Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us.
When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought.
Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.
I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment. Italian version (also shortened) Thai version and Slovak version. 07 Mark Lynas from Oxford Farming Conference on Vimeo. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops.Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong.These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today.This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life.
Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends.
What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it.
For me this anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change.
I published my first book on global warming in 2004, and I was determined to make it scientifically credible rather than just a collection of anecdotes.
So I had to back up the story of my trip to Alaska with satellite data on sea ice, and I had to justify my pictures of disappearing glaciers in the Andes with long-term records of mass balance of mountain glaciers.
That meant I had to learn how to read scientific papers, understand basic statistics and become literate in very different fields from oceanography to paleoclimate, none of which my degree in politics and modern history helped me with a great deal.