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A Rebuttal to Mark Lynas’ GMO Reversal

GMO critic-turned-booster could be right — and still be wrong

If you want to get your name splattered all over the web, there’s nothing like recanting your once strongly held beliefs. Give a big mea culpa speech telling the world how wrong you have been, and you’ll get far more attention for your auto-rebuttal than you ever received for your original ideas. When it comes to ideological U-turns the media are like moths to a flame. (Never mind that, as Whitman said, “consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”)

Mark Lynas Photo by Mauroof Khaleel/Presidency MaldivesMark Lynas — a British journalist-activist who at least once took direct
action to rip GM trial crops out of the ground — has come out as a
supporter of the technology he once abhorred.

In this case, I’m talking about the recent “big news” that one-time GMO critic Mark Lynas — a Brit who at least once took direct action to rip GM trial crops out of the ground — has come out as a supporter of the technology he once abhorred. You can find write-ups about it from Andrew Revkin and Slate and the LA Times and The New Yorker’s Michael Specter. I even got an email from the folks at the No on 37 campaign (the people who successfully fought a GMO labeling referendum in California) trumpeting the news.

Here’s the opening from the speech that Lynas gave on January 3 at the Oxford Farming Conference (you can find the text of Lynas’s prepared remarks here):

 

"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.”

 

For a devastating takedown of Lynas’ sudden “discovery of science” check out this piece by University of Michigan biology professor John Vandermeer over at the Food First website.

Lynas goes on to say:

 

 “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.”

 

 Let’s go through these one by one.

First, the contention that plantings of genetically engineered crops have led to a decreased insecticide usage. Actually, the record is more mixed than Lynas makes it seem. If you compare the figures here and here from the US EPA, you’ll see that between 2001 and 2007 global insecticide use did drop. But during that same period (as the percentage of GMO crops increased) herbicide usage continued to grow. This is especially important given that most GM crops (about 80 percent) are engineered to be herbicide resistant. Farmers are spraying more herbicides because that is precisely what the crops are created for — to allow for being doused with chemicals that kill competing weeds and still allow the plant to live. A peer-reviewed study published last year in Environmental Sciences Europe found that GM plantings in the United States led to a 7 percent increase in chemical spraying.

Lynas’ cherry picking also misses a crucial fact: Farmers who have grown accustomed to using Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops are starting to see the appearance of weeds that are resistant glyphosate, the central ingredient in Roundup. To help farmers cope with the new “super weeds,” Monsanto has launched a new herbicide, Warrant. So much for the claim that GMOs will reduce chemical use.

It’s too bad the text of Lynas’ speech doesn’t come with citations, because I would love a source for his contention that GM technologies have benefitted farmers by requiring fewer inputs. Once again, the evidence is more mixed than he makes it seem. Perhaps Lynas missed all of the headlines about the epidemic of farmer suicides in India, where many genetically modified cotton growers have been driven to despair because the promised yields from GM cotton haven’t matched increased seed costs — that is, the cost of their inputs.   

As a part-time organic farmer, I find Lynas’ line about hybrid seeds “robbing farmers of the right to save seed” nothing short of laughable. No, you can’t save seed from what’s called an F1 hybrid because the desired traits the plant has been bred for won’t necessarily continue into the next generation. That’s Biology 101. And it’s not at all like the Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement, which includes a range of clauses that, among other things, can punish farmers for saving seed and can include harsh provisions such as inspection provisions, and one-sided limitations of remedy. With a hybrid seed, Mother Nature prevents effective seed saving. With GM crops, it’s Mother Nature plus the financial and legal muscle of giant companies like Monsanto. Big difference.

A bit further on his speech Lynas takes a gratuitous swipe at organic methods when he says:

 

“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’."

