This widely covered (and suspiciously well-orchestrated) "conversion
speech " given by environmental reporter Mark
Lynas on January 3rd of this year at an Oxford, England farming
conference was inexplicably bestowed an aura of significance by the corporate
But there's just one BIG problem with the accepted press
narrative: nothing about it is remotely true. This "non-story" is built on a
house of cards that collapse under the weight of documented, deceptive self-promotion
by Mr. Lynas combined with a failure of the mainstream press to fact check his grossly
exaggerated claims regarding the role he played in the anti-gmo movement.
The Lynas "Conversion"
Speech: Anti-Science Masquerading as Science
Any and all press coverage afforded Lynas's scam, should have been immediately rendered obsolete after his stunningly misleading and patently deceptive apologia filled with one tired, debunked biotech industry talking point after another.
While the press failed to recognize or challenge the litany of inaccuracies in a speech that will live in anti-science infamy - detailed refutations that lay waste to each baseless assertion he made, include Jason Mark of the Earth Island Journal, one of the world's leading agro-ecologists Professor John Vandermeer, Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Dr. Brian John.
Lynas Lashes Out At Critics: Forced to Apologize and Retract Statements
Tellingly, these rebuttals were ignored by the same press that unquestioningly provided Mark Lynas a global microphone to spin his fictitious self-promotional tour de force. Similarly notable, was the way in which Lynas responded. His (and his defenders) attempted refutations failed to challenge the veracity of the critiques themselves, but instead personally attacked those that challenged him - calling Jonathan Mathews of GM Watch "an industry shill for Big Organic", and that Spin Watch, the site that published his article, was run by a red and 'a far-left academic' who oversaw 'an ongoing anti-capitalist propaganda war'.
These ad homonym attacks were proceeded by baseless smears against a GM watch donor and a respected environmental non- profit -- forcing a public apology from Lynas in one instance (Soil Association) and a retraction in another (Union of Concerned Scientists).
Mark Lynas and the
Media Revise History
Central to the mythology that made Mark Lynas's January 3rd
"conversion speech" newsworthy to so many was the "anti-GMO founder becomes GMO
advocate" storyline. Incredibly, t his false narrative has now become
accepted media lore.
When it wasn't Lynas himself promoting this myth --in his
January speech and on following social media posts and in media interviews -
the press appeared all too happy to do it for him. The fictitious and fact free coverage of his fairy
tale mea culpa was no less ethically dubious than his failure to correct reporters
belligerent aggrandizement of his almost
non-role in the anti-gmo movement.
Mathews of GM Watch noted some recent examples of
this dual mythmaking effort, "In
its news release about the talk - Co-founder of anti-GM movement Mark Lynas
calls for evidence to replace instinct in GM debate - the JIC (John Innes Centre) explained that Lynas wasn't just a
founding figure but had 'helped develop the anti-gm narrative still in use
today.' Similarly after his Oxford talk, the Harvard academic Calestous Juma wrote of Lynas apologizing for 'masterminding the
anti-biotechnology campaign', while a blogger for Slate
magazine explained, 'If you fear
genetically modified food, you may have Mark Lynas to thank.'
Press coverage of Lynas's public relations spectacle was nearly uniform
in its blind acceptance of the desired false narrative the announcement was intended
to convey, and there's no shortage of
reputable media outlets to choose from that fell prey to it, including stories in
York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Post, and The New Yorker.
Article after article contain comically overwrought descriptions
of Lynas as one of the movements "co-founders", "apostles", " Godfathers,'
"philosopher and spokesman", and "leading voices".
A Peripheral, Non-Player In
In light of such journalistic fawning over the Lynas "conversion myth", let's begin by debunking his claim that he "helped start the movement" in 1995.
Lynas's recent high profile portrayal of his instrumental role in the
movement didn't escape the notice of actual - not pretend - movement leaders. As
Mathews explains, "Dr. Sue Mayer, the
science director at Greenpeace UK, who began work in 1990 on GM and related
issues around the patenting of genes and living organisms, often in
coordination with other European campaigners"After hearing how Lynas was
portraying himself, Sue Mayer contacted him to say, '"I think this is a very misleading claim
and you should feel ashamed of yourself"I am concerned that you are letting
this be used to promote yourself and the biotech industry.'