back to article European Commission decides it won't have a science advisor after Greenpeace pressure

Yesterday seemed a great day for science in Europe, with the European Space Agency setting down its Philae lander on comet 67P - but even as this took place the European Commission quietly sent a rather different signal, as it hit "delete" on the role of its Chief Scientific Advisor. Since 2012 the EC Chief Scientific Advisor …

  1. James 51 Silver badge
    Angel

    So if Greenpeace get offered the job, they won't take it?

    1. g e

      Let's hope not

      Apparently they get miffed if you tell them there's more sources of information in the world beyond their manifesto.

      1. Cipher

        Re: Let's hope not

        Greenpeace is, via backchannels, promoting Grand Inquisitor Vincenzo Maculani to head the new Science Committee...

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      "So if Greenpeace get offered the job, they won't take it?"

      They don't need to. Their shit headed thinking has driven EU energy, waste and climate policies for many years now. As a result you're paying fat subsidies for ineffectual wind and solar power, fossil generation is unprofitable across Europe (cue yet more subsidies because the renewables are useless). Their policies have triggered widespread closure of coal fired plant, so we'll be even more at Russia's mercy, even as the EU meddles in Ukraine's affairs along with the US, and they've worked hard to ensure that Germany, Belgium and Italy make precipitate exits from nuclear. Even France is being pushed to add crappy renewables to its generation mix, instead of persisting with its hugely successful nuclear programme.

      And Europe's economic malaise will be further prolonged by expensive power. The mis-investment in unproductive energy assets will linger on as an economic drag for at least a generation.

      The purpose of removing the role of CSA is probably because Greenpeace are concerned that there's a danger of somebody sensible pointing out how their Canute like policies are dragging Europe back to the Victorian era, and have failed to make much of a dent on emissions. Most of the reduction in Europe's emissions since 1990 comes not from Greenpeace's EU energy policy, but from the hemorrhaging of EU industry to the far east, and the relative decline of the EU's major economies.

      Facts have no place in Greenpeace's view of the world, as evidence by their lies over Brent Spar.

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Not to worry-

    Her post will be replaced with Multi-faith Spiritual Advisor.

  3. returnmyjedi

    Bloody Greenpeace. First they prevent me from getting free bits of Lego when I fill my car up with lovely petrol, now they're removing science from Europe. Makes me so mad I want to punch a polar bear.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      That's OK

      Next time you see a GM refusenik ask him how much potatoes did he eat lately.

      All potatoes are (albeit primitive) GM. They are a product of early work on radiation induced mutagenesis + cross-species hybridization of the resulting mutants in the 30-es and early post-war (both sides of the curtain). None of the currently cultivated varieties is something you can obtain via normal breeding and selection techniques. If you create something like this today it should require the same clearance for deployment as GM - it is a cross species hybrid with unknown properties.

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: That's OK

        Ohh, because that is the same as creating a gene artificially that makes the plant produce insecticide or a Round'Up neutralizer ?

        Besides, Monsanto, the main GMO producer, is also known for agent "orange" ... among other "healthy" things.

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

          Re: That's OK

          Ohh, because that is the same as creating a gene artificially that makes the plant produce insecticide or a Round'Up neutralizer ?

          wat

          Besides, Monsanto, the main GMO producer, is also known for agent "orange"

          I find this line of reasonning extremely disturbing. Unfortunately that's what all anti-"GMO" resort to as a last-line defense in my (rather extensive) experience. In the end after a lot of arguing and explaining everyone (but the religioud nutters) agree that "GMO" are but a tool, neither good nor evil per se BUT they resort to the "ban them anyway because Monsanto" argument because noone likes a nuanced and balanced opinion nowadays: it doesn't sell. That attitude has lead to disastrous scientific setbacks, and will continue to do so.

          I rather dislike Monsanto; in fact I would gladly welcome a law preventing some of their malpractices*. But a blanket ban of "GMO" as the spawn of the Devil? Not acceptable.