 

Talk about a straw man argument. I don’t know any organic farmers who want to freeze their agricultural practices in the amber of nostalgia. Just look at an outfit like the Organic Farming Research Foundation and you’ll see that organic agriculture, at it best, seeks to take the wisdom accrued from 10,000 years of agriculture and graft onto that reliable rootstock the best available twenty-first century science. Lynas perceives some kind of inconsistency in the use of flame weeding because he doesn’t really understand the ideals of organic agriculture and its commitment to appropriate technology — in this case, using some fossil fuels to scorch weeds rather than using synthetic chemicals that persist in the environment to do the work.

As for the contention that glyphosate is “benign,” check out Vandermeer’s review of the evidence linking glyphosate endocrine disruption.

Toward the end of his speech Lynas makes what I think is his most outrageous comment (that is to say, the least supported by evidence), when he says:

 

“In reality there is no reason at all why avoiding chemicals should be better for the environment — quite the opposite in fact.”

 

Ahem. Here’s something I wrote last year about the dangers of pesticides:

“When pesticides are sprayed onto farm fields, they don’t just stay in that one place. They seep into the water and waft through the air and accumulate on the shoes and clothes of farm workers. In recent years in California (the country’s top ag producer) an average of 37 pesticide drift incidents a year have made people sick. Pesticides also find their way into the homes of farm workers. A study by researchers at the University of Washington found that the children of farm workers have higher exposure to pesticides than other children in the same community. When researchers in Mexico looked into pesticide exposure of farm workers there, they found that 20 percent of field hands ‘showed acute poisoning.

The health impacts on those workers were serious and included ‘diverse alterations of the digestive, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, dermatological, renal, and reproductive system.’ The researchers concluded: ‘there exist health hazards for those farm workers exposed to pesticides, at organic and cellular levels.’

There are shelves’ worth of studies documenting the health dangers of pesticide exposure. A study published last year found that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides – which are often sprayed on crops and in urban areas to control insects – can lower children’s IQ. A follow-up investigation into prenatal pesticide exposure concluded that boys’ developing brains appear to be more vulnerable than girls’ brains. A study by Colorado State University epidemiologist Lori Cragin found that women who drink water containing low levels of the herbicide atrazine are more likely to have low estrogen levels and irregular menstrual cycles; about three-quarters of all US corn fields are treated with atrazine annually. British scientists who examined the health effects of fungicides sprayed on fruits and vegetable crops discovered that 30 out of 37 chemicals studied altered males’ hormone production.”

That quick review of the scientific literature only addresses agricultural chemicals’ impacts on human health. It would take paragraphs more to outline pesticides’ documented risks to “non-target” species such as frogs, birds, and fish.

So Lynas’ claims for the benefits of genetically modified crops are shaky, at best.

But let’s just say — for the sake of argument — that Lynas is more or less right on evidentiary grounds, and that there isn’t enough science to dismiss GM technologies out of hand.

I would still be skeptical of genetically modified — for reasons that have more to do with political ecology than biology or science. 

To plagiarize myself again, from a story I wrote in September 2011 expressing concerns that some GM critics have overblown the potential human health risks of GMOs:

“Perhaps the greatest — and certainly the best documented —  threat posed by GMOs involves how they undermine food sovereignty. As Maria Ishii-Eitemann, a senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network, explains it, food sovereignty is “our right to save, plant, and grow seeds and crops as we want.” The steady monopolization of the seed supply is eroding that sovereignty. The skills needed to genetically modify seeds are so specialized (and the investment required so immense) that only a handful of massive firms can take it on. Compare that to the thousands — or, globally, the millions — of seed dealers and seed savers who use traditional plant breeding techniques. … GMOs are dangerous because they concentrate power — and that’s never good news for democracy.”

As a matter of principle I believe that de-centralized power is preferable to concentrated power; that a larger number of market players is preferable to monopolies or oligopolies; that local and regional economies are on average more ecologically sustainable and socially responsible than international economies; and that — especially when it comes to our food supply — it’s better to trust in less technologically sophisticated seed production methods than technologically demanding seed production methods. Small is, indeed, beautiful, if for no other reason than that systems and technologies that are closer to the human scale will prove more resilient in an era of climate chaos. Or, to borrow words from the old Lynas, from a 2008 commentary he wrote for the Guardian: “The [GM] technology moves entirely in the wrong direction, intensifying human technological manipulation of nature when we should be aiming at a more holistic ecological approach instead.” The new Lynas would probably slam that sentence for being more ideological than it is scientific — but science itself is an ideology, and everyone has to start from some point of view.

In that 2008 article Lynas acknowledged that the debate over GM technology “is not about technology or science, it's about economics and social policy.” For reasons of economics and policy alone, I can’t share Lynas’ embrace of GMOs.

Jason Mark, Editor, Earth Island JournalJason Mark photo
Jason Mark is a writer-farmer with a deep background in environmental politics. In addition to his work in the Earth Island Journal, his writings have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, The Progressive, Utne Reader, Orion, Gastronomica, Grist.org, Alternet.org, E magazine, and Yes!  He is a co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots and also co-author with Kevin Danaher of Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power.
He is writing a book about wildness in the twenty-first century, to be published next year by Island Press.

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Comments

The correct quote is “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” and it was not Whitman but Ralph Waldo Emerson.  So to begin with you have misquoted, misattributed, and misunderstood that particular quote and its proper meaning which ironically undermines your own argument.  This lack of attention and perception properly foreshadowed the rest of your article and its shortcomings

If you are still a critic of GMO technology after all the evidence that has been provided by scientific research and the consensus of the most important scientific academies around the world then you are making the same mistake as the Global Warming deniers.

I would direct you to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  It is the world’s largest general scientific society and is the publisher of one the most respected scientific journals in the world (Science).  Their policy statements concerning global warming and GMO technology provide credible guidence for those with open and rational minds.

I would also direct you to the book (The Righteous Mind) by Haidt, which might help you to understand why you have fallen into a tribal psychology trap and are simply using the pretense of reason (albeit not to effectively) to promote your pre-determined conclusions.

By Joel Malcuit on Fri, March 08, 2013 at 9:04 am

The Repentant Environmentalist: Mark Lynas was not a founder of the anti-GMO movement as he claims. http://www.spinwatch.org/-articles-by-category-mainmenu-8/46-gm-industry/5557

BBC journalist, Stephen Sackur, addressing Mark Lynas: “That [flipflop on GMO crops and nukes] leaves your personal credibility in shreds. ....your complete lack of intellectual rigour. If you were so wrong, so incompetent, so shallow in the past why should we believe you are any different now?”. Throughout the interview Lynas dismisses any expert or scientist who communicates science that opposes the pro-GMO, pro-nuke agenda as an “activist” or “environmentalist”. He continually refers to himself as being an environmentalist in the past tense. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01qcj5x/HARDtalk_Mark_Lynas_Environmental_campaigner_and_author/

By BillT on Mon, February 04, 2013 at 3:52 pm

It looks like the author above prides himself on knowing and understanding faulty logic pointing out cherry picking and straw man fallacies in Lynas’ speech and yet he opens up the article with a massive personal attack setting up Lynas’ entire change of opinion as a mere attention seeking.

By Never Ends on Tue, January 29, 2013 at 8:20 am

Steve Savage wrote:

>  ... the CaMV sequences ...  I happened to be in the lab where this plant virus was being sequenced back around 1978.  There are no surprises about sequences that have been widely studied and used that long.

I comment:  1.  Oddly, a v enthusiastic advocate of gene-tampering, Richard Gardiner, claimed in his inaugural address at U of Auckland that he had (briefly) held the world’s record for length of a sequenced DNA viz.  CaMV.    2.  Numerous sequences have been ‘widely studied and used that long’ without acknowledgment, let alone investigation, of their minor bases (e.g methylated G & C).  J Celera Venter has declared they’re of minor importance and we shouldn’t expect to have the actual sequences (as distinct from his degraded caricatures made on the slogan ‘The Big Four Rule OK’) for many y.  Never forget: the quality of science emanating from the DNA-worshippers makes the nuclear fanatics look honest!

