In the mid-1990s, UK newspapers picked up on a controversial issue that had been slowly gathering steam – genetically modified organisms. The media soon could talk about little else. Headlines screamed that this technological advance could pose serious health risks, that our food was already GM-rich and yet we didn't even realise. How could this be? Of course there was science and statistics to back up these bold claims … or was there?
Twenty years on, the dust has settled. Scientists are working hard to devise new farming methods that will meet the world's food requirements while causing the minimum amount of ecological harm. We're now discovering that the environmentalist mainstream might have misjudged the GM issue completely, and as a consequence we have forfeited two decades' worth of scientific progress in perhaps the most vital area of human need: food.
No one is more aware of this fact than the author of Seeds of Science, Mark Lynas. Starting out as one of the leading activists in the fight against GM – from destroying experimental crop fields to leading the charge in the press – in 2013 Lynas famously admitted that he had got it all wrong. Seeds of Science tells the story of how and why so many people were confused by genetic engineering. Lynas takes us back to the origins of the technology, and examines the histories of the people and companies who pioneered it. He explains what led him to question his assumptions on GM, and what he is doing now to further research in this field, making a difference in tackling poverty by using science to encourage better harvests.
Seeds of Science lifts the lid on the whole controversial GM story, from the perspective of someone who has fought prominently on both sides. It provides an explanation of the research that has enabled this technology – something that was sorely missing from the media in the late '90s, which led to countless misconceptions about the field, one that could provide perhaps the only solution to a planet with a population of ten billion people.
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Mark Lynas is the author of three major popular science environmental books: High Tide (2004), Six Degrees (2008) and The God Species (2011), as well as the Kindle Single ebook Nuclear 2.0 (2012). Six Degrees won the Royal Society prize and was made into a National Geographic documentary. Lynas was advisor to the President of the Maldives on climate change from 2009 until the coup in 2012. He has contributed extensively to global media, writing for the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, Bangkok Post and numerous others. He is a visiting fellow at the Cornell Alliance for Science, Cornell University.