          *actually on a side note one of the worst, the "Terminator" system, has actually been forced on them after the pressure of "green" groups, Greenpeace most notably.

          1. James Micallef Silver badge

            Re: That's OK

            I'm with Pierre on this one. Monsanto are a company whose practices I am extremely uncomfortable with, and using GMO techniques to create plants resistant only to your own pesticide/herbicide is evil because (a) it locks in farmers to Monsanto and (b) the end result is more poison on our food.

            However GMO can also be equally used to develop pest-resistant strains that allow us to grow food with LESS poison on it, to grow food with more vitamins and nutrients etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with GMO techniques and nothing provably wrong with the methods or end results that is ONLY the result of GMO techniques. the problems are with specific applications.

            Greenpeace idiots cannot see this because for them it's all black and white and blanket bans.... just like they want to ban all nuclear power because 1960s-designed nuclear power plants are unsafe

            1. Lars Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: That's OK

              When mentioning Monsanto one should also mention patents and how they are used. Skip that part and I might change my opinion on the matter but hardly on Monsanto.

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: That's OK

          Ohh, because that is the same as creating a gene artificially that makes the plant produce insecticide or a Round'Up neutralizer ?

          Compared to that an interspecies hybrid with additional unknown properties from radiation induced mutagenesis is even worse. The main argument against GM is the environmental impact and "we do not know what effect do these have on us and the environment".

          So let's see.

          On one side we have a plant which produces an insecticide or Round'Up neutralizer. We have surgically inserted that gene and we have used a virus to do so so we know what other DNA went there. That is a known value.

          On the other side we have an interspecies hybrid from a plant family where nearly anything is toxic (potato family has a whole raft of poisonous plants) with a whole raft of genes with point mutations from radiation induced mutagenesis. Do we have a clue what will happen if it is left out in the wild? Do we know if any of the toxic genes which are suppressed in the normal potato get expressed occasionally? Do not think so.

          Now, ask the greenies to eat a spud. BIG BAKED one (the big "McDonalds" varieties are multiple interspecies hybrids with 4 or 8 sets of chromosomes compared to the wild potatos).

      2. Jaybus

        Re: That's OK

        And why, exactly, does it matter how the GM is accomplished? Even a directed breeding program is a form of GM. In general, all crops (and livestock) are the result of GM. Bottom line is we'd all starve without it. More and more I am becoming convinced that mass starvation is exactly what Greenpeace is hoping for. It would drastically reduce human consumption, wouldn't it?

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      If you're going to go to that much trouble to locate a polar bear, go for broke and really irritate a lot of people... punch a baby seal.

  4. Dr Stephen Jones

    Post-modern science: choose the bits you like

    Greens wanted a "Chief Scientist" who said the RIGHT things about climate change, but not the WRONG things about GM crops.

    There's only once solution to this crisis in policy-based evidence making: appoint Steve Bong!

  5. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Alien

    Don't panic

    Mother Gaia will provide.

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Meh

    Juncker "has not yet decided how to institutionalise this independent scientific advice"

    Sounds like there's going to be a new committee.

    1. Bob Wheeler
      WTF?

      Re: Juncker "has not yet decided how to institutionalise this independent scientific advice"

      "how to institutionalise this independent scientific advice"

      Does the word 'independent' become obsolete if it's insitutionalised?

  7. jake Silver badge

    Greenpeace is neither green, nor peaceful.

    Rabble rousers with an agenda tend to not be exactly competent when commenting on anything outside whatever their religious obligation insists on ...

    1. The Axe

      Re: Greenpeace is neither green, nor peaceful.

      In the 70s we were warned about reds under the bed. Now I think we should be warned about reds in our vegtable beds, specifically watermelons.

      Greenpeace use "green" as a marketing label, underneath they are promoters of the reds, socialism. And if you thought Labour was left wing, Greens are even further to the left.

