The Indian government would do well to relax regulations on GM crops, and encourage agricultural innovation to promote food security and reduce poverty, stressed environmental activist Mark Lynas in a recent interview with the Business Standard.
When asked how GM technology could benefit India, Lynas responded that the technology can be used to bolster the country’s food security, pointing out that “it can help farmers by reducing the need for pesticides and delivering higher yields for fewer inputs. It can also deliver drought tolerance, and help make Indian farming more resilient in the face of climate change.”
Lynas also described how the adoption of GM crops could contribute to poverty reduction in India. “Raising productivity for poor-country farmers would be the quickest route to attack poverty, and yet the campaigners seem content to see farmers in developing country stuck in an organic version of the Stone Age. GM crops can help protect against diseases, and in some case are the only option - one example is bananas, which are under attack from a new bacterial wilt in Eastern Africa, and for which resistance can only be brought by GM because bananas are sterile and propagated clonally,” he explained. READ MORE »
Mark Lynas’s recent apology for his years of anti-GMO activism and subsequent expression of support for the technology has shifted the entire debate surrounding GMOs, according to Forbes‘ Richard Levick. Levick wrote that that the environmental activist’s speech “wasn’t just an acknowledgement of error. It was the recantation of an agenda.”
Such an about-face based on scientific inquiry by a notable environmentalist strengthens the case for ag biotech, while widening the perimeters of debate. “We hope that the tremendous reaction to the speech by Mark Lynas serves as evidence that honest consideration of the science will change minds about agricultural biotechnology,” says Dr. Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information in Washington, D.C.
Levick concludes: “The challenge posed to the environmentalists is to rely on science everywhere or rely on it nowhere. If they opt for science, they may discover, or at least need to consider, what Lynas came to believe: that, for example, GM does not increase the use of chemicals as pest-resistant cotton and maize require less insecticide. Or that the mixing of genes between unrelated species is no more unnatural than the gene flows that have driven evolution since life began.” Read more.
Photo courtesy of The Globe and Mail
In writing about the pro-biotech speech by British environmental activist Mark Lynas, during which he publicly apologized for years of anti-biotech activities, Canadian commentator Margaret Wente says the tremendous stir it caused may mark a turning of the tide of public opinion.
“People are hungry to hear from a new generation of environmental moderates who value science and pragmatism over ideology and absolutes,” Wente wrote in her column in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest national newspaper. “They want to hear from those like Mr. Lynas, who think technology can be a force for good, and want to find practical approaches to environmental problems.”
Lynas himself sees a shift in opinion, Ms. Wente wrote, quoting him from an interview.
“Something has moved in the terms of this debate,” she quoted Lynas as saying. “It’s like the cresting of a wave. It’s as if everyone has simultaneously realized that the anti-GM movement doesn’t actually have anything backing it up,” he said. READ MORE »
Last summer, as the United States faced the worst drought since 1988, the Council for Biotechnology Information shared stories of seed companies who were working with farmers across America’s farm belt to conduct field trials of drought-tolerant corn varieties, including Monsanto’s DroughtGardTM Hybrids, DuPont Pioneer’s hybrid AQUAmaxTM, and Syngenta’s Agrisure ArtesianTM.
Initial results of these field trials were positive, and the positive feedback has continued. This week, Syngenta announced that expanded results from 2012 field trials confirmed the drought-resistant variety’s impressive yields, reinforcing the importance of the role of agricultural technologies in mitigating the effects of drought on the U.S. and global food supply in the future.
European scientists and food safety experts drove the final nail in the coffin on the controversial Séralini rat study this week, finding that it finding that it “does not meet acceptable scientific standards” and raises no valid questions about the safety of genetically modified corn.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) presented a final statement on Wednesday that reaffirmed its initial assessment that “the authors’ conclusions cannot be regarded as scientifically sound because of inadequacies in the design, reporting and analysis of the study as outlined in the paper.”
EFSA noted the emergence of a broad European consensus, as each of the six assessments conducted independently by member states had determined that Séralini’s conclusions regarding the safety of GM corn were not supported by the data presented in the study. Read more.