A cursory glance at the CV of Anne Glover – CBE, fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, fellow of the American Society for Microbiology, and chair in molecular and cell biology at the University of Aberdeen – can leave little doubt about her contribution to knowledge over many years, and the respect of her peers in relation to matters scientific.
And yet Professor Glover was sacked from her position as Chief Scientific Adviser to the European Union yesterday by Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission (executive branch of the EU) because of her inconveniently erudite and evidence-based views on genetically modified crops. Professor Glover, in accordance with the majority of scientific opinion, believes that the ecological and health risks of GM crops are very low, whereas the benefits are potentially very big. Mr Juncker, in accordance with mass public hysteria and illiteracy on the subject of GM crops, wants to ban them from some countries, and needs to remove all obstacles to his doing so.
The sins here are manifold. The commission says the professor’s dismissal is not related to her views on GM crops, which is hard to square with the EU source who said: “She’s controversial because of her views on GM. Juncker doesn’t like the idea of GM crops being approved by the EU on scientific grounds.”
Then there are the specious arguments of the environmental groups that have agitated for her departure. They say that Professor Glover is a mere lobbyist for science funding, and that “a single scientific viewpoint is a dangerous fallacy”. There is no evidence for the first, and the very existence of these anti‑GM forces, let alone their success, disproves the latter.
Science alone can never make the case for policy. You need morals for that. But the sacking of Professor Glover – which has dark echoes of the hounding, in Britain, of the scientist David Nutt for his much too sane views on drugs – is certain to produce worse policy. Indeed, Professor Colin Blakemore called yesterday a “sad day for science, policy, politics and the public in Europe”. He was right.Reuse content