When the European Commission outlined an “opt-out” process for members wary of genetically modified crops this spring, it hoped to craft a compromise between the Luddite environmentalists who oppose these GMOs and the farmers and scientists who again and again have come out in support of them. The idea was simple: at the central level, scientists would determine if specific GM crops were safe for human consumption, and if a crop in question passed those tests, then EU nations could decide whether or not they would permit its cultivation. Since then, the number of countries “opting out” of safe GM crops has ballooned, and that has Mark Lynas questioning Europe’s credibility ahead of this December’s landmark climate summit in Paris. He writes for the New York Times:
In effect, the Continent is shutting up shop for an entire field of human scientific and technological endeavor. This is analogous to America’s declaring an automobile boycott in 1910, or Europe’s prohibiting the printing press in the 15th century. […]
This decision of a majority of European countries to apparently ignore their own experts may undermine any claim to the moral high ground at the coming Paris talks on climate change. The worldwide scientific consensus on the safety of genetic engineering is as solid as that which underpins human-caused global warming. Yet this inconvenient truth on G.M.O.s — that they’re as safe as conventionally cultivated food — is ignored when ideological interests are threatened.
It’s hard to overstate how refreshing it is to see this sort of thinking on display outside our own corner of the internet. Mark Lynas once helped lead the environmental movement’s opposition to GMOs, but has since reversed course and become one of the technology’s most vocal champions. As he put it, “[a]fter 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.” Truer words…
Modern greens are still irrationally biased against the extraordinary potential of genetically modified foods, which has a special kind of irony when you consider these advanced crops—with their drought and pest resistance and higher yields—are uniquely suited to solve the kinds of problems climate change and a more crowded world pose, according to those same environmentalists. It seems greens are more willing to diagnose the ailment than they are to prescribe the cure.
On a related note, we would much rather spend our time praising smart green thinking like Lynas’s than criticizing the foolhardiness of eco-hypocrisy or the short-sighted image-first policymaking so prominently on display in Europe. Sadly, these chances come few and far between.