Professor Anne Glover, the first Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission, has been sacked.
Well, not technically, the European Commission is simply not extending her position. That is diplomatic speech for 'there are a lot more anti-science Europeans voting than there are researchers and they really do not like you.'
We first wrote of Glover early in 2007, when she was Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at Aberdeen University. She had been a voice of reason when it came to science policy so when she got the new job advising all of Europe, it looked promising, though it was clearly not without challenges. This was a body that said water does not make people less thirsty and regulated the appearance of fruit, that cell phones cause cancer, vaccines caused autism, organic food has no chemicals and that if scientists don't predict earthquakes they should go to jail.
Those all sound silly to Americans but American adults lead the world in adult science literacy so they should sound silly; yes, we have wealthy elites who are against food science, energy science and medicine here, but to offset kooky havens of science denial like California, Washington and Oregon we have mostly rational states like Mississippi and Alabama. Europe doesn't have that diversity, though the UK has started to regain control of its senses after birthing both the anti-vaccine myth and Frankenfood hysteria.
The battlefield was against Glover from the beginning and leading the charge was the multinational environmental juggernaut Greenpeace and its hundreds of millions of dollars devoted to undermining science. They have won, Glover will be gone, and now they are getting backlash from scientists and science media and they are scrambling to claim they want more scientists involved in policy: They just want to make sure any new scientists advising politicians are against GMOs, nuclear science, pesticides, fertilizer and every other aspect of science that Greenpeace raises money hating.
Had she succeeded, Glover would have been the most influential voice for poor people worldwide since Norm Borlaug. Instead, Greenpeace and their anti-science brethren are dragging Europe back into the 19th century.
It's hard to know if her work will have been in vain or not, though. In June, European countries outside France and Germany wanted a vote on lifting the GMO ban. If that happens, it will be a victory for science and also for her. They already allow GM feed for livestock and Monsanto's MON810 maize is still grown so it seems like a silly bit of political spin to keep claiming mutagenesis is not genetic modification, and marker assisted selection is not genetic modification, but genetic modification is genetic modification. Or that eating sugar derived from GMO sugar beets would harm people but steers eating GMO feed and then being eaten are just fine for the public.
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