Lynas continues to be toured around the world by bodies aligned with the State Dept and Monsanto, so he can promote his PR fantasies.
The biotech ambassador is back! This time Mark Lynas is in Nigeria, where he has been busy attacking Friends of the Earth Nigeria over their funding, demanding transparency. When FoE Nigeria queried his own funding, Lynas retorted, "I'm here with AATF - funding from Gates Foundation only."
The Gates Foundation, of course, enjoys notable synergies with Monsanto and has been memorably described as approaching Africa's agricultural problems in a way that works for Western shareholders. But it's also not true that AATF (The African Agricultural Technology Foundation) is funded "only" by the Gates Foundation. Other sponsors include the US State Dept, via USAID, and there have also been persistent reports of biotech industry backing. These reports don't come from "conspiracy theorists". A State Department communication describes the setting up of AATF as "a partnership" between USAID and a series of biotech corporations including Monsanto.
This is not the first time that Lynas appears to have been less than frank about his funding. Previously he claimed that it was "Cornell University" who "supported" a PR trip he made to the Philippines. And in the absence of any other evidence, it seems highly likely that "Cornell University" actually means the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSP II - based at Cornell), who helped organize his press conference at a luxury Manila hotel. ABSP II, which trains "collaborators" from around the world on commercializing GMOs, is a project funded by the US State Dept. Other funders include Monsanto.
And it's not only his funding that is open to question. In the last few days The Indian Express has made available an interview its Editor-in-Chief, Shekhar Gupta, recorded with Lynas for NDTV. In it they talk about Lynas's "turnaround" on GM "early this year" (i.e. early 2013).
Towards the end of the interview Shekhar Gupta asks Lynas to recount, "What was the night before you made your great turn around like?" And this is what Lynas says: "I'd changed my mind about this before I made this speech, but I hadn't dared mention it because it takes a certain amount of courage, which I don't possess, to go and speak publicly about having changed your mind about an issue which would make me into a lightning rod. I was worried that I personally would then become subject to personal attacks - that I would be going against all of my colleagues in the environmental movement on this issue and that wasn't going to be a comfortable thing. So I can't remember whether it was a sleepless night but I was very very worried and one of the reasons you will see me reading it is because I had to write everything down or I wouldn't have had the courage to say those words." (Walk the Talk with Mark Lynas, starting 20:55)
But this is a total lie. Far from not daring to mention his change of view on GM, Lynas had been vigorously flagging up his GM conversion for several years! In fact, he first set out his change of heart in a New Statesman piece as far back as January 2010. He did the same later that year in a controversial documentary on Channel 4 and an accompanying article in a national newspaper. He did the same again in his 2011 book The God Species and in a piece in The Times which proclaimed: "I used to trample them in the fields. Now I see anti-science hysteria for what it is."
If that wasn't public enough, in 2012 Lynas's support for GM became still more high profile as he started speaking out at events around the UK. He also became much more active on the issue in social media and even helped organize a pro-GM demonstration. That was followed by an article for The Sunday Times in which Lynas expressed his support for the view that those opposing GM would cause starvation. He had also publicly apologized for his anti-GM actions before in a speech. Yet Lynas now claims he was too worried to dare mention his change of mind on GM before his speech in 2013 - a speech in which he says almost nothing that he hadn't already expressed publicly over several years!!!
The only real difference about the 2013 speech was that it was much more effectively staged, and so attracted far more publicity -- something he and his supporters have ruthlessly exploited to give him a bigger public platform for promoting GM. But that is all about PR and nothing more.
The reality is that while Lynas is being toured around the world by bodies aligned with the US State Dept and the biotech industry, he actually has no especial expertise on GM... beyond being a PR fantasist!
For more on Mark Lynas, see also this debunking of his scientific claims on GM, and this exploration of the ideology guiding his stance on GM and other environmental issues