Mark Lynas & his support of GM crops – Much ado about nothing!

This note has been prepared in the context of the absolutely vested and purposefully planted story of Mark Lynas and his Confession. The Coalition for GM Free India sees this as a distraction, from the real debate on GM crops and its impacts, and its disturbing to see that even a section of the media fell for this trap. This note is to set right the facts on this matter.

• Mark Lynas made a speech on January 3rd, 2013 claiming that he has changed his mind about GM crops and he now supports GM crops.
• In his speech he claims to have “helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s”- the claim “helped start” is farfetched and doesn’t stand to scrutiny, considering that the anti GM movement in UK and Europe began earlier in the 1980s, and much of the initial work began in the 1970s. They began building coalitions in the late 1980s across countries and continents. Books by activists on the GE problems began to be published in the 1980s. The movement was founded on sound science, path-breaking intellectual work, writings and commitment of groups and individuals on both sides of the Atlantic.
• In India, Lynas speech made its first appearance in IE. The IE article, which disingenuously calls him “voice of the anti-GM campaign”, and calls him “one of the earliest campaigners against GM crops in Europe”, which is complete hyperbole, as it would have been impossible for him as a boy or a teenager to initiate the European anti GM campaign! Also the European anti-GM campaign and the UK anti-GM campaign are different entities.
• In that article, done through an email interview, Lynas claims to “having been part of the campaign, as part of which he coordinated with Indian NGOs, in the process taking the fear of GM crops to India”, yet another tall claim with absolutely no substance. The Indian movement to keep India free of GM crops has had no connection with Mark Lynas; in fact many in the movement have come across his name for the first time after this Oxford speech.

• His public profiles on Wikipedia, Guardian paper and elsewhere carry his identity and profile as a climate activist, no where is he cited as an anti-GM activist.
• According to his profile he holds a Degree in History and Politics
• His utterances on GM seem to have come only after his much publicised conversion to becoming a supporter of GM crops.
• His first published articles supporting GM crops were published in the New Statesman, UK in January 2010, i.e. 3 years ago! His book “God Species: How the Planet can Survive the Age of Humans” (on climate change), was published in 2011. So this stance supporting GM crops is nothing new or newsworthy.
• In 2010 he appeared in a documentary telecast in Channel 4 called the “What the greens got wrong” (where he spoke in support of nuclear power) and he has been supportive of nuclear energy and GM crops since then. So, this “conversion” is not new, and has been re-invented now with some ulterior motive.

Interesting information from 2011 :
• The Guardian paper reported on a leaked document from the PR agency working for EuropaBio, the most wealthy and influential lobby group for GM crops in Europe (funded by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow etc). The leaked memo showed that EuropaBio was looking for GM Ambassadors whose task would be to create a positive image about GMOs. The PR firm document says “The most important factor in terms of ensuring the legitimacy and impact of this programme is the quality of the ambassadors and the breadth of positions represented and numbers involved. Provided that a sufficiently strong pool of ambassadors is established – we are very confident that this will be the case – then it will be very difficult for anybody to make the claim that these ambassadors are somehow ‘in the pocket’ of the agricultural science companies.” (‘Biotech group bids to recruit high-profile GM ambassadors’).

• In the draft letter to potential Ambassadors one of the names mentioned for “potential involvement” is Mark Lynas, and as expected, he has denied it. It is interesting to note that the biotech lobby considers him a promising figure to promote their views since 2011, so what is new?

• About EuropaBio: It is the most influential and powerful biotech lobbying group based in Brussels and focused on lobbying in Europe for GM crops. Their corporate members list includes who is who of the biotech industry (Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dow and so on).

The speech:

• Mark Lynas speech at the Oxford farming conference was riddled with inaccuracies and consisted of a series of unsubstantiated broad sweeping statements. He has claimed that he opposed GM in ignorance; this speech makes it clear that his support is also based on the same or greater level of ignorance.

• Below are a sample of responses from reputed scientists, social scientists and ecologists on this speech, which reveals the lack of understanding and depth of the speech. Many more such responses are available :
o Dr.Brian John , Past lecturer,University of Durham- he Lynas School of pseudo-scientific environmentalism -Twenty-two pieces of junk science from the Lynas Manifesto
o Dr.Doug Gurian Sherman , A plant pathologist at Union for Concerned Scientists – Lies, dogma and Mark Lynas
o Prof. John Vandermeer, Professor, Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology – challenges Mark Lynas on GMOs
o Tom Philpott, Writer on food and agriculture , Enviro-cusader turns Pro-GMO, Anti-organic and anti-logic

• Lynas has not responded with science, references or arguments to any of these contentions, as is the case with his original speech as well.

• Why has such an unscientific speech of a conversion of an individual to believing in GM crops attracted such wide circulation, while peer reviewed science that has revealed the problems with GMOs face attacks ? The answer lies in the question – if you support GM crops, you are paraded as a trophy, if you find problems with GM crops, you are tarnished and your professional reputation destroyed.

• The biotech industry has taken the lead in promoting this piece, it is on the front page of all biotech lobby sites and being promoted assiduously.

Does Lynas or this red herring of an individual’s change of views have any relevance in the Indian context? – Yes & No

• The efforts of some members of the Indian media to accept his assertions without any critical questioning, probably in their efforts to further GM, and the consequent spread of half truths necessitates this note.

• As an individual Lynas has a right to take a stance and an individual’s stance does not mean the end of a movement or debate. His stance has absolutely no bearing on the global movement against GM crops or the Indian movement to keep the country GM free. No individual however highly placed can end a movement, and if the individual has had no significant place in the movement the question of discussing his exit does not even arise (particularly two years after he has changed sides !!).

• The movement against GM crops and  movements to take sufficient precautions before introducing them into the environment is based on scientific, ecological, socio-economic considerations and issues of fundamental choice about food and farming. It realises that GM is an imprecise, irreversible, uncontrollable living technology which is neither needed nor safe. It is based on facts, scientific evidence, socio-economic realities and ecological and health impacts.

• In the Indian context the timing of this has been carefully chosen because the biotech industry lobby promoting GM crops has been on the back foot since the unanimous report of the Parliamentary Committee which has exposed the hollowness of the GM claims (and asked for a moratorium and investigations into many issues) and the SC TEC interim report has also seen fit to call for a moratorium. This is part of the industry’s effort to try to influence the final report of the SC TEC by PR agencies going into over drive to get some pro-biotech media coverage. Lynas is not a scientist; he has not come up with any new studies or findings, and has merely repeated some of the oft repeated claims by the biotech industry.

In conclusion, this Mark Lynas episode is simply a well-planted distraction from the genuine and highly critical debate that is taking place on the issue of GM crops across Europe, US, Asia, South America and Africa. Wherever GM crops have been adopted, serious environmental and in some cases health problems are being experienced and hence public objections, and where there is pressure for introduction, there is strong public opposition. Mark Lynas is simply a distraction in this debate. However, the sad reality is that many media houses ran after a story like this rather than engage honestly with the issue. Of course many of them have in the process harmed their own reputation by doing blatantly one-sided stories in their rush to help the biotech industry.

Released in Public Interest by Coalition for a GM-Free India
email : indiagmfree(at)
For contacts – Sridhar Radhakrishnan (09995358205), mail.thanal(at)
Sreedevi Lekshmikutty – l_sreedevi(at)

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