World-renowned environmentalist Mark Lynas shared his experience of moving from anti-GMO activist to advocate for biotechnology at a featured workshop at the 97th American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show. Lynas told an audience of farmers and ranchers how he changed his mind on GMOs when he came face-to-face with the science supporting biotechnology.
"As a scientist, you must have data to back up what you're saying," Lynas said. "And I realized I wasn't holding myself to the same scientific standards on GMOs as I applied to my research on climate change. You can't pick and choose where you use science to back up your argument: You have to be consistent."
He also asserted that we need more advances in technology, and that GMOs are critical to helping farmers around the world feed a booming population.
"Science and technology need to keep progressing to preserve the resources we have left," he said. And Lynas is backing up his belief in GMOs with action: He is now working with Cornell University to help develop GM crops that will help farmers in developing countries grow better crops without pesticides.
Even with clear scientific support, Lynas acknowledged, it's difficult to convince the general public on biotechnology because of the scare tactics employed by activists. But he believes transparency can go a long way in building trust with consumers: "Transparency on GMOs will help dispel fears because people assume something is risky if they think information is being withheld from them," Lynas said.
But this is where farmers can help bridge the gap, he said.
"People need a believable source of information. As farmers, you have credibility because you understand what you're doing and why. You can explain the real benefits GM crops have for both the land and consumers."