Environmentalists imagine themselves as champions of science. They use research to justify their sometimes apocalyptic prognostications and the prescriptions that this worldview engenders, and dismiss any challenge to their perspective as willful ignorance. How then can this same group rally against genetically modified organisms? The science is firmly behind GMOs, as study after study has shown them to be safe, yet walk into a Whole Foods and you’ll see, sandwiched in between free range chicken and organic produce, “GMO-free” food prominently labeled for the discerning “green” consumer.
There’s a solid strain of public distrust for genetically modified foods and organisms, and that comes in no small part thanks to the work of today’s environmentalists who have decried these new crops as somehow “unnatural” and stoked fears of “frankenfoods”. One prominent green who helped spearhead the anti-GMO movement in the 1990s is now publicly repenting in the pages of the venerable New York Times:
A lifelong environmentalist, I opposed genetically modified foods in the past. Fifteen years ago, I even participated in vandalizing field trials in Britain. Then I changed my mind.
After writing two books on the science of climate change, I decided I could no longer continue taking a pro-science position on global warming and an anti-science position on G.M.O.s.
There is an equivalent level of scientific consensus on both issues, I realized, that climate change is real and genetically modified foods are safe. I could not defend the expert consensus on one issue while opposing it on the other.
Mark Lynas, the author of this op-ed, issued a similar mea culpa on the issue of GMOs at a conference two years ago where he apologized for “demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.” It was a welcome sign that the movement might begin changing its course on GMOs, though sadly green opposition seems as entrenched today as it was back then.
It’s encouraging then that Lynas is taking his message to the New York Times, whose readership certainly encompasses a large segment of those so-called environmentalists so quick to assume the mantle of modern science when it comes to climate change but eschew it on the issue of genetic modifications. This hypocrisy isn’t just unseemly, it has real-world consequences, as we’ve seen in Europe where the EU recently proposed rules to allow member states to reject GMOs on non-scientific grounds.
Environmentalists have gotten the outlining of our planet’s problems down to a science but display a seemingly natural aversion to realistic solutions. If they were really so concerned with saving the planet they’d follow Lynas’s lead, and start calling for the proliferation of hardier, higher yielding GM crops.