Monday, 17 November 2014

Politicians need science advisors - and not to be swayed by single interest groups

Image from BBC website
I am totally disgusted by the EU. Not in a generic UKIP fashion, but by their cancellation of the position of EU Chief Scientific Advisor, a post held by Professor Anne Glover, otherwise based at the University of Aberdeen.

There are two problems with this. The first is that politicians are in dire need of science advice. We (and the EU as a whole) have very few politicians and civil servants with a science background. It is essential that they have advisors who can explain the scientific realities of a world where science and technology is central to our everyday lives. To abolish the post is madness.

Secondly, the reason that Professor Glover seems to have got her marching orders is a result of a campaign by green groups, and specifically Greenpeace, which objected to her support for genetically modified crops. Just like they do for nuclear power, such groups have a knee-jerk reaction to GM that has no thought, no appreciation of the science, they just don't like the words.

The green blanket opposition to GM just doesn't make any sense, because it's something we've been doing for thousands of years (if you doubt this, take a look at maize and cauliflowers, both so drastically genetically modified that they can't reproduce without human intervention) - and because we can now do it in a much more controlled and beneficial fashion.

The GM debate is admittedly not simple or black and white, but it has certainly been subject to the misuse of information from both green organisations, which oppose it on principle without thinking about it in detail, and from tabloid newspapers. For example, genetically modified variant of rice that was designed to counter vitamin A deficiency was dismissed by Greenpeace because the environmental organisation said that to obtain the required amount of vitamin A would require ‘seven kilograms a day of cooked Golden Rice’. The actual amount is 200 grams.

So shame on you Greenpeace (who have tried to weasel out by saying that 'Scrapping the CSA post was about the integrity of science advice, the clarity and independence and it's about getting the science right' - since when has Greenpeace cared about getting science right?) for engineering this highly negative move.

We need more MPs and MEPs with a science background - but even if we had them today, party politics and, yes, the malign influence of pressure groups both from industry and the greens, means that we also need good science advisors. Professor Glover will be sorely missed.

This has been a Green Heretic production

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