What happens to people when they become government science advisers? Are their children taken hostage? Is a dossier of compromising photographs kept, ready to send to the Sun if they step out of line?
I ask because, in too many cases, they soon begin to sound less like scientists than industrial lobbyists. The mad cow crisis 20 years ago was exacerbated by the failure of government scientists accurately to present the evidence. The chief medical officer wrongly claimed that there was “no risk associated with eating British beef”. The chief veterinary officer wrongly dismissed the research suggesting that BSE could jump from one species to another.
The current chief scientist at the UK’s environment department, Ian Boyd, is so desperate to justify the impending badger cull – which defies the recommendations of the £49m study the department funded– that he now claims that eliminating badgers “may actually be positive to biodiversity”, on the grounds that badgers sometimes eat baby birds. That badgers are a component of our biodiversity, and play an important role in regulating the populations of other species, appears to have eluded him. Read more…