Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Retreat of Science from the Place It Began



'Beginning with Scotland’s prohibition on domestic genetically modified crop cultivation on Aug. 9, Europe’s scientists and farmers watched with mounting dismay as other countries followed suit. Following the Scottish decision, signatories from numerous scientific organizations and academic institutions wrote to the Scottish government to express grave concern “about the potential negative effect on science in Scotland.”

The appeal went unheeded.

Without a trace of embarrassment, a spokeswoman for Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, admitted that the first minister’s science adviser had not been consulted because the decision “wasn’t based on scientific evidence.” Instead, the priority was to protect the “clean green image” of the country’s produce, according to the secretary for rural affairs, food and environment.'
NYT Sunday Review Oct 25th p.6 - 'Europe Turns Against Science'

As both a Scot and a former biotechnology entrepreneur it is hard for me to watch the Nationalists who form the current Scottish Government descend to the idiot level. No GMOs, no Trident atomic submarines, nothing tech if the English or Americans find it useful.... These rustics remind me of the "nuclear-free zones" that socialist municipal  councils created in Britain, or the "niqab-free" municipalities Canada now has in rural Quebec.

'The historical irony is that Europe once led in biotech: in 1983, Marc Van Montagu and Jeff Schell at the University of Ghent in Belgium introduced the world to modern plant genetic engineering. Today, however, no rational young scientist interested in molecular techniques of crop breeding would choose a base in Continental Europe.'

The 'must be organic and GMO-free' craze long plaguing European food production has now resulted in nations as stable and scientifically sophisticated as Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Scotland using new European Union rules to announce bans on the cultivation of genetically modified crops. They either see no reason to take senior science advice in agriculture or, like the Scots Nats, choose to forgo it for populist reasons.

It is eerie for one such as I, born in Europe but now a resident of the Developed New World, to see the populations of advanced New World countries like America, Canada and Australia retain a respect for the evidence-based view of technological development we inherited from the European Enlightenment, while much of Old World Europe's present-day leadership slips away from relying on modern science for deciding what to believe when it comes to food production and nutrition.

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