19 January 2013

At the Oxford Farming Conference, pioneering anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas made a public apology for the damage his activism did. He re-evaluated his position as he was writing a book on climate change. In order to put forth an effective argument against climate change deniers, Lynas was forced to learn how to read peer reviewed scientific literature. In arguing for the dangers of manmade climate change, Lynas had science on his side, while the deniers were thoroughly anti-science.

As he was working in the scientific literature, it occurred to him that his stance on GMO crops was not based on rigorous scientific evidence. The anti-GMO movement is primarily an emotional response to the growth of agricultural technology. The organic movement fears the corporate control of the food system, along with the unknown consequences of tampering with the genetic makeup of crops.

In his attempt to revise the narrative of GMO crops, Lynas explores the history of the Green Revolution. The scientific management of the food system does not, in fact, begin with the corporations, but with scientists who wanted to figure out a way to feed starving people.

The food question is really tough. Eating is fundamental to the existence of human civilization. The way we feed the world now is not sustainable. Folks in the organic movement are right to question the status quo, but their solutions are far off the mark. In an interview on public radio, Lynas suggests that the reason they have traveled down the wrong path for so long is the lack of dissent within the movement. Greens have become so accustomed to protecting their own from outside attack that they have paid little attention to refining their ideas.

This is a shame. The left should be a force for progress in society. Most of the projects of the left have achieved some sort of mainstream success. The left needs to re-evaluate its tactics if it hopes to continue to be a force for progressive change. As we have seen in the anti-GMO movement, the left is primarily a force of reaction.

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