actually believed by me.

    But we dont know a fig about why the health change but we do apparently know GMO food found to cause cancer dont actually do so.

    Perhaps those photos were doctored?

    And lets not forget the other world record

    Approvals of GMO foods for Europe (dallying around with DANGER?)

    Only matched by this mans job finally going up in smoke!

    • Kagehi says:

      Thanks for your comments: Autism and schizophrenia may be wandering off topic unless it has a GMO food cause? What do you think?

      However the fact the two are confused is not new science but old science. Autism was once thought of as childhood schizophrenia and as childhood Alzheimers Disease maybe?

      Reread what I was replying to, this is exactly what they suggested.

      Second, the study I linked seems to imply that autism and schizophrenia are ***opposite*** ends of the same condition.

      Finally…

      You seem to be missing the point entirely. There is no evidence of any of the things people “claim” might be causing autism. Though, a lot of people are grasping at straws, for some sort of answer. However, this we “do” know:

      1. Entire other categories of mental disorders, within the time frame you claim the sudden jump in numbers for, have been “reclassified” as “autism spectrum”. All of those categories used to be considered separate conditions. This may even be a mistake, since they are all not well understood, but the assumption being run on, now, is that *every* such disorder is definable as merely “how autistic are they”, ranging from so mild that it barely has any noticeable effect, to functional aspergers, to rain man like behavior, to flat out sitting in a corner, rocking, and screaming, if someone tries to touch you. When you lump a half dozen disorders into one category, you are bound to see a “big jump”. Most people.. still think that when you say autism, it means “the extreme end”, closest/closer to the kid rocking in the corner. Its not.

      2. The ‘father’s age’ factor accounts for, by estimate, 30% of the “full blown autism” cases. Its unknown how much of an impact it has on the rest, since, again, the changes that lump them all together, are “recent”, and may not even be used in all countries yet.

      3. We do know that hormone levels can effect development, but while the specific genes in the Tel Aviv case are “not” effected by those, this doesn’t mean that its not a contributing factor in the age of the mother.

      Again, someone claimed GM as a possible cause. You seem to be arguing the same. But, you have no mechanism, its fairly obvious a lot of people don’t have a clue how GM even works, or why it makes certain effects implausible, etc., and, more to the point, no evidence that people who don’t have access to any food that is GM, don’t have the same increases in cases of autism. In fact, it would seem, from the data, that there is no correlation, at all, with *anything* of the sort, with people that have been organic, vegetarian, etc. for all their lives, and even non-vaccination people, ending up with kids that have it too. Which… would seem to me, to make the claim that either of those things are the cause.. way less likely that that, “We just don’t know all the genes responsible, or what goes wrong with them, but at least, thanks to people with more level heads, we know where to look now.”

  181. John Fryer says:

    kagehi

    What they all pretty much have in common is:

    1. Evidence.
    2. Plausibility.
    3. A clear mechanism.

    You are talking fo autism and the genetic cause.

    Professor Mutter is a psychiatrist from memory so not into DNA much?

    If genetics is the cause then for monozygotes we would expect 100 per cent correlation.

    Absolutely no sign of this!

    Yes of course genetics is important. Many illnesses have only one or two species that get these illnesses. For example that illness referred to as Mad Cow Disease only struck Holstein cattle and not for example the Dexter cows.

    But the accepted cause (complete rubbish in my view) was nothing to do with genetics.

    So with absolutely no evidence for gentic cause even when genes are 100 per cent the same then plausabilty and mechanism if given must be SUSPECT.

    I have to say I can see no discussion of plausability or mechanism in the analsis of DNA evidence but this may be due to my lack of interest in looking up blind alleys?

    Perhaps you can explain why autism should be plausibly genetic when there is no evidence yet?

    90 per cent of research goes into this research so should have shown up trumps possibly by now?

  182. pigneguy says:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512008149

    “In our article, the conclusions of long-term NK603 and Roundup toxicities came from the statistically highly discriminant findings at the biochemical level in treated groups in comparison to controls, because these findings do correspond in an blinded analysis to the pathologies observed in organs, that were in turn linked to the deaths by anatomopathologists. GM NK603 and R cannot be regarded as safe to date.”

    Any comments ?

  183. Kagehi says:

    What is patented is not the food plant but the gene put in which is NOT part of nature or ever has been.

    Hence by the very nature of things we ARE dealing with Novel plants and animals because they now contain things they NEVER had before and that thing is novel genes.

    These nearly all are based on E Coli for which there were no TOXIC forms in Pre-GMO days.

    Great, two pieces of misinformation in the three lines. The first is just flat out wrong. We don’t know enough to make “artificial” genes, to produce those sorts of things. We ***have to*** take the gene, as it exists, from another organism. What you are failing to comprehend is that the same patent concept that protects GM is what is used in the software industry. The judgement in that case is, “A thing may be patented if its a new machine.” This is sheer idiocy, but what it means is, if you took ideas from 20 existing product, none of which is trivial, new, etc., and you combine them into a single “system”, that “system” becomes patentable. The same rule is being applied to GM. Even though the proteins coding for something like Vitamin A ***already exist***, you can patent either a) a new plant, to which you added it, or even, in some case b) the gene itself, since, by itself, it functions are a “unique thing”.

    If you bothered to look, you would find numerous statements made, by numerous people, all of them being ignored by the patent office, and the government, against the right of companies to do this. If these things really where “unnatural” genes, that don’t exist in nature, none of those people would be arguing against the idiocy of allowing them to be patented. And, frankly, some of the proteins involved or some bloody complex, that short using the original genetics, there is no way in hell we could manufacture something to produce the same thing in the first place. If we knew that much about it, or even close, we wouldn’t need to “modify” corn, we would simply code the whole plant, from scratch, instead. It would be faster than wasting time trying to work out how to make one artificial gene, then somehow cram that into an existing plant.

    So, no, if you think these things are patentable, or that the patent office, and the government, actually give a damn whether it makes sense to allow it, then you have no clue, at all, what you are talking about (period).

    You can, and they do, patent genes that actually bloody exist in nature.

    The second assertion, about E Coli is just utter and total nonsense, not at all factually true, and not even worth the time needed to point out how fast viruses mutate, how many strains exist, in which species, etc. I bet you also thing that GM, never mind it didn’t even exist as a concept back then, what responsible, somehow, for Simian HIV mutating in the 70s, into a human born version… If you can’t find, then buy, or steal, a clue, because… well, no.. one probably isn’t enough at this point. Maybe someone has a spare box of them this guy can have?