R

By Robt Mann on Sun, January 27, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Zelka,

Did you happen to notice that the EFSA bluntly rejected the idea that there was anything “undiscovered” or not fully evaluated about the CaMV sequences?

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/faqs/faqinsertedfragmentofviralgeneingmplants.htm

I happened to be in the lab where this plant virus was being sequenced back around 1978.  There are no surprises about sequences that have been widely studied and used that long. 

New Zealand is a lovely place - I’ve only had the opportunity to go their once.  You are right that your export markets are mainly for rich people who can afford to make any demand they want and you will have to comply.  Don’t project that on countries with customers in the poor world or on the farmers in the poor world.

By Steve Savage on Sat, January 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm

People, check this out- new independent study by the European Union Food Safety Authority

Our farming family (in the northern part of NZ) oppose GMO land use due to the risks it presents to our biosecurity, unique biodiversity, Kiwi primary producers (whose key markets will not tolerate even trace GE contamination), economy and the public health.

We are in the business of producing the very best, safe and clean food for the most discerning- who do not want GE food.


Uncovered, the ‘toxic” gene hiding in GM crops: Revelation throws new doubt over safety of foods
Sean Poulter, Consumer Affairs Editor
Daily Mail, 21 January 2013
www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2266143/Uncovered-toxic-gene-hiding-GM-crops-Revelation-throws-new-doubt-safety-foods.html

*EU watchdog reveals approval for GM foods fails to identify poisonous gene
*54 of the 86 GM plants approved contain the dangerous gene
*Gene found in food for farm animals producing meat, milk, and eggs
*Biotech supporters argue there is no evidence that GM foods are harmful

A virus gene that could be poisonous to humans has been missed when GM food crops have been assessed for safety.

GM crops such as corn and soya, which are being grown around the world for both human and farm animal consumption, include the gene.

A new study by the EU’s official food watchdog, the European Food Safety Authority(EFSA), has revealed that the international approval process for GM crops failed to identify the gene.

As a result, watchdogs have not investigated its impact on human health and the plants themselves when assessing whether they were safe.

The findings are particularly powerful because the work was carried out by independent experts, rather than GM critics.

It was led by Nancy Podevin, who was employed by EFSA, and Patrick du Jardin, of the Plant Biology Unit at the University of Liege in Belgium.

They discovered that 54 of the 86 GM plants approved for commercial growing and food in the US, including corn and soya, contain the viral gene, which is known as “Gene VI”.

In this country, these crops are typically fed to farm animals producing meat, milk, and eggs.

Significantly, the EFSA researchers concluded that the presence of segments of Gene VI “might result in unintended phenotypic changes”.

Such changes include the creation of proteins that are toxic to humans. They could also trigger changes in the plants themselves, making them more vulnerable to pests.

Critics say the revelations make clear that the GM approvals process, which has been in place for 20 years, is fatally flawed.

They argue the only correct response is to recall all of the crops and food products involved. Director of the campaigning group, GM Freeze, Pete Riley, said the discovery of the gene, “totally undermines claims that GM technology is safe, precise and predictable”.

He said: “This is a clear warning the GM is not sufficiently understood to be considered safe. ‘Authorisation for these crops must be suspended immediately, and they should be withdrawn from sale, until a full and extended review of their safety has been carried out.”

By Zelka L Grammer on Fri, January 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I guess everyone has their price - Lynas found his. In fact, the years of anti GMO activism could have been an investment in his future.

Regarding GMO’s being “necessary” to feed today’s population, that’s lazy thinking. To solve the problem of feeding excess population simply legitimizes excess population. The population is the problem - not the lack of food. Work the problem, not the symptoms.

