August 29, 2014
The NGOs that are trying to kill science

When presented with facts that change your argument, most people–to paraphrase the oft-misquoted John Maynard Keynes quote– change their mind.

But not if you’re Greenpeace and the 22 other European-based NGOs who are trying to kill science.  Rather, it appears that their preferred course of action is to stamp out the facts entirely.

In a letter to incoming EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, Greenpeace and 8 other NGOs, called for the role of EU Chief Scientific Advisor to be scrapped in the next commission. Undeterred by a sharp reaction from the scientific community,  Friends of the Earth and other NGOs have now added their names to the call.

This is a significant move that goes to the very heart of the role of science in the EU.

The role of Chief Scientific Advisor was established by outgoing EU Commission President Barosso in 2011. As we all know, science and politics are not always comfortable bedfellows, and science is rarely ever a friend to a politician unless it is ‘convenient’. The role of EU Chief Scientific Advisor was established to eliminate this tension, and to provide factual, evidence based policy advice, free from the mercy of the electoral cycle. Upon accepting the role, Ms. Glover, the current EU Chief Scientific Advisor, herself made it clear to the Commission that the position would be only viable and credible if she was regarded as a—independent scientific advisor– and was able to focus on “evidence and not political considerations”.

In doing her job, she has faced a barrage of criticism from NGOs that don’t like the facts that come from independent, evidenced-based science. The facts that dismantle their arguments and undermine their campaigns.

So, their answer it is to scrap the role and kill the science.

It’s noteworthy that the first three signatories on the letter all currently accept operating funding from the EU via DG Environment:

In the case of Friends of the Earth, around half of the budget for its Brussels operations has been paid by DG Environment for more than 10 years, as is the case with many other “non-governmental” organisations as well.

September 2014 update: Euractiv published a nice response to the NGOs’ “the-sun-revolves-around-the-Earth” campaign. In their response, French scientists Marcel Kuntz and John Davison highlight Commission President-designate Jean-Claude Juncker’s conflict of interest on the topic, given Luxembourg’s repeated attempts–contrary to all scientific evidence–to ban GMOs within the principality for political reasons. “Mr Juncker thus begins his presidency with prior conflicts with EFSA,” they note.

“Mr Junker is opposing what should not be opposed: science and democracy. His presentation gave the impression that science was ruling the decision concerning authorisation, as a consequence of some kind of scientific power. This is untrue since the principle of seeking scientific advice before decisions regarding GMO authorisations was decided by the political authority, as was the creation of EFSA in 2002. EFSA was meant to shed light for politicians on real risks, not to impose science on decision making processes. If the authorisation procedure became politically deadlocked, it was due to political, not scientific, considerations,” they conclude.




    September 11, 2014
    That's John Maynard Keynes, not John Milton Keynes. You've either confused him with the new city in central England or with his friend and fellow economist, the American, Milton Friedman. Otherwise a good blog entry. Personally I would like to see the EU withdraw funding from those organisations that deny the findings of independent science.
    Brandon Mitchener
    October 1, 2014
    Thanks for the catch, Andrew! We fixed the name.


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