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Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU commission and former prime minister of Luxembourg, a country of 500 thousand people which vehemently opposes GE crops. (pic. from The Telegraph)

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU commission and former prime minister of Luxembourg, a country of 500 thousand people, which vehemently opposes GE crops. (pic. from The Telegraph)

Some people still grumble about the inquisition or Galileo’s trial. Optimists will argue that those days are long gone now. After all, even the Catholic Church has embraced evolution and the big bang theory. But the problems for science are not over yet: There is another supranational institution as blind to evidence as the 15th century Church, with its curia in Brussels and aides as slippery as a famous 15th century Florentine.

After having decided that it will no longer require the services of a scientific advisor -terminating the post- the EU has now authorised its member states to ban Genetically Engineered (GE) crops, even when they have been deemed safe by its first (and last) scientific advisor and approved by the scientific panel of the European Food and Safety Administration (EFSA).

According to Science Magazine, -displaying a superb control of Orwellian rhetoric- informed: “This is not about opposing science and politics”…“but rather about unlocking an untenable situation and enabling governments to respond to European consumers”.

What he really meant was:

“We are enabling politicians to please the prejudiced bias of a small but extremely noisy and affluent part of their electorate.”

If the EU parliament wanted to allow individual governments “to respond to consumers demands” a “you don’t need to buy it if you don’t want to” would have sufficed.

The major scientific institutions in the world have agreed that GE crops are safe. This includes: The Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Europe’s own EFSA. Even honest scientists who oppose GE crops tend to admit that they are safe, their opposition being rather political or philosophical.

The environmentalist groups that lobbied the EU commission’s president to get rid of the post of scientific advisor (and are against GE crops) don’t have the safety and economy of the globesEuropean people at heart; they want to impose an ideological agenda. Driven by an insane mix of anti-capitalism and green theology, environmentalists insist we should reject biotechnology at any cost; they believe that “natural” is always better (never mind that pain, disease and pests are all natural) and want to stop us from ripping the benefits of scientific progress. That is their belief and it is fine if they keep it to themselves. But the EU parliament sets a terrible precedent by giving in to an unscientific prejudice against technology. How many more small minorities’ prejudices will the EU be willing to accept as law “to respond to consumers demands”?

At least from now on, Britons and a few others will be free to use scientific agriculture on their own fields (as long as the “common market” don’t find new ways to stop them).  That is something.

aide to the EU Parliament’s main negotiator Frédérique Ries
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  • Elí Daniel García Martínez 04/02/2015 at 6:51 am

    This is a major issue concerning biotechnology worldwide. By getting rid of the scientific advisor to the EU, the message is clear: “we are giving the anti-science lobby a place ahead any reasonable discussion, one where any claim based upon a ‘Precautionary Principle’ is valid and no subject of discussion”. I have to say, this is terrible indeed.

  • spmodak 02/02/2015 at 1:27 am

    Ariel Poliandri’s write up smacks of GMO theology. By the way, Ariel , which GE plant crops were found to be safe for human consumption and base on which criteria?

    • Ariel Poliandri 02/02/2015 at 5:12 pm

      Allow me to explain to you, spmodak, how experimental science works:
      You don’t prove that a hypothesis is true (that is impossible). You prove that a hypothesis is wrong. If you cannot prove it wrong and there is enough evidence to assume that it is true, then you accept it as true.
      If you don’t care to read the reports of the Royal Society, etc. that I have provided, you don’t have to go further than looking at America (the entire continent, North and South) where GM crops have been grown for over 20 years. The continent is as fine as GM-free Europe. If we add to this that no one has ever shown that GM crops have a negative impact on health, we can assume that GM crops are safe.
      That is the difference between experimental science and hocus pocus green-propaganda: green have nothing to support their claims apart from swivel-eyed speculations about “nets” and “webs” and “matrixes” and, of course, the wrath of Gaia.

      • Fernando 07/02/2015 at 7:07 pm

        I agree mostly in everything, but not in this biased opinion:
        “Driven by an insane mix of anti-capitalism and green theology, environmentalists insist we should reject biotechnology at any cost;”
        I think here you were just angry and becoming in what you are criticizing.

        • Ariel Poliandri 08/02/2015 at 8:47 pm

          You are right Fernando, I might be annoyed with the whole issue. But you are a bit naïve if you think that anti-GM activists act out of simple altruism.
          Their opposition is ideological. You only need to argue with them to see that first they will resort to health scaremongering. After all their health quibbles have been addressed, they will promptly move to environmental scaremongering. Finally, when it has been shown that GM-crops are equally or even more sustainable than conventional agriculture, they’ll shift gears and move towards attacking capitalism: companies, patents, “making money”, you name it.

  • Paul Lucas 28/01/2015 at 10:22 pm

    I think the blog post is a bit simplistic and pushing its own agenda here. There are limits on freedom. For instance, in the USA farmers are not free to spray with DDT. Not much harm to humans, but DDT was genocide for birds and other small vertebrates. Yet I don’t see the blogger going ballistic over this “infringement” on freedom.