      1. returnmyjedi

        Re: Greenpeace is neither green, nor peaceful.

        Since 1997 I haven't thought for a second that Labour were left wing.

        1. nijam Silver badge

          Re: Greenpeace is neither green, nor peaceful.

          Because I'm old enough to remember 50 years ago, I have to say that all today's main political parties are centre-left.

      2. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Greenpeace is neither green, nor peaceful.

        @The Axe

        Ave!

  8. Chris Miller

    Don't forget

    That much of the funding for Greenpeace ultimately comes from the EU (that would be our pockets). Nice work if you can get it!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Greenpeace : 2+2 =5

    That about sums it up.

    Though shalt be blighted by pesticides.

    Greenpeace has spoken.

    Maybe that Orgo eats to much of those pesticides that frazzle bees brains.

  10. pikey

    can we not have a commission then if enough parties don't agree with it?

  11. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Boffin

    Well, some modern GMO's are dangerous to public health, without doubt - a number do not even need scientific evidence, common sense usually is sufficient. So a bold statement like that means she should STFU, as she has no clue.

    There are many examples for GMO's that are a threat to public health, any that have genes that produce an insecticide, and there are quite a few of them. Common sense.

    Then you have those that are resistant to Round'Up, again, common sense, not only will Round'Up end up in your plate, the chemical used to neutralize it does not look too healthy, if you ask me ... again, common sense.

    GMO's are proprietary crops complete with patents. This means they are uncontrollable - You sow on a windy day and your neighbor has to pay.

    GMO's have advantages, though, they are resistant to specific insects ... until the insects in question evolve, which they have done, so new GMO's are required with stronger insecticide.

    So, apparently, she is not very knowledgeable on the matter.

    So "experts" (ROFL), you know where the down-vote button is, he ;-).

    1. Kugutsu

      Can we have some citation please? What GMOs produce insecticides?

      The normal mode of operation is that the GMO is modified to resist pesticides, which are then added later. This has the added bonus for the company making the GMO, as normally they also make the pesticide, and that is where their profit lies.

      While I agree that we don't really want to be eating pesticides, it is important to distinguish between where the harm is coming from. The act of GMing an O does not make it inherently bad. It is just a quicker way of doing what humans have been doing with their food crops since agriculture began, in a more directed fashion. Some GMOs are pesticide resistant (and I imagine this is the type you are worrying about in your post), while others do fairly benign things, like increase the vitamin content of a crop, or make it synthesise particularly tricky amino acids or fatty acids that are commonly lacking in people's diets... This is the problem with a greenpeace-style ban of GMOs, as they seem unable to distinguish between different types of GMOs, and only want an all out ban.

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Boffin

        There are dozens ...

        Several varieties of maize, like MON810, contain a gene which produces a bacterial toxin to protect the plant from insects such as the European corn borer.

        Most toxins like these are accumulated by the body (they do not end up in excrements/urine) and cause diseases like cancer and other serious ailments.

        Now, why do you not just use google to find others, I can never remember the MON<n><n><n>'s. Also look at seralini's works - with a huge pinch of salt, admittedly, those GMO's are madness - Roundup resistant means we will have roundup in our plates and glasses, because it will sieve through and reach ground water.

        > [...] while others do fairly benign things, like increase the vitamin content of a crop, or make it synthesise particularly tricky amino acids or fatty acids that are commonly lacking in people's diets...

        This has been debunked, besides, there is nothing like a varied diet.

        You do not care? fine ... Lets take it further, imagine they come up with perfect crops that has not natural enemies, what happens ? It will spread like hell all over the place. Have you not read about the plants in your country that come from overseas and spread like hell, asphyxiating other plants ?

        > This is the problem with a greenpeace-style ban of GMOs, as they seem unable to distinguish between different types of GMOs, and only want an all out ban.

        The very idea of GMO is bad! Tell me, which part of the sentence:

        "You sow on a windy day and your neighbor has to pay."

        Do you not understand ?

