EU Referendum

EU politics: the "blob" has spoken


000a Times-014 Glover.jpg

Anne Glover, as the Commission President's chief scientist, is no more. She has, according to The Times and The Guardian, been dumped by Juncker after pressure from Greenpeace over GM crops. Not only that, her post has been abolished.

This goes back to June, after Dr Glover had been outspoken in her criticism of the way policy was being formulated. At the time she was complaining that policymaking lacked the backing of scientific evidence.

She accused the Commission of cherry-picking evidence to support its cases, often outsourcing evidence-gathering to external consulting firms which were more interested in repeat business than objective science.

Glover, a molecular biologist, found it difficult to disentangle the Commission's evidence gathering processes from what she called the "political imperative" that were behind them. In particular, she railed against the opposition to GM crops. There was no evidence of adverse impacts, she said. Opposing them (GM crops) was "a form of madness".

This, however, is the same woman who has bought the official groupthink on climate change, lock, stock and barrel. She even once suggested that global warming might lengthen the hours of daylight in Scotland.

However, that has not been enough to protect her from the ire of Owen Paterson's "Green Blob". Her ousting is directly attributed to a lobbying campaign led by Greenpeace, specifically on the grounds of her support for genetically modified crops.

Despite its support for all things green, however, even the Guardian is worried. It allowed James Wilsdon, professor of science and democracy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, to write of her departure:
It is hard not to interpret this week's decision as a serious downgrading of the status of scientific advice at the top of the Commission. I fully expect Europe's research community - and all those who want a stronger role for evidence in EU policy - to be up in arms over this outcome. Juncker now needs to clarify with urgency what precise structures for scientific advice he plans to put in place.
As you might expect, though, Greenpeace is unrepentant. Doug Parr, its chief "scientist" in the UK office, said that "groups had been concerned about the lack of transparency over the chief scientific adviser's advice and concentration of power in one person".

Parr's view is that Glover had drawn attention to the shortcomings of her post by "sounding off" about GM food. He says, "It didn't feel to us that she was speaking out on the basis of scientific evidence but more on the basis of some personal opinions".

The "crime", of course, was in articulating her opinions, rather than simply acting as a megaphone for the "blob". And for that, she had to go. This shadowy group of organisations which constitutes a powerful, if invisible part of our government, has spoken. And Juncker has rushed to obey.