Steven in Dallas

By Steven InDallas on Fri, January 25, 2013 at 10:25 am

Has anyone here actually read or listened to Mark Lynas’s speech? And about him being “forced” too say this speech, its preposterous! GM’s are becoming more of a necessity in agriculture production, however today’s media is constantly saturated with discouraging news towards GM’s, and they have a harder chance of proving themselves.

By Zeus on Wed, January 23, 2013 at 7:50 am

You edited out the part about feeding the world’s hungry—just wondering why, and what your rejoinder is to that part of his argument?

By Andylee on Mon, January 21, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Steve,

Stay on topic. Birther sites, gun rights and anti-UN have nothing to do with anyone’s opinion about Lynas’ position on GMOs. ‘Opinions’ in and of themselves are simply conjecture. No one has said anything about PROOF of a conspiracy or otherwise.

By Suzette Lipford on Fri, January 18, 2013 at 7:24 am

‘If you want to get your name splattered all over the web, there’s nothing like recanting your once strongly held beliefs.  Give a big mea culpa speech telling the world how wrong you have been, and you’ll get far more attention for your auto-rebuttal than you ever received for your original ideas.’

      >>Has such been the fate of dissenting gene-jockeys such as Profs David Schubert, Jack Heinemann, ... ?

‘When it comes to ideological U-turns the media are like moths to a flame.’

      >>Mr Mark fails to show Lynas ‘could be right’ in his new-found denials (which I guess must result from blackmail or other coercion).  So why mention the notion?
      >>His main point turns out to be that, even if criticisms of GM on biological grounds did not happen to be correct, nevertheless GM would be ruled out by political arguments.

‘(Never mind that, as Whitman said, “consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”)’

      >>That is a mischievous slogan, not helpful in this context—too smart by half.
     
‘Here’s the opening from the speech that Lynas gave on January 3 at the Oxford Farming Conference (you can find the text of Lynas’s prepared remarks here):
“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”’

      >>This is an outrageously ignorant &/or arrogant claim.  The anti-GM movement began two decades earlier than Lynas claims, including opposition by the NZ Association of Scientists, within which effort arose Dr David Straton’s article in The Ecologist.  If Lynas doesn’t know of that, and if Mark is similarly ignorant, what type of operative are these two?

‘A peer-reviewed study published last year in Environmental Sciences Europe found that GM plantings in the United States led to a 7 percent increase in chemical spraying.’

      >>In case you wonder why does Jason not cite the eminent Dr Chas Benbrook, whose surveys of this issue have been the most comprehensive, this ESU report is by him.

‘It’s too bad the text of Lynas’ speech doesn’t come with citations, because I would love a source for his contention that GM technologies have benefitted farmers by requiring fewer inputs.’

      >>Jason would not love it. He, like me, believes none exists; but if any were produced, he would not love that impact.
      >>What he means is he demands a ref —‘put up or shut up’.  Why the lovey-dovey language?

‘As a part-time organic farmer, I find Lynas’ line about hybrid seeds “robbing farmers of the right to save seed” nothing short of laughable.  No, you can’t save seed from what’s called an F1 hybrid because the desired traits the plant has been bred for won’t necessarily continue into the next generation. That’s Biology 101.’
   
      >>As a sometime teacher of biology to undergrads, I’d give Mr Mark a low grade for this summary which plays handily into the ‘traits’ PR line of Monsanto.
      >> The reason Pioneer Hi-Bred and similar transnational seed merchants keep selling F1 maize (etc) is that, while you certainly can save seed set by F1 hybrids, no agribusiness farmer does, because the F2 show such large variation in phenotype that to grow them as a crop would be uneconomic.
      >>What fraction of the plants would show up in the F2 with a given GM-trait from 2 gen back —say, Roundup® resistance —for a given F1 GM-bastard, I’ve not seen reported.  Some maize farmers in Mexico may have some figures ... Anyhow, it would seem ill-informed to try to grow F2 RR(r) seed, not mainly because some of that gen will lack the RR® trait, but more importantly the same reason why F1 hybrid seeds took over global agribusiness markets, at least for maize, decades ago.
      >>Overdue is some analysis of why Monsanto have expended so much effort hounding farmers suspected of trying to grow F2 seeds descended from the frankenseeds sold by the evil M.

