Mark jokingly started his talk that he is shamelessly known more for an apology, but is glad to share his story about his background of being a former anti-GMO advocate, to a leading voice on climate change policy and a strong advocate for the use of science and technology to preserve our environment and feed our growing population.
Mark is a British environmentalist, journalist, and author (check out his books). He has written extensively on the impact of climate change, and has served as visiting research associate at Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment.
He spent many of his younger years in Peru where his dad was a geologist and saw first-hand the issue of poverty and food insecurity. He mentioned that he’d wished he had become more interested in science then, but decided to pursue a degree in liberal arts where he was surrounded more by social, environmental issues and reactionary emotion to the science around him.
He saw farmers in a negative, ecological light as he thought they were just using malice whey they would spray chemicals across foods they were growing for no reason. He would “decontaminate” GMO crops in the UK in the middle of the night and was instinctively cautious about any unproven/anti-science to change the DNA of food crops.
However, his view of science changed when he saw that science offered something objective; more profound evidence in reality. He remembered the time when he was in Peru and how science could help feed those starving children he saw. With the reality of our population growing to over 9 billion people, he credits GMOs and food biotechnology for helping improve the nutrition of growing nations. Our global population is not growing at a faster rate, we are just seeing infant mortality decreasing with increased nutrition.
Mark credited Norman Borlaug for his role in scientific and humanitarian achievements as well as keeping starvation at bay for millions of people in third world countries and his insight into using food biotechnology.
Mark left the audience with a challenge: GMOs and environmentalism can work together – we need to stop fighting each other that one cannot exist without the other. In fact, farmers and seed research companies are already working together to improve the environment – by utilizing the best technology to improve the environment around it with less chemicals and pesticides.
The Danforth Center put out this great infographic about the importance of using biotechnology in global agriculture. I hope we can have more open conversations about GMOs and food biotechnology like Mark had today with the audience.
There are great comments on Twitter from the webinar – check them out at #SeedsofChange.