“The GM debate is over,” he said. “We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe. Over a decade and a half with 3 trillion GM meals eaten, there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food.”

He went on to explain why GM crops are good for the environment: They allow us to produce more food on limited land, shrink our carbon footprint, and reduce our reliance on chemical sprays.

In one respect, Lynas said nothing new. As a farmer who devotes 15 percent of my land area to environmental stewardship, creating habitats for birds, mammals and pollinators, I too believe that we could enhance biodiversity and reduce our environmental footprint if we grew biotech crops.

Yet Lynas is different. We know from history that convert’s opinion can wield much greater influence—so a one-time environmental activist could become one of the greatest advocates for modern farming methods.

Lynas said in his speech that he first began to have doubts about his opposition to GM crops by reading the online comments to his newspaper columns.

Readers encouraged him to look more closely at the science of biotechnology. “I discovered that one by one, my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths,” he said.

If the discussion over GM crops were approached by the public, intellectuals and policy-makers with the honesty and open-mindedness of Lynas, I believe they would soon realize that its role is pivotal to feeding our growing population in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive way.

Ian Pigott runs a diversified farming business in Harpenden, UK.  Located just 20 miles from the centre of London, he grows wheat, oilseed, rape and oats in rotation. The farm is a LEAF (linking environment and farming) demonstration farm.  Ian is a member of the TATT Global Farmer Network (www.truthabouttrade.org)