        You do not care? fine ... Lets take it further, then, imagine they come up with perfect crops that has no natural enemies, what happens ? It will spread like hell all over the place. Have you not read about the plants that come from overseas and spread like hell, asphyxiating other similar local plants as they have no local enemies ? This has a direct impact on the food chain as insects eating these local varieties will have to adapt or go extinct - their number will diminish, as will the predators of these insects and so on.

        Besides, insects mutate pretty swiftly, so the very idea of GMO's is just useless.

        Sadly, even the "superior yield" of GMO's have been debunked.

        GMO's have been created to extort farmers and create a "license" on crops. Monsanto is a Microsoft - evil empire.

        Now, I appreciate the time you took to ask, but you should simply use google and my "hints" - read the pros and cons, you will be able to make up your mind.

    2. nijam Silver badge

      >Well, some modern GMO's...

      You say "common sense", I hear "uninformed guesswork".

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        One of my favorite crops releases both a pesticide and an herbicide into its soil, and has done from before mankind discovered the plant. This chemical is 1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine which acts as a neurotoxin in warm blooded creatures and prevents germination of seeds. I'm not sure what it does to insects, but they don't seem to like it either.

        You say you don't want pest/herbicides in your food, I say I want more caffeine in my coffee.

      2. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Coat

        See my reply to Kugutsu.

        "Uninformed guesswork", right. What does round'up do in a river, in your tap water ? Think about it for a second.

        Absolutely no arguments, no counter claims, no google knowhow - believe everything that is said on TV in ads .. fair enough.

        I do not back everything greenpeace does, they are extremists, but I share many of their concerns.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      GMO's do have their dangers but so does just about everything else in this life. I take a more moderate apporoach. If the GMO food has the same nutrient values as the non-GMO and requires less pesticides I'm for it.

      As a side note, this may be how Monsanto (and others) will save their bottom line since pesticides are becoming more and more of a bad-thing.

  12. David Pollard

    With a track record including the Fipronil tests

    In 1997 the EU funded a programme to control locusts in Madagascar using Fipronil, a pesticide for which field trials were needed before it could be sold in the lucrative American market. Apparently there didn't actually seem to be any major problem with locusts at the time, though a great deal of harm was done to wildlife by the tests.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/806641.stm

    Perhaps the EU record of impartiality in the field of plant science really is a bit tarnished.

  13. bigtimehustler

    Why listen to scientific advice when listening to a large group of fanatics wins you more support? After all, these people are politicians, interested in keeping their jobs, not on being right.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Commission do have a reserve of around 2750 spoke's-scientifics

      though they are fairly low profile, and Juncker has just transferred them to Commission Education policy rather than Research policy, but that end-effect isn't yet known

      Left over from the EURATOM initiative, there were 5 (or 6*) nuclear research facilities established in 5 (or 6*) EU nations. Over time these weird scientific centres have transmogrified themselves into fairly interesting and very useful, reasonably neutral places. (Ed Ball's dad used to run one of their biological research departments in Italy)

      The brochure about the EC DG Joint Research Centre is here https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/sites/default/files/jrc_passport_en.pdf

      and a mission statement is attached for your glory "Robust science for policy making

      The mission of the JRC is to provide customer-driven scientific and technical support for the conception, development, implementation and monitoring of EU policies. As a service of the European Commission, the JRC functions as a reference centre of science and technology for the Union. Close to the policy-making process, it serves the common interest of the Member States, while being independent of special interests, whether private or national."

      (*)why the "or 6", well - the Oxford J.E.T Joint European Torus was allegedly supposed to be a sixth JRC, but as soon as UK gov saw how much they would have to pay the staff - they downgraded it - to avoid having 'technical staff wage inflation in the UK' or some such shenanigans... there was eventually a quiet court-case and some millions of euros quietly disbursed to some JET staff , probably, or maybe not?

  14. airbrush

    A bit one sided maybe?

