The reversal of opinion by a British environmentalist and writer who was instrumental in launching the anti-biotechnology movement in the 1990s has sent shockwaves through the environmental activist biosphere and beyond. A small sampling of the outrage: “Everyone has their price.  Clearly Monsanto was able to pay the right price for him to change his mind,” Jennifer Ngo commented on the Mother Jones blogsite. “I don’t know that Lynas has been bought,” remarked a blogger named Lou on the same site, “but wild swings from one extreme to the other do not appear to me to have the markings of intellectual pursuit.”

The “Lynas” these bloggers are referring to is none other than Mark Lynas, who took part in destroying test plantings of genetically engineered crops 20 years ago.  But during a lecture to the Oxford Farming Conference in England in early January, Lynas admitted that he regretted his part in “ripping up GM (genetically modified) crops” and said he was sorry for “demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.”

This is no insignificant change of heart of environmentalism’s once stalwart supporter and crusader. Lynas, who while performing extensive research on global warming, said his opinion was changed because he became familiar with scientific literature and realized he had never done any academic research on biotechnology – despite being a fervent opponent against it for years.

(See related, Road to Damascus change for anti-GM apostle Mark Lynas)

Digging deeper into the empirical data available to him about genetically engineered crops, Lynas’ epiphany led him to conclude that his beliefs about biotechnology turned out to be little more than “green urban myths.” 

He then listed several of his previous assumptions that he now discredits: that only big companies profit from GMOs (genetically modified organisms); that biotechnology would increase the use of chemicals; that there was no big demand for biotechnology and it is unwanted; that it is dangerous.  Instead, he said pest-resistant biotech crops needed less insecticide; that biotechnology is safe and more precise than conventional breeding; that billions of dollars worth of benefits are available to farmers who discovered to their glee they needed fewer inputs and that farmers throughout the world are eager to plant biotech crops.

“As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing,” he told the conference, “I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.”

This type of mind reversal over such an important technological advancement that allows scientists to genetically engineer certain traits into the molecules of various plants is an amazing metamorphosis. It’s too bad that this insight is lacking in most EU countries that have taken the opposite course, essentially banning GM crops.