‘With GM crops, it’s Mother Nature plus the financial and legal muscle of giant companies like Monsanto.  Big difference.’

      >>What is the practical difference?  If nobody tries to grow F2 from commercial hybrids, what is added by the ‘financial & legal muscle’ wielded so ruthlessly against farmers accused of growing F2 from GM-bastards?
      >>The answer is of course the difference that farmers such as Percy Schmeiser are harassed by spurious court actions costing them much bother & money.

‘That quick review of the scientific literature only addresses agricultural chemicals’ impacts on human health. It would take paragraphs more to outline pesticides’ documented risks to “non-target” species such as frogs, birds, and fish.
So Lynas’ claims for the benefits of genetically modified crops are shaky, at best.
But let’s just say—for the sake of argument—that Lynas is more or less right on evidentiary grounds, and that there isn’t enough science to dismiss GM technologies out of hand.’

      >>Is it not suspicious that Mark fails to allude to evidence of serious harm to humans and to other spp from GMOs?  That is the most important of the ‘evidentiary grounds’ which he almost flags away.

‘Perhaps the greatest—and certainly the best documented—threat posed by GMOs involves how they undermine food sovereignty.  As Maria Ishii-Eitemann, a senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network, explains it, food sovereignty is “our right to save, plant, and grow seeds and crops as we want.”’

      >>I object to such a sloppy slogan.  Many plants are rightly classified noxious weeds and assertion of a ‘right’ to grow them on whim is just rubbish.  Rights in regard to GM-plants include rights of protection from hazard; judicial & administrative recourses in the event of another GM-disaster; and certainly the right to practise conventional permaculture and other non-noxious forms of organic horticulture.  That is all we claim.  What ‘we want’ is not society’s basis, esp when asserted by Maria Ishii-Eitemann.  I had not heard of her but now learn she was a main author of the key report.  It’s just a shame that such a junky quote from her was fwd.

‘The steady monopolization of the seed supply is eroding that sovereignty.  The skills needed to genetically modify seeds are so specialized (and the investment required so immense) that only a handful of massive firms can take it on.’

      >>That does appear to be true —and of course important.
      >>Jason Mark is evidently steeped in political theory and deems it the most important aspect of discussions on GM.  In his line of work that may well be an occupational hazard.  But if he means, as he seems to, only that his own political interests matter more to him than the hazards created by GMOs, let him say so and discuss this radical sellout.
      >>Probably what he is trying to say is that the political threats entailed in GMOs would, even if they were the only argument that could be marshalled anti-GMOs, those political arguments would suffice to dismiss the Monsanto thrust.  I agree; I just wish he would also mention, if only in a sentence or two, the biological hazards which are in the same league as those posed by nuclear weapons.

By Robert Mann on Thu, January 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Auspicious Bunny (and others),

Do you have any idea how wacky you sound?  Go look at “Birther” sites or certain extreme gun rights or anti UN sites.  See how absurd those people look and then consider how similar your thinking is on this topic.

By Steve Savage on Thu, January 17, 2013 at 11:43 am

Wonder if they threatened his family.  I mean some of the Monsanto folks have sent the paratroopers to hold a food co-op hostage for five hours at gunpoint.  Who knows what the Monsanto Mafia is capable of trying.

By auspiciousbunny on Wed, January 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Steve,

You’re absolutely right; I am obviously a conspiracy theorist in this case. I know the science, to support both arguments, is there. But, my point is really about his position BEFORE the 180. After reading about the life he dedicated to environmental issues, I find it impossible to believe either new information, proposing GMOs, has surfaced and he’s had a change of (heart) mind, or he’s taken a look back at all the damning evidence against GMOs and simply reconsidered his position. Arguing the science for both sides is pointless; it’s clear as mud science is debatable. This is too drastic for anyone who’s had such a fervent passion for the environment and people’s health.