    If Greenpeace was the only lobbyist she annoyed then she wasnt doing her job, given the lack of background to the article I'm taking it with a hefty pinch of salt. Anyway here's a great article in the Guardian about the sterling work she was doing and hopes that she would carry on :

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2014/jun/23/evidence-based-union-a-new-alliance-for-science-advice-in-europe

    and then later an article about why the role is being questioned:

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2014/aug/29/the-eu-needs-science-policy-but-does-that-mean-it-needs-a-chief-scientific-adviser

    Seems like someones being cynical about the green lobby when its dwarfed by pretty much any other lobby group, the decisions made by the EU are pretty transparent at least compared to our Government that is. There's always going to be the scientific view about GM crops and the publics view, if a good proportion of the population don't want GM crops then politicians aren't going to alienate the voters without good reason (you'd hope).

  15. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I wonder which is better...

    To have no CSA, or to have the head on funding committee for NASA to be a fundamentalist Christian who believes the universe is only 6,000 years old? Or maybe a Greenpeace type as CSA.

    Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed and most are a variation of Coyote Love.

  16. Brian Allan 1

    Another hit to science

    "Glover appears to have been forced out by environmental campaigners after she said that there was no scientific consensus regarding harm caused by GM crops."

    And this statement is 100% correct regardless of what the fear mongers say!

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Another hit to science

      See my reply to Kugutsu - just plain common sense, man.

      Note that a lot of scientists are "sponsored" - aspestos, tobacco .... I could go on ...

      I would love to hear what these scientists say when round'up ends up in rivers ... then again, the fish are now hermaphrodite in many rivers across the developed world because of the contraceptive pill - that does not seem to bother anybody. Who cares ? It is cheaper to trash our habitat we are told every day when in fact the contrary is true - so much true that UNILEVER would pay billions to prevent ppl from making their own washing liquid (washing machine safe) with soap and vinegar. 10 euro cents / liter + water + energy, probably 12 cents / liter total, fully comp.

      Somebody has to pay those investors ...

  17. synonymous cowherd

    I see the light, anyone getting hot and bothererd about Monsanto should check out Syngenta. In the mid 1990's they see no moral/ethical issue at all with selling mercury (mercuric phenyl acetate) based fungicidal seed treatments to third world countries when they were not permitted to do so in developed first world nations(red list). I might know someone who worked at a facility that may have prepared and handled this material. ;))) Read about these agri-business' and feel the love

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it's the little jokes

    "However, writing on popular free blogging platform The Grauniad"

    hehe

  19. HildyJ

    Once again, science loses out to religion. When an organization, be it a church or a secular group like Greenpeace, declares one of their beliefs to be above scientific questioning, it becomes a religious doctrine, a sacred scripture.

    Whether GMOs should be patentable or whether farmers should be able to buy GMOs and replant the crops from seeds they collect, these are matters for political debate and Greenpeace can have at it. Whether GMOs are harmful to people or the environment, these are matters for scientific study, and Greenpeace can either submit their studies to peer reviewed journals or shut up. Otherwise they are no more than creationists or climate change deniers.

  20. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Windows

    @Downvoters

    I love you down-voters ... as soon as I come with facts, specific examples (coz apparently, you guyz don't know www.google.com), you vanish ...

    I would have expected the same amount of down-votes on my comment with the details, would you not ?

    I guess you are all ashamed of your naivety.

  21. HOW many?

    Minister for inconvenient truths?

    Politicians can fog just about anything

    But good science well packaged is one of the more effective constraints on their nonsense

    And you wonder why they were happy to play Pilate to Greenpeace's Judas?

    Its a bad day for everyone - Greenpeace most of all when mob rules drown rational assessment.

    (Personally I greatly mistrust GM, but that doesn't alter the truth of the statement the scientific community really are all over the shop with regard the safety of GM. (Yeah, though well informed cynics may say that's because half the vimyd are in the pockets of GM interests)).

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