By Dr Brian John
Past Lecturer in Geography, University of Durham
6th January 2013
“In a high-profile lecture to the recent Oxford Farming Conference, self-proclaimed neoscientist Mark Lynas launched a vicious polemic, aimed at the organic farming movement and at those who oppose GM crops and foods and the activities of the GM multinationals. The speech was linked in to a highly orchestrated pro-GM publicity campaign. The press loved it — and Lynas was pretty pleased with it himself, pushing the text of his speech out in all directions and twittering happily about its impact on the global stage…… which included 30,000 hits on his web site. The theme which the press picked up on was of course that of the ex-GM crop trasher who has now put emotion and prejudice to one side and who has become instead a science junkie. Others might see the conversion of a naive individual from one religion to another………”
Dr. Brian John has put together 22 points dispelling Lynas’s claims with soundness and clarity. The highly publicized GM campaign is reaching a high point in the UK and is being heavily funded by the biotech industry.
Click here to access the PDF document written by Dr. John.
Here are some of his points:
1. Lynas says that the early anti-GM campaign (which he claims that he helped to start) was “explicitly an anti-science movement”. Nonsense. HIS personal campaign might have been anti-science, but mine wasn’t, and neither was the movement I became familiar with. From the beginning, we used scientific evidence to flag up the potential dangers of GMOs and the environmental damage associated with them. We even used evidence from the the Government’s own (very inadequate) Farm-scale Trials of GM crops to show
that GMOs harm the environment, and we placed great reliance on publicly-funded and peer-reviewed research which demonstrated cell damage in mammals which had consumed GM food.
2. Lynas waxes eloquent about the value of peer-reviewed science, and implies that this is what underpins biotechnology. Nonsense. The case for GM crops, such as it is, is based almost entirely on industry-funded research. This research is never peer-reviewed before it is seen by regulators who determine the safety of a GM crop for release or consumption, and who never evaluate whether a crop achieves its stated benefits. Even well after a crop is released, only a tiny fraction of these dossier studies are ever published– and they cannot be replicated by independent scientists because only those with a
special relationship to the developing company have access to research raw materials. There are virtually no proper toxicology or safety studies, and studies that are flagged up as safety studies are often nothing more than short-term studies designed to show nutritional equivalence. Because these studies cannot be repeated or verified, they should be rejected out of hand by the scientific community. Instead, they are accepted as valid.
3. Lynas says that pest-tolerant cotton and maize (by which he means BT varieties) need less insecticide than normal varieties, and implies that GM crops use less chemicals than conventionally-bred varieties. Nonsense. BT varieties have inbuilt toxins, and they significantly add to the environmental load of these toxins. Initially, less spraying of chemical insecticides is required, but those in-built toxins have considerable effects on
non-target species and on the environment, as demonstrated in many peer-reviewed papers. As for overall chemical use (including herbicides and insecticides), the evidence is overwhelming that chemical use in GM agriculture is already far in excess of that in conventional farming, and that it is rising inexorably as weeds and insect pests develop resistance to Roundup, Liberty and other chemicals that are essential parts of the “GM farming package.”
Click here to read the remaining points.