Voice of anti-GM campaign says he was wrong, slams Jairam Ramesh for ‘letting science down’

FP

One of the earliest campaigners against genetically modified crops in Europe has publicly embraced the technology. Tendering an unconditional apology for his anti-GM activism, Mark Lynas has also come out in the open and criticised Indian activists and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh for their approach on the issue, asserting that the debate against GM crops was "over".

As environment minister, Jairam put the release of Bt Brinjal in deep freeze three years ago, and the debate on GM crops in India has been stuck at that point ever since.

Lynas, who began his anti-GM activism when the crops were introduced in European markets, confessed the change of heart at an Oxford Farming Conference earlier this month.

In an e-mail interview to The Sunday Express, Lynas said he was "truly sorry" for having been part of the campaign, as part of which he coordinated with Indian NGOs, in the process taking the fear of GM crops to India.

"Indian anti-GM activism is based on widely believed myths and popular misconceptions and conspiracy theories, promoted by political activists like Vandana Shiva, who find anti-GM a convenient banner to organise their reactionary campaigns against modern technology and capitalism in general," Lynas said.

He also criticised Ramesh for resorting to public hearings to take a call on Bt brinjal. "Ramesh's approach was a cop out, because it allowed those who shouted loudest — always the self-interested NGOs — to drown out the voices of everyone else. I have great respect for his skills as a politician, but on GM unfortunately he has let science down by not defending the need for evidence in policy. When it comes to a battle between mythology and scientific truth, minister Ramesh has declined to take sides," he added.

The two got acquainted at the 2009 annual global climate conference held at Copenhagen where India was represented by Ramesh as negotiator while Lynas attended as climate advisor to the Maldives president.

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