Mark Lynas: "The Whole Natural Food Movement is a Fraud" 

click to enlarge Simplot's Innate potato, a GMO product that is resistant to bruising. - J.R. SIMPLOT COMPANY
  • J.R. Simplot Company
  • Simplot's Innate potato, a GMO product that is resistant to bruising.
At the 2013 Oxford Farming Conference, environmental author Mark Lynas, known for his staunch anti-GMO stance, dramatically changed his position, coming out in favor of genetically modified foods. The shift had come after years of anti-Mosanto activities and destroying crops involved in GMO field trials. Tuesday, May 19, he'll talk to Boiseans about his conversion, and why the public should give GMOs another chance.

"I thought I was protecting the environment. It turns out this technology has a lot to offer," he told Boise Weekly

Lynas is the author of The God Species, Six Degrees and High Tide—all books about the environment and man's relationship with it. Six Degrees was long listed for the Orwell Prize in 2008 and won the Royal Society Prize for science books. 

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants that have been manipulated on the genetic level. Sometimes, this manipulation is meant to suppress negative characteristics, like the acrylamide, which is found in potatoes and is thought to be a carcinogen. Other manipulations include promoting desired characteristics, like high yields, and others include splicing characteristics from other crops or strains of the same plant.

Scientists have been interbreeding and enhancing crops since the Middle Ages, but it wasn't until recently that scientists had sophisticated tools with which they could interface with a plant's genetic material.

"With modern knowledge, these traits could be developed much faster" than with previous technological methods, Lynas said.

Many of these changes have made crops more resistance to heat, drought and insects, but critics of GMOs say they could be dangerous to humans and entail unforeseen biological and environmental consequences. Lynas fired back at what he called "the antis," and said that while science has backed up the nutritiousness and safety of GMOs—earlier this year, the FDA cleared Simplot's Innate potato—there is still a significant public perception that GMOs are unhealthful.

"The whole natural food movement is a fraud," he said. "I don't see why we have to attach cultural and political baggage [to GMOs] when there's scientific consensus."

Lynas will speak beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, at the Egyptian Theatre.

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