I read with considerable interest that Mark Lynas, the former "Green" anti-genetically modified crops campaigner, whose Oxford lecture I wrote about earlier this year, has now delivered an even harder hitting lecture at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. My only criticism of his piece is the point at which he ventured into repeating the "thousands of scientists agree the climate change will bring 5 degrees warmer environment by 2100." He obviously hasn't seen the origins of that myth. The 5 degrees is the extreme prediction of one 'climate model' from the IPCC's early reports and it has since been adjusted downward by quite a margin. The 'thousands of scientists' is pure spin. The origins of that one are a little less 'scientific' as well. It comes from a students dissertation. Over 10,000 scientisits were sent a questionnaire on their views of climate change, 1300 replied and for reasons best known to the student, only 79 of those were included in the analysis. 77 were 'agreed' and 2 dissented. Hence the 97% of scientists claim ...
With that said, I do believe that Mark Lynas is right to highlight the fact that almost all the anti-GM food 'information' is, in fact, misinformation. Like nuclear and the fear of inoculation, it has been stirred up by a small number of activisits and has no basis in the science at all. He mentions the anti-nuclear 'debate' (it isn't really, you can't 'debate' anything with, on the one hand, a mob of protesters chanting slogans and convinced that nuclear reactors are the same as a bomb, and that 'millions of tons' of nuclear waste is poisoning the environment', and rational scentists) and this flags up my favourite bit of Greenpeace misinformation. Photographs of half buried yellow painted metal drums bearing the radiation symbol. (Am I the only one to wonder how fresh the paint is, despite the breathless declaration that these are 'highly poisonous nuclear waste abandoned in an old mine'?) In fact, I have learned that the photos were taken in a former Soviet era dump which has since been cleaned up - and the drums held old overalls and other 'waste' of a very low level contamination.
Genetically modified crops have suffered the same kneejerk campaign of misinformation and outright lies. Unfortunately they appeal to the basest of humn instincts - fear. And there are an awful lot of people who swallow these campaigns very readily and, unlike Mark Lynas, never do any checking. So they never learn just how badly they have been misled. Perhaps, like the Luddites in Britain in the 18th Century, they want to remain ignorant, dependent and prevent any forward movement for humanity. It is also a sad commentary on the sort of person who currently embarks on these "Green" campaigns that they are so enraged by Mr. Lynas 'changing sides' and seeing the light, that they now resort to death threats and vilification. As one scientist told him, welcome to our world.
The sad truth is that behind all these anti-GM, anti-nuclear and anti-inoculation campaigns of half truth, fabrication and outright lies, are a range of rather sinister political agendas, 'conspiracy theories' and outright misanthropism. I doubt very much we will see an end to it until those are out in the open and exposed to the light of scrutiny. There are some very determined and very dangerous individuals currently directing and manipulating the "Green" movement and their agendas are anything but good for the environment. I commend to my readers the article by Mark Lynas. His is a 'Damascus Moment' I sincerely hope more "Green Campaigners" will experience.
As Mark Lynas says in his article, it will be a remarkable day when Friends of the Earth who have blocked the use of genetically modfied crops which could have fed the population of Zambia and saved them from a massive famine, or a genetically modified strain of rice which, by boosting the Vitamen A in the crop and could save hundreds of thousands of children from death due to deficiencies in their diet, would actually admit they must accept responsibility for these deaths. It is extremely unlikely we will ever hear that from them on these famine and food deficiency deaths. Perhaps Greenpeace will apologise when the lights start to go out because their windfarms aren't able to supply a balanced, reliable power supply, or Friends of the Earth when the death rates from the next African famine hit the headlines. But I won't hold my breath.