Ecomodernist unease as Paterson uses their platform to attack Green Blob

Golden Rice - not available yet

Golden Rice – not available yet

Necessity is the mother of strange bedfellows, according to an old adage. And it is presumably this maxim which led the Ecomodernists to jump into bed with arch-neoliberals Owen Paterson and Matt Ridley last week. They may well be rueing that decision now.

At one of the various events the Ecomodernists attended, lead Ecomodernist Mark Lynas attempted to persuade Owen Paterson to tone down the “Green Blob” rhetoric,  saying “more could be gained by the argument becoming less partisan and the two sides seeking common ground” Paterson was having none of it.

Paterson was in full gung-ho mode, on the war path. In an interview on Radio 4 the same day, he got on his hobby horse about Golden Rice – the fabled GM-rice which will, if it becomes widely available, may provide additional vitamin A in children’s diets, preventing premature death. Not averse to using emotive arguments when they suit, Paterson said ” 6000 little children will die because of Vitamin A deficiency” which he claimed could be solved with Golden Rice, despite it not actually existing. He lambasted Doug Parr of Greenpeace, who oppose GM crops; Paterson claimed “smart green activists decide to play god” by opposing GM crops incorrectly claiming Greenpeace activists had attacked a golden rice trial plot. Parr hit back, saying he wasn’t going to take any lessons on science from Paterson who had refused to take a brief from Met Office scientists on climate change, while he was head of Defra.

Where did Paterson get this idea about Golden Rice? step forward his bro Viscount Matt Ridley, who had made the same unsubstantiated claims 3 years earlier. Golden Rice is very controversial.

While at the Ecomodernists event, Paterson also raised the Neonicotinoids issue, as an example of how the environmental movement had ‘effectively blocked a technology and ignored the science’. In fact, far from an excessive use of the Precautionary Principle (which the Ecomodernists loath) it was scientific evidence of harm which led to the Neonics ban – imposed on Britain by Europe. Defra was attempting to ignore the scientific evidence but were forced to stand down.

But since Paterson left Defra, his successor Liz Truss has continued in the same vein. Defra has now relaxed the ban on Neonics use on Oil Seed Rape in Suffolk, having been lobbied by the NFU and pesticides industry. This is despite the NFU providing no evidence that lifting the ban was needed. They asked, and it was given.

What do the Ecomodernists think about the Neonics debate? They are silent, apart from an article criticizing journalists’ rush to judgement that neonics caused Colony Collapse Disorder in US honey bees. No comment about their impacts on thousands of other species of insects (including bees) in the wild then.

“Nothing to see here, move along please.”


Photo: “Golden Rice” by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in ecomodernism, GMOs, Matt Ridley, Owen Paterson. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ecomodernist unease as Paterson uses their platform to attack Green Blob

  1. Badgerbod says:

    I think with regard to “Golden Rice” it is worth looking at Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore’s opinion and campaign. As for Neonics, I can’t say I know or have read enough on the subject but what little I do know is certainly concerning. As far as GM crops overall are concerned I was once ardently against, but just like global warming, to dismiss or aggressively oppose without question, or dare I say; skepticism, is rarely prudent. Just as Patterson has put himself in a polarised corner, we should beware of cramming ourselves into the opposing one.

  2. spike says:

    There’s lots of interest and lots that needs to be discussed with an open mind with Ecomodernism. Unfortunately by aligning themselves with Ridley and Patterson, it’s a baby and the bathwater job – the environmental sector is likely to disregard the entirety. Poor old Owen does not do himself any favours with his persecution complex, which is apparently now so large you can lose a whole new movement in its shadow.

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