Some time in the past decade, anti-GMO campaigner Mark Lynas had a conversion.

The British environmentalist who was known for going out into the fields to destroy genetically modified crops with his bare hands became a supporter of the technology as a means to feed a hungry world.

His admission last year that he’d changed his mind, and his apology to farmers and scientists, made headlines.

'The downside is that we won’t be able to use this technology to feed a growing human population and we need new crops resistant to drought which is a climate change impact'- Mark Lynas

In an interview with CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange, Lynas explained why he reversed his position on GMOs.

“It was about discovering science actually through different work which was writing climate change because there is a very strong scientific consensus about the reality of climate change and  when you confront the sceptics, you say you have to listen to the scientists – 97% of experts say that climate change is real and so on,” he said.  

“And then on the other side, there’s a similar sort of scientific consensus that GMOs are safe...As a science writer or science communicator I’ve had to align myself with the scientific community on this issue,” he said.

Lynas, author of The God Species and The Carbon Calculator: Easy Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint, said the movement against GMOs seems to be driven by mythology, rather than science.

Lightning rod for fears about food supply

GMO is a “lightning rod of fears about the unnatural and the technocracy in our food supply,” he said, adding that it makes for strange bedfellows, with environmentalists arguing on the side of the pesticide companies.

Lynas said he now believes that GMO crops use less pesticide and are as safe as any agricultural product.  

Canada is a major agri-food exporter, and grain farmers alone generate $9 billion in economic output. If extreme weather is to become the norm, farmers are going to have to find a way to ensure that wild weather won’t put our food supply in jeopardy.

Lynas is familiar with the passionate and extreme views of anti-GMO campaigners – and has himself been accused of working for GMO technology companies. But he says he believes the world will soon be in trouble without GMOs.

“The downside is that we won’t be able to use this technology to feed a growing human population and we need new crops resistant to drought which is a climate change impact,” Lynas said.

“Vitamin A deficiency kills two million children a year around the world, there’s golden rice that has been developed with carotene so kids can have some vitamin A in their diet  If the environmental groups against this succeed, that’s 10s of thousands of lives that won’t be saved.”