Since 2012, the distinguished Scottish biologist Anne Glover has served as chief scientific adviser to the President of the European Commission. When José Manuel Barroso, who was then president, appointed her to the post, he described the job as one that should “provide independent expert advice on any aspect of science, technology and innovation.”
Last week, Jean-Claude Juncker, the man who has just succeeded Barroso, announced that he would not reappoint Glover. In fact, Juncker, the former Prime Minster of Luxembourg, abolished the position of chief scientific adviser entirely. The decision was a clear victory for Greenpeace and its hidebound allies, who had long sought Glover’s dismissal.
The complaint against Glover was simple: when providing scientific advice to the commission on a range of issues, from nanotechnology to GMOs, she invoked data rather than rely on politics or whim. Last year, at a conference in Scotland, for example, she said that there was “not a single piece of scientific evidence” to support critics’ claims that food produced from GMOs was less safe than food grown in any other way. “No other foodstuff has been so thoroughly investigated as GM,” Glover said, and described the opposition as “a form of madness.”
This kind of talk from a public scientist was too much for European activists to bear. In July, several groups, led by Greenpeace, expressed their displeasure with Glover in a letter to Juncker: “The current CSA presented one-sided, partial opinions in the debate on the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture, repeatedly claiming that there was a scientific consensus about their safety.… We hope that you as the incoming Commission President will decide not to nominate a chief scientific adviser.” Score one for the Luddites.
Glover has been dismissed at a time when there has never been a broader scientific consensus about the safety of agricultural biotechnology or better data to support that consensus, including from a meta-study from the University of Göttingen, the World Heath Organization, Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, the European Commission and, in the United States, the National Academy of Sciences.
Read full, original article: European Science’s Great Leap Backward