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Seeds of Science: Why We Got It So Wrong on GMOs

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  304 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Mark Lynas was one of the original GM field wreckers. Back in the 1990s--working undercover with his colleagues in the environmental movement--he would descend on trial sites of genetically modified crops at night and hack them to pieces. Two decades later, most people around the world--from New York to China--still think that 'GMO' foods are bad for their health or likely ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by Bloomsbury SIGMA (first published April 5th 2018)
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Katie Long
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting take on the controversy around genetically modified crops by a man who was once an anti-GMO activist who flipped to the opposite side when he learned more about the science behind them. Poor messaging and communication at the outset allowed a false narrative about the safety of these products to take over, which was unfortunate. However, the larger debate now is about who controls these products, who has access to them, and how that affects global food supplies. Fascinating stuff.
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

I’m pro-GMOs, so you could say it’s typical that I’d like this book, and I’m really the only kind of audience it would reach — but I think Lynas is genuinely attempting to dispell myths and introduce other people to the actual science behind GMOs, for all that. He was himself once very much anti-GMO, and participated in the crop destructions and demonstrations against people who tried to grow genetically engineered crops in the UK; he was “converted” by actually lo
Laura Tran
Feb 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: agent-orange
Brilliant! Jam-packed with info more than just GMOs, super useful for my research on AO not to mention so well written.
Alyssa Nelson
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Seeds of Science gives a comprehensive overview on the current debate about GMOs, where the debate is at currently, the history of GMOs, and his own conversion from being anti-GMO to pro-GMO.

GMOs are a HOT topic–you can’t go anywhere without running into someone who has an opinion (usually a very steadfast, fiery one) on whether or not they’re good, whether or not we should be eating organ
Emma Weston
Jan 20, 2021 rated it liked it
I am not sure how I ended up buying this book - probably because I wanted to ensure that I was reading all sides of the GMO debate. Or perhaps because I thought Mark Lynas
could help me navigate the various ethical and moral issues around GMOs and the science. Maybe this was too big an ask or maybe I just could not sufficiently move away from my genuine fear that as humans we have stuffed up so much of our planet with “good science or economics” because we are largely unable to understand the com
Angie Reisetter
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-related
This remarkable account of a path through activism is persuasive and profound. Lynas started as an anti-GMO activist until he was called out on hypocrisy: he ridiculed climate change-deniers for ignoring science, and he realized he had never taken a good look at the science on GMOs. So then he changed his mind, lost a community and friendships in the process, and became an activist for the promotion of GMOs. Then, in writing this book, it seems like he went through another transition. He is stil ...more
Dan Squire
May 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a truly eye-opening book. Reading it has made me realise just how many negative myths and misconceptions about GMO products I was exposed to when growing up – and the political interests behind them. Lynas works through the issues fairly and methodically, giving plenty of space to show both sides of the argument, even though the topic is contentious and emotionally-charged. It's also very easy to read (at least until the last couple of chapters, which get a bit more dense and philosophic ...more
Jun 11, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Because of my job I knew most of the pro-GMO arguments, but really appreciated looking at the other side. The moral aspects of the anti-GMO stance were particularly interesting
Sep 05, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book that gives such a great overview on the entire history on the debate of GMOs and its current impact on the world to this day.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read. I like growing heirloom plants for the novelty of them, but have discovered many do taste different from the mass grown ones I can buy in the store. I rarely buy locally out of season fruits and vegetables, but not due to fear. I think there is a place for GMOs, as I realize that in order to feed the world, heirloom foods are not going to do the job. As for "all natural" and "organic" as labels- I just grit my teeth and define the words when someone spouts them at me.... Mark L ...more
M. Mangan
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mark Lynas has provided a worthwhile book from a number of perspectives. He describes his personal journey from farm- and science experiment-wrecking thug to someone who values the facts and evidence about plant science today. He looks at his own motivations and examines the reality of the tribal adherance that was keeping him from understanding the issues before.

He also provides an excellent overview of the history of opposition to the DNA modifications of plants and animals that are instructi
Jul 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Here's information on an "authority" in the anti-GMO movement.

Update 2/14/21

I was just reading an article on Science-Based Medicine about the COVID quacks who call themselves America's Frontline Doctors and came across a mention of Whale.to, a site where the really out-there cranks have entries. I wondered if Jeffrey Smith has a page, and indeed he does. http://www.whale.to/b/smith_jeff_h.html

Where did I encounter the name Jeffrey Smith? A video that fea
Andrea Olson
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I want to backhand all the smug, rich, well-fed European activists in the face with this book.
Dan Sumption
In this book, Mark Lynas makes some very good arguments as to why we should be making more use of GMOs. However the subtitle of the book "why we got it so wrong on GMOs" is very misleading - he actually goes into very little detail about what we got wrong and why.

This is mainly a combination of history book and memoir - so we learn the history of GMOs as well as the history of the anti-GMO movement and Lynas's involvement in it, until his Road to Damascus conversion to a GMO evangelist, and his
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that should be read by anyone who is anti-GMO who has an open mind. Lynas was about an extreme anti-GMO activist as you could find, to the point that he participated in direct actions to destroy experimental plants in test plots in the UK. As is typical of many environmentalists, he has also been concerned about climate change as well. As a writer he became deeply interested in climate change and dug deeply into the topic, reading many papers by climate scientists, as well as all ...more
Mackenzie L-r
Jun 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A contemporary perspective on GMOs by an oxford dude who passionately opposed them in the mid-90s, but has come around to a more centrist, pro-GMO position. He staunchly advocates for more evidence-based environmental activism.

