Blog Archives

Government scientific advisor’s priority “ensuring that scientific knowledge translates to economic growth”

In an article to be published in the Guardian today, George Monbiot lists racism, nationalism and war as three of many hazards to which society are exposed if  ‘intellectuals’ side with soldiers or sellers.

Dr-Mark-WalportHe refers to his castigation of the new chief scientist, Sir Mark Walport, featured here in April, for misinforming the public about risk, making unscientific and emotionally manipulative claims and indulging in scaremongering and wild exaggeration in defence of the government’s position on several issues.

But he now thinks that the problem runs deeper than he has surmised:

 “Speaking at the Centre for Science and Policy at Cambridge University, Walport maintained that scientific advisors had five main functions, and the first of these was “ensuring that scientific knowledge translates to economic growth”. No statement could more clearly reveal what Benda called the “assimilation” of the intellectual. As if to drive the point home, the press release summarising his speech revealed that the centre is sponsored, among others, by BAE Systems, BP and Lloyd’s”.

Also at Oxford and  Manchester . . .

“Last week, two days before CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million, Oxford University opened a new geoscience laboratory, named after its sponsor, Shell. Among its roles is helping to find and develop new sources of fossil fuel.

“This is one of many such collaborations. Last year, for example, BP announced that it will spend £60m on research at Manchester University, partly to help it drill deeper for oil. In the US and Canada universities go further: David Lynch, dean of engineering at the University of Alberta, appears in advertisements by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, whose purpose is to justify and normalise tar sands extraction.

Monbiot concludes:

“Climate change is one of the great moral issues of our age, but the scholars in the strongest position to challenge the industry responsible are, instead, lending it what Benda calls their “moral prestige”. Neoliberal economists, imperialist historians, warmongering philosophers, pliable chief scientists, compromised energy researchers: all are propelling us into the arms of power . . .

“Over the past few days, I have asked the Shell Professor of Earth Sciences at Oxford, the university itself and the umbrella body Universities UK to explain the ethical difference between taking tobacco money for cancer research and taking fossil fuel money for energy research. None of these great heads, despite my repeated attempts to engage them, were prepared even to attempt an answer.

“So perhaps this is where hope lies: unlike Benda’s scholars, these people have not yet developed a justifying ideology, which permits them to excuse or glorify the compromises they have made with power. . . “


Read the article at



The political-corporate drive for imposing GM crops continues: the PM’s new scientific advisor says there is ‘strong case’ for it

Dr Mark WalportDr Michael AntoniouBut who would know more about genetic modification: immunologist Dr Mark Walport, (right) – the prime minister’s news scientific adviser –  who before heading the Wellcome Trust specialised in medical research, or Dr Michael Antoniou who specialises in molecular biology and gene structure at Kings College, UCL?

A survey by the Food Standards Agency last year found that two in three people believe food from animals given a GM diet should be described as such. And a British Science Association study showed public support for GM food declining from 46% in 2002 to 27%.

Concerns have been raised over ministers’ secret meetings with GM lobby groups – details of which emerged only following freedom of information requests.

A large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence from farmers shows that many of the claims made are not true. Evidence presented in the GMO Myths and Truths report of which Dr Michael Antoniou is lead author, indicates that GM crops:
  • cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.
  • are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops,
  • do not reduce pesticide use but increase it,
  • can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts,
  • create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds” and increased disease susceptibility in crops,
  • are not adequately regulated to ensure safety,
  • harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity,
  • do not increase yield potential, and
  • are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops.
As Peter Riley of GM Freeze says, ‘The push for GM is being orchestrated by large industry rather than in the interest of the consumer or public health.’