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I want to start with some apologies.
For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.
As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path.
I now regret it completely. Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us.
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. It was the stuff of nightmares.
This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with. This was also explicitly an anti-science movement. 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. 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 inand 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.
So I lectured them about the value of peer-review, about the importance of scientific consensus and how the only facts that mattered were the ones published in the most distinguished scholarly journals.
My second climate book, Six Degrees, was so sciency that it even won the Royal Society science books prize, and climate scientists I had become friendly with would joke that I knew more about the subject than them. And yet, incredibly, at this time in I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM — even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding.
Obviously this contradiction was untenable. What really threw me were some of the comments underneath my final anti-GM Guardian article. In particular one critic said to me: Are you also opposed to the wheel because because it is marketed by the big auto companies?
So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.
It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.
It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.
It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way. But what about mixing genes between unrelated species?
The fish and the tomato? But this was still only the beginning. So in my third book The God Species I junked all the environmentalist orthodoxy at the outset and tried to look at the bigger picture on a planetary scale. And this is the challenge that faces us today:“Silliest internet atheist argument” is a hotly contested title, but I have a special place in my heart for the people who occasionally try to prove Biblical fallibility by pointing out whales are not a type of fish.
(this is going to end up being a metaphor for something, so bear with me) The. This essay delves deeply into the origins of the Vietnam War, critiques U.S. justifications for intervention, examines the brutal conduct of the war, and discusses the . Goldsmiths, University of London is in South East London.
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I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops.