British genetically modified warrior Linus: science forced me to support genetic modification

In June 2018, British science writer Mark Lynas published a new book, "Seeds of Science: Why We Got It So Wrong on" GMOs). This book details the process of Mark Linus from opposing GMOs to supporting GMOs.

Mark Linners is a popular science writer, journalist, visiting researcher and environmentalist at the Cornell University Science Alliance in the United States. He was also a determined "reverse gene fighter". When the genetically modified organisms began to be commercialized in the late 1990s, Linus took people into the experimental fields of genetically modified crops for destruction, and lobbied supermarkets to sell foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

Transgenic refers to the use of modern biological technology to artificially separate the excellent genes of an organism into the genome of another organism, thereby improving the original traits of the organism or giving it new traits.

But Linas changed from a “reversal” fighter to a “turnaround” person in 2013. At the Oxford Agricultural Conference that year, Linus publicly apologized for his past demonization of genetically modified crops, saying that Recognizing that genetically modified crops are not only safe to eat, they can also meet the food needs of a growing global population.

According to a report released by the International Agricultural Biotechnology Application Service Organization (ISAAA), the global planting area of ​​genetically modified crops increased by 112 times in 2017 compared with 1996. A total of 67 countries and regions applied genetically modified crops, 26 genetically modified crops and 476 genetically modified crops Transformants received 4,133 regulatory approvals worldwide. China's GM crop cultivation area ranks eighth in the world.

Recently, the reporter interviewed Mark Linus. Linus said he saw the unscientific aspects of his "reversal" in the climate change debate, and lamented that it would be difficult for the general public to believe that science.

From "reversal" to "reversal": empathy for climate change debate

Linus told Peng Mei News that his attitude on the issue of genetically modified organisms is very similar to that of people who deny climate warming.

Those who deny climate warming questioned that the phenomenon of climate warming is mainly caused by human activities, and questioned that climate warming has a substantial impact on nature and human society, but they do not deny the phenomenon of global warming.

"I realized that I could not use scientific evidence to persuade those who deny climate warming, while ignoring scientific evidence to oppose genetic modification," Linus said in an interview with Peng Mei News.

In 1996, Linus wrote what was considered to be the first "exposing the crimes of genetically modified foods". It was the first year of the commercial development of genetically modified crops and the first shipment of genetically modified corn and soybeans from the United States to Europe. One year.

Especially in response to public concerns about the safety of genetically modified foods, Linus told Peng Mei News, "There is no substantial correlation between genetically modified organisms and any disease. The scientific community has reached consensus on this issue."

When he realized that the international scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified organisms is the same as the scientific consensus on the warming caused by human activities, he half-jokingly admitted that he had "no choice" and could only support genetic modification.

He also admitted that genetic engineering, like all other technologies, is just a technology, and there must be good and bad. What people need to ensure is how to use genetically modified technology effectively and appropriately. Similarly, the traditional cultivation method is just a technology, it does not mean that it can represent "healthy green".

In an article published in the Wall Street Journal in June 2018, Linus cited an analysis that synthesized nearly 150 related studies. The analysis pointed out that the use of chemical pesticides (that is, pesticides and herbicides) in the process of planting genetically modified crops was 37% less than that of traditional non-transformed crops grown by traditional methods.

"(A new technology) Just like a knife, people can use a knife to stab a dead person, or they can use a knife to cut food for children." Linus said, "Should that knife be banned?"

Linus believes that the deeper problem behind this is that people rely on their subjective will and choose "I believe in the science I think is right." However, a scientist is an expert in a certain scientific field, either trusting the expert, trusting the scientist, or not. Linners seems to have no logic simply to “disbelieve” the biologist simply because it is contrary to his subjective will.

"If you don't believe in scientists, then you have to reject all the experts." Linus said, "When you extract your teeth (and you shouldn't go to the dentist), you should go to the taxi driver."

So, did the change from "reverse" to "reverse" make Linus lose a lot of friends who "reverse gene" at the time?

In this regard, Linus told Peng Mei News that he and many of his previous friends still get along very well because they are doing what they think is the best thing. Similarly, more and more environmental protection organizations now believe that environmental protection should also be based on science. Regardless of whether it is "reverse" or "reverse", denying or acknowledging climate change, everyone's position on scientific attitudes is the same.

"Compared to science, people are more likely to believe in myths and conspiracy theories"

Although scientists have made a lot of efforts on the science of genetically modified technology, genetically modified organisms still face many negative evaluations. Linus believes that it is very difficult to convince the public of scientific facts and truths. In contrast, myths and conspiracy theories may be more emotionally convincing. This is why many people prefer to listen to myths rather than scientific facts.

Linus interpreted the article published on the official website of the Cornell University Science Alliance to explain the current situation of genetically modified organisms in China.

He cited two professors at the University of California, Davis, who had conducted a survey of "how to treat genetically modified organisms" by Chinese residents. The study analyzed the knowledge of genetically modified organisms by more than 2,000 Chinese residents from 193 cities in 31 provinces in China.

Among them, more than half of the respondents believe that the safety issues of genetically modified foods are more serious than known food safety issues such as pesticide residues and food additives.

But are such concerns based on scientific cognition?

The survey results show that only 11.7% of the respondents indicated that they understand the basic principles of genetically modified technology, 49.5% of the respondents indicated that they "understand", and 38.8% of the respondents indicated that they did not understand at all. As for the conclusions given by scientists, only 23% of the respondents believed that they believed the biologist's point of view, while 45.5% of the respondents said they did not believe it.

In terms of public knowledge, only 1.2% of the respondents know which genetically modified crops are grown in China.

According to the latest report issued by ISAAA, the planting area of ​​genetically modified crops in China was 2.8 million hectares in 2017, and the main crops were cotton and papaya.

In addition, 13.8% of the respondents believe that genetically modified foods are essentially US “bioterrorism” against China and should be resisted; another 54.4% of respondents believe that attitudes toward genetically modified foods should be based on science.

China's "reversed gene tide" originated from military critic Peng Guangqian's article "The Eight Questions about the Transformation of Staple Foods" published in the Global Times in 2013. Among them, not only are concerns about whether genetically modified foods are carcinogenic or infertile, but they also question the exception of the United States, which has long blocked high-tech technology from the outside world, except for genetically modified technology.

"Today, there are millions of people in China who believe in these conspiracy theories about genetic modification, and whenever I hear these conspiracy theories, I will think that it is my behavior as a rebel militant 15 years ago that promotes and even leads It ’s so ridiculously wrong for people to understand GM technology today, ”Linus said.

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