At the start of his pro-GMO expose he is super gung-ho; stating case study after case study that could have improved lives had not the irrational opposition of groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth shut them down. Virus resistant papaya, drought resistant maize,
Nov 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
I'm unsure about the function of this book.
Was it:
1. To convert anti-bitoech people? I think it'd fail as it provides ample evidence of the safety and suitability of GMOs to fulfill the order they promised ~40 years ago, while most anti-gmo ppl are not so for the lack of evidence, but with other considerations entirely.
2. To provide a confidence boost to the supporters of the technology? Sure - it provides ample evidence (Esp with references) about the potential benefits and proven safety of b
Rick Elinson
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am a scientist, so I am very happy to see scientific evidence being used to make decisions. Lynas is a particularly interesting figure, since he moved from being an anti-GMO activist to a GMO supporter once he looked at the scientific evidence and the consensus reports of scientists. He provides all of those sources of information here. There were several chapters that were too painful for me to read, in particular about the successful efforts of anti-GMO activists to prevent use or even trial ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A quick and important read. Chapters 5, 6, and 8 stand out. The most important contribution is the discussion in chapter 5 (and really chapter 6) indicating that the anti-GMO movement (which clearly originates in the western world and probably mostly within a narrow socioeconomic band) has had a profoundly harmful impact on poor people of color in the developing world -- see chapter 6 especially, entitled, Let Them Eat Organic Baby Corn -- and his descriptions of the real-world impact in Africa, ...more
Elizabeth Horton
I admit that this was a case of reading someone who's worldview closely mirrors my own: an environmentalist who is skeptical that GMOs are a problem. So perhaps I'm simply confirming what I want to believe, but hopefully the author's history in terms of having changed his mind because of the science gives him a bit more credibility.

Overall, I walked away from this book feeling confirmed in my thoughts that GMOs are not that big of a deal--in food crops but realizing I actually want to read a boo
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Excellent book on GMOs, from science to politics

I enjoyed this book. Author Mark Lynas tells a great story about the science, ethics and politics of GMOs. As a former anti-GMO activist, Lynas provides great insights. He explains the science of GMOs very well as he does most of the issues he discusses. His discussion of group-think is fascinating and important, and applies equally as well to climate change deniers and antivaccine activists. Another reason the book is so good is that it follows Ly
Andrew Woody Siemens
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
I appreciate reading Mark's insight to try an understand someone who spent time on the anti side. I think it helps me understand the outrage a little better, but still left me befuddled as to how we get the population over the "anti-GMO" hysteria, or even have a real conversation about it. This tool could have so much value.

This book wasn't so much behind the science of genetic engineering (although Mark does reference a lot of studies, and is clearly on the side of science), and was more focuse
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mark Lynas comes from the perspective I want on this subject. As a former environmental activist you know his heart is in the right place, and as someone who has done the incredibly difficult work of disagreeing with a community he built his world around, you know his mind is in the right place too. He is appropriately skeptical of multinational corporations, but only criticizes them in the way they deserve. He is critical of the mainstream green movement, but coming from this background himself ...more
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book that outlines the myths and pseudo science that has built up against genetically modified food.

Lynas has achieved something that most people find incredibly difficult to do: he's admitted that he was wrong. But through this book he achieves something even greater than that: he takes us step by step through that wrongheadedness and shows anyone who cares to listen the error of his ways.

A courageous, thought provoking and approachable book that sets the record straight on one of
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, environment
I had always been against GMOs but didn't really understand why. I decided to read a view from the the other side to get some perspective. Well it turned out something of an eye opening experience. Although there is a little aspect of the scidnce I don't fully understand, this book isn't complex by any stretch. Focussing more on the human costs, experiences and benefits.

Worth reading by anyone interested in new social movements and dabbling in where we may benefit from not spraying more pesticid
Nick Fuller
Mar 31, 2022 rated it really liked it
It's rare that someone who was so publicly outspoken on a subject later changes their posotion and acknowledges it in such an open way. That the subject here is GM and remains so important makes this book all the more fascianting.

Lynas' approach is both meticulously researched and honest. Best of all, it's balanced.

Whilst I did not agree with all of his conclusions, there is no denying that time and experience has changed a number of fundamental conclusions that many of us came to back in the
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grateful for what was on the whole a very gentle and persuasive argument advocating for both science and the environment. I feel encouraged by the possibilities available to make the word better, even if we’re a long way from that for now. The book itself was a bit drawn out, but really shines in the second half as he draws a more empathetic and patient argument.
Apr 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Thought-provoking look at the debate over GMOs (although sometimes a bit long winded). I tend to be pro-science, but even so I was still surprised by overwhelming lack of scientific support for the demonizing of GMO crops (and Monsanto). I'm convinced that I don't have to avoid GMOs in order to have healthy eating habits. ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thought-provoking look at the GMO debate. I was surprised by the overwhelming lack of real scientific support for the villainizing of GMO crops. I am all about healthy eating--but this book has convinced me that I don't have to avoid (most) GMO foods in order to accomplish that. ...more
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Mark Lynas is a British author, journalist and environmental activist who focuses on climate change.

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“We cannot criticise global warming sceptics for denying the scientific consensus on climate when we ignore the same consensus on both the safety and the beneficial uses of nuclear power and genetic engineering.” 1 likes
“Everywhere I went in Africa it was the same story. Foreign-funded NGOs, supported mainly by donors in Europe, were delaying or blocking the development not just of biotechnology but of modern agriculture generally across the continent.” 0 likes
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