Matt Ridley studied zoology at Oxford before becoming a journalist. He was science editor and American editor of the Economist from 1983 to 1992, and was a regular columnist for the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph from 1993 to 2000. He is the author of a number of science-related books.
Ridley is chairman of the International Centre for Life, a multi-million pound 'science park and education project' to 'foster the life sciences', that opened in May 2000 in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He is also a director of a number of companies and is on the Advisory Council of the controversial pro-GM lobby group Sense About Science.
Ridley's writing has contributed to the anti-Green backlash. Starting in 1995, a series of volumes based on his Down to Earth columns in the Sunday Telegraph were published as Down to Earth: A contrarian view of environmental problems; Down to Earth, Combating Environmental Myth; etc.
The first volume of Down to Earth appeared at almost the same time as Wilfred Beckerman's Small is Stupid and Richard D. North's Life on a Modern Planet. All 3 books attacked the environmental movement.
In Down to Earth Ridley labelled environmentalists 'Gestapo'. Like other contrarians, he attacked the science of climate change and what he termed 'ozone exagerration'. According to Ridley, many 'green' arguments are just socialist ones in new clothing. Ridley maintained the same tone in his Daily Telegraph Acid Test columns where he railed against The mad mullahs of ecology.
Like Beckermann and North, Ridley links to London's far-right Institute of Economic Affairs, where he is a Research Fellow and which was the publisher of his Down to Earth books. In August 1999 Ridley used one of his Telegraph columns to hype a book (Fearing Food) which was edited by the directors of the IEA's Environment Unit Roger Bate and Julian Morris.
In Unsavoury facts about organic food (Daily Telegraph, 16 Aug 1999) Ridley took the opportunity to repeat Dennis Avery's E. coli myth: 'according to the United States Centers for Disease Control, people who eat the products of...[organic agriculture] are eight times more likely to contract the strain of E-coli that killed 21 people in Lanarkshire in 1997'. This in spite of the fact that Centers for Disease Control had issued a press release in response to Avery's claims stating, 'The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not conducted any study that compares or quantitates the specific risk for infection with E. coli 0157:H7 and eating either conventionally grown or organic/natural foods.'
Ridley's generalised antipathy to organic farming surfaced again in a Guardian article in April 2003 where he quoted GM propagandist, CS Prakash, 'Organic farming is sustainable. It sustains poverty and malnutrition.'
In his book Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (2000), Ridley writes that the 'opposition to genetically modified crops' is 'motivated more by hatred of new technology than love of the environment'. Some think Ridley's motivation for supporting all things GM and attacking all things organic can best be understood as a neo-liberal technophile's hatred of those who raise criticisms and questions about his ideologically framed obsessions.