By Suzette Lipford on Wed, January 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm

He’s full of crap!  Bought and paid for no doubt.

By Kathy on Tue, January 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Hail to the Biofortified crew!  You guys need to remember that public policy should dictate which technology we develop.  Just because we can figure out a way to do something doesn’t mean we should.  And just because some portion of the science community thinks something is safe does not mean we all have to agree on pain of being called “anti-science.”

By Maria on Tue, January 15, 2013 at 5:08 am

John Lord,
Before there was glyphosate tolerant soy, there were other herbicides used for weed control. The small ups and downs of amounts (generally under a pound on an entire acre) are not very relevant.  The new trait mentioned was actually first developed by a university researcher who anticipated that eventually the weeds would become resistant to glyphosate as they have to all sorts of things over time. 

Whether the amounts of herbicides are up are down matters far less than whether there are actually any environmental or health issues with the herbicides.  For all of these cases there are not problems.  What matters more is that herbicides and herbicide tolerances enable growers to do no-till farming which has a long list of environmental advantages.

By Steve Savage on Mon, January 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Suzette,

You seem to be in full-blown conspiracy theory mode here.  What Lynas says makes plenty of intellectual sense to people who listen to more than the “false tropes” that Susan describes above.

By Steve Savage on Mon, January 14, 2013 at 12:17 am

Jason Mark’s rebuttal is all over the place,either the arguments for GM stand up on their science or they don’t, everything else is distraction.  His use of the term ‘Political Ecology’ is chilling, and is a good umbrella term for the Green Movement’s modus operandi(politics generally trumps science, in the short term anyway).
One example of his peculiar logic is his assertion that Monsanto having brought out a new weedkiller,that this is inconsistent with lower weedkiller use on GM crops, why?  the farmer is hardly likely to use both at the same time, just for the fun of it.

By John Lord on Sun, January 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Having taken the time to actually read the Vandemeer rebuttal, I found it lacking.  It was sad to see that a Professor from U-M (my alma mater) would start off with inuendo and ad hominem attack and continue with littlle straight-on condescension –  more disappointing than devastating.

More broadly, Mr. Jason Mark’s so-called rebuttal relies on disproved assertions and false tropes.  If there is interest in a meaningful analysis of these points I would welcome an opportunity to provide documentation and full analysis.  (I don’t work for Monsanto.)

By Susan Finston on Sun, January 13, 2013 at 12:13 am

Jason,
Give me at least one reason why organic crops can be fertilized with urea which comes from the urine of animals but cannot be fertilized with synthesized urea, or why no insecticides from chemical synthesis can be applied to crops, while insecticides from plants, some of them toxic alkaloids and inorganic salts of copper can be used as fungicides? Why not use in organic farming GM crops engineered to have their own insecticides against certain insects, which are not toxic to humans? Isn`t it just ideology taken to an extreme thaqt moves the organic creed?.

By Alex Grobman on Sat, January 12, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Jason,  You are repeating all the “self referencing” myths Lynas talked about, but one thing you cite is worth a response.  You say that Environmental Sciences Europe found a 7% increase in pesticide use in the US that they relate to GM crops.  Did they factor in the great increase in grain prices over the last decade or so that made protecting the crop worth a little more pest control effort?  Did they happen to mention the fact that European crops which are mainly not GMO are sprayed many times more frequently than those in the US?  Whether that is “bad” or not depends on exactly what is sprayed, but 7% increase over a low level vs a seriously high level?  Come on.  I’d say that crop subsidies lead to far higher pesticide use than GMO crops

By Steve Savage on Fri, January 11, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Some of us are wondering if his life was threatened. None of what he says makes any kind of intellectual sense. There seems to be something amiss…it’s blatant, don’t you think? No one thinks this is on the ‘up and up’ do they?

By Suzette Lipford on Fri, January 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm

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