    Yes, GE crops are safe for humans to eat. But, like DDT, there are other aspects of safety and ethics. In science, just because we can do something does not mean we SHOULD do it. Yes, we can do fission, but that does not mean we should have fission bombs and fission power plants. There are economic issues for farmers with GE crops — they are much more expensive and they spread. There is also the issue of such severe Darwinian selection on other plants when RoundUp is sprayed on the GE crops. Yes, the whole point is that GE crops resist RoundUp; that makes it easy to get rid of weeds. What happens when, inevitably, one of the “weeds” has a fortuitous mutation that makes it immune to RoundUp?

    This subject needs much more objective and reasonable discussion than ” Driven by an insane mix of anti-capitalism and green theology, environmentalists insist we should reject biotechnology at any cost” or “There is another supranational institution as blind to evidence as the 15th century Church, with its curia in Brussels and aides as slippery as a famous 15th century Florentine.” Wow. Ad hominem much?

    “Even honest scientists who oppose GE crops tend to admit that they are safe, their opposition being rather political or philosophical.” The blogger wants us to think that “political or philosophical” has no place when we decide whether we SHOULD use a particular bit of science. But that is exactgly what we MUST use. Science is not a system of ethics. Do you think the US Government decided to build the first fission bomb based solely on science? There was no political considerations in that at all, like about winning a world war? The decision to go to the moon was purely political — a ploy in the Cold War. Shoot, even upgrading science education in the USA in the 1960s was political: the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1959 and we were seen to be “behind”.

    When we decide whether we SHOULD use a technology — like GE crops –then ethics, politics, and philosophy comes into play. The blogger is in favor of GE crops. Fine. So am I. But I really, really wish there had been more thoughtful discussion of the problems the opponents of GE crops have voiced. Just saying “GE crops are safe” does not address the points brought up by the opposition. Demonizing environmentalists does not address their points either. Science works by evidence and reason. I wish the blogger would have used evidence and reason to address the concerns of opponents of GE crops.

    • Ariel Poliandri 28/01/2015 at 10:49 pm

      Paula,
      1- Comparing GE crops to hydrogen bombs is a way over the top…
      2- You said: “I wish the blogger would have used evidence and reason to address the concerns of opponents of GE crops.” I provided links to reports by the Royal Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the European Food and Safety Authority. What sort of evidence will be suitable for you?
      3- There is no much to argue about. The post is quite short. I just repeated what the scientific institutions mentioned above have said: GE crops are safe to humans and the environment.
      Beyond that, I agree with you. As I said: people requiring a blanket ban on GE crops -without any solid scientific argument- are moved by ideology (which I think is hostile to science and/or capitalism). I am fine with that as long as they don’t try to sell it as a scientific objection. If GE opponents want to have a honest philosophical debate, I am all for it. But they should leave the scaremongering and pseudoscience aside. GE crops are as safe as any crop can be proven to be safe. As Samuel Johnson said: “Nothing will ever be achieved if all possible objections must first be overcome.” and that’s what GE opponents are relying upon.

      • Oliver 30/01/2015 at 9:55 pm

        I’m not Paula, but your argument “I provided links to reports by the Royal Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the European Food and Safety Authority. What sort of evidence will be suitable for you?” misses the fact that these all address chiefly the safety for the consumer problem.

        ” If GE opponents want to have a honest philosophical debate, I am all for it. But they should leave the scaremongering and pseudoscience aside.”

        But the scaremongering is just as much on the proponent side, who refuse to accept labelling, and thus consumer choice. The only valid conclusion from that is that they do not believe they can make a credible case for the product. But that’s the job of companies selling products generated with transgenic methods – and no one else. If they want people’s money, they have to convince customers that they provide an adequate value. If a label, i.e. transparency about the production methods, supposedly stands in the way of their convincing people, I’m not sure in what way they themselves are convinced of the necessity of their products. It suggests that they do not believe that “made with transgenic technologies” actually conveys an added value. But if it doesn’t, why should anyone buy it?

        A bit over 100 years ago, “Made in Germany” was introduced as a label to brand cheap copycat products. But Germany got its act together and “Made in Germany” today is a label suggesting quality and cutting edge technology.

        Apples from Argentina are perfectly safe to eat. We declare their country of origin anyway to give people the chance to decide whether, for example in local apple season, they truly want to eat apples carted half way around the world or would not rather buy local products. If we give people a choice as to decide for themselves where the products were made, what’s so scandalous about giving them a choice as to decide how the products they are using are made? We already do so with various “bio” labels which also do not necessarily indicate a healthier product, but merely state something about the production methods used. With eggs, people are given the choice between battery chicken, indoor husbandry or free range chicken. They can decide which production method they want to pay for. And people still buy battery chicken eggs… So even IF labeling of transgenic products were perceived as undesirable, there’s still a chance for a business to be made.

      • Ariel Poliandri 02/02/2015 at 4:54 pm

        As I have said many times: I reject COMPULSORY labelling because –without any health basis- it is just an imposition of the religious type. If those who want to cater for the eco-pious market want to label their products “GMO-free” (as Jews label “Kosher” or Musulims “Halal”) I am all for it. But without a solid health reason you cannot force other people to label. It is a waste of money, time and it is wrong ideologically.
        I do not think that labelling apples’ country of origin is compulsory. If it is, there must be because some of these stupid protectionist trade-restrictions. But again if the eco-pious market asks for a label “grown around the corner” I am happy with that. It just needs to get off its high horse and let everybody else live.

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