b'THE RISK CORNER BY: DAVID ZARUKON ECO-PROGRESSIVEPRO-SCIENCE NGOST he last issue of European Seed lookedFROM ECOMODERNISM TOon the urgency to find solutions to address at how different activist groups wereTECHNOLOGY NGOS climate change, RePlanet concentrates spreading mythinformation about seedIt used to be called ecomodernism: pro- their messaging on the best technologies to breeding and conventional agriculture. Withmoting technologies to protect natureimprove agriculture, development, energy so many well-funded anti-ag-tech NGOsand improve well-being. But now severalsources and biodiversity. Their ambition is running fear campaigns against innovationsgroups of young, independent scientiststo save the planet through science.and industry, it is becoming a challenge tohave formed NGOs to try to counter the even keep products on the market let alonedisinformation spread by well-fundedTACTICS OR TACTILITYintroduce new technologies.environmental activist campaigns. I knowThere are, however, some risks with this Research developments (will continuemany of these individuals from within myapproach. I worry about some in these to) solve important problems facing human- networks and I completely understand theirpro-science groups falling into their own ity. Technological innovations in plantfrustration with the way scientific solutionscampaign rhetoric traps. Activists alienate breeding can address serious issues fromhave been downplayed or rejected in policypublics when they aggressively or impa-climate resilience to biodiversity decline todebates. tiently push their solutions on others with-sustainable intensification to feed a grow- Their science-based NGOs are seek- out dialogue or compromise. ing (and increasingly affluent) global pop- ing a different approach to solving the keyFew will deny the urgent need for sus-ulation. But scientists are facing an activistenvironmental challenges humanity facestainable intensification of agriculture, and community that feels a better solution liesby running activist-style campaigns to pro- I have made many arguments in these col-in letting the planet heal itself. In reality,mote innovative technologies (particularlyumns over the years on how seed breeders they are campaigning to abandon innova- in food and energy production). must be at the forefront of this challenge. tive research solutions. I learned about several groups when IBut when RePlanet, for example, launched With the world polarised betweenwas recommended to go to a March eventtheir Reboot Food campaign jumping to wizards and prophets, there is a need for ain Brussels called: Give Genes a Chance. the conclusion that we must simply stop positive, science-based, pro-human devel- TheEco-ProgressiveNetworklivestock farming (while paying homage to opment approach on environmental issues.(koProg) is an organisation based inGeorge Monbiot), I expect it will alienate The research community needs to get theirGermany that sees the future needs ofpeople working on less radical solutions to position heard in an increasingly noisyhumanity being met only through thelower CO2 emissions without forcing rad-policy arena by taking on environmentalprogression of society, economy and tech- ical lifestyle changes.activists at their game: storytelling, benefitsnology under evidence-based sustainabil- For campaigns to be successful, they and communications campaigns.ity criteria. Eco-progressivism contrastsneed to have simple answers to solve Who has been doing the outreach?with the eco-reactionary approach (takenwell-identified problems. But complex Companies, universities, individual sci- by most environmental NGOs) who argueproblems rarely have simple, immediate entists have all tried, with varying degreesthe only way to have a sustainable lifestylesolutions. The science on food security is of (limited) success. Should the scientificis to revert back to some past way of doinganything but simple and I fear that a group community form communications organi- things. of pro-science activists, however well-in-sations to present the technology researchThe GeneSprout Initiative aims totentioned, who call to ban widely accepted message within the policy arena? Shouldengage in open dialogue on the future ofcultural practices will not be adding value they engage with groups who only want toagriculture and new plant breeding tech- to the science and technology dialogue pro-spread fear and uncertainty? niques (NPBTs). Following the 2018 deci- cess. Intolerant activist campaigns cannot The challenge is that NGO campaignssion by the European Court of Justice thatbe dispelled with intolerant scientism.often present simplistic, black or whiteNPBTs were to be regulated under theWhat is needed is less impertinence solutions in slogan form. They personally2001 GMO Directive, a group of youngand more patience, fewer campaigns and attack people they disagree with, renameplant scientists came forward to campaignmore comprehension, less idealism and technologies with fear-laden, emotionalfor better understanding of the safety andmore realism. rhetoric and create enemy strawmen out ofbenefits of plant breeding technologies.research-driven companies. Most researchRePlanet presents itself as new kind organisations and companies have ethicalof environmental movement with a radical, codes of conduct that would forbid suchscience-backed plan to repair the damage to tactics. our precious starship Earth. With a focus EUROPEAN-SEED.COMIEUROPEAN SEED I 31'