(photo by David Reverchon)

I’m mostly uninformed agnostic on the genetically modified food controversy, so I’m not sure what to make of this New York Times blog post today about Mark Lynas, an environmental activist who has made a public conversion in favor of GMO:

For the record, here and upfront, I apologize 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 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonizing 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.

The arc of Lynas’s fascinating career is in some ways neatly encapsulated by two acts at Oxford — throwing a cream pie in the face of Bjorn Lomborg, the skeptic of eco-calamity, at a book signing there in 2001… and now echoing more than a few of Lomborg’s assertions in his lecture at the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday.

In doing so, he has displayed an encouraging — and still rare — capacity to shed dogma in favor of data.

Well, just a second here.  I’m all in favor of being open-minded and pursuing the truth no matter where it leads, but the type of gut-instinct opposition to GMO that Lynas now decries isn’t nearly the same thing as the fiercely defiant ignorance (usually appealing to tribal resentments) we see conservatives use to rationalize otherwise indefensible policies like rejecting action on climate change — an example that Lynas uses to defend his shift in views.

Climate change denial is illogic based on selfishness, both personal and corporate: a refusal to accept responsibility for the damage our modern lifestyle is doing to world we live in.  In contrast, what little I know about GMO has an immediately apparent logic that should cause any intelligent person to be suspicious.

I mean, think about it.  Monsanto, a chemical company, develops a near-monopoly on the weedkiller market with a product called Roundup… and now, suddenly it’s an agriculture company with a near-monopoly on “Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans that are compatible with the weedkiller.

It’s not illogical at all to see a conflict of interest there that could easily turn deadly if GMO technology isn’t closely scrutinized and regulated.  After all, it’s not like we have to look very far on any given day for examples of big corporations willing risking lives and the environment just to save a few bucks.