Science

La méthode scientifique est menacée

OPINION. La routine du «qui vous finance?» pratiquée par les activistes écologistes nuira à la confiance de la méthode scientifique, avance Bill Wirtz, analyste pour le Consumer Choice Center.

Supposons qu’un scientifique vous dise qu’une certaine équation mathématique est manifestement correcte. On pouvait tourner l’équation de toutes les façons possibles, mais on en arrivait toujours à la même conclusion. Supposons maintenant que ce scientifique ait pris la parole une fois à une conférence et que sa chambre d’hôtel ait été payée par une industrie qui avait un intérêt direct à ce que l’équation soit vraie. Certains diront qu’il y a conflit d’intérêts, mais on ne peut supposer qu’il a orchestré une distorsion de ses travaux scientifiques que si l’on peut démontrer que l’équation est fausse. Aucun argent au monde ne peut changer les faits.

LIEN: https://www.letemps.ch/economie/methode-scientifique-menacee

Korruptionsvorwurf frisst Fakten auf

Umweltaktivisten diskreditieren zunehmend unliebsame Wissenschaftler mit der Frage: „Wer finanziert Sie?“ Sie unterstellen, die Personen seien von der Wirtschaft gekauft. So werden Co-Finanzierungen kriminalisiert und dem Fortschritt Schaden zugefügt.

Dürren und Trockenheit führen bekanntermaßen zu Missernten. Da sich diese Wetterextreme häufen, setzt sich Landwirtschaftsministerin Klöckner für gentechnisch verändertes Saatgut ein. Es gibt aber auch Alternativen. 

Angenommen, ein Wissenschaftler würde Ihnen sagen, dass eine bestimmte mathematische Gleichung nachweislich korrekt ist. Die Gleichung könnte man auf jede erdenkliche Weise drehen und wenden, doch nichtsdestotrotz zum gleichen Resultat kommen.

Nehmen wir nun an, dieser Wissenschaftler hat in der Vergangenheit einmal auf einer von der Industrie finanzierten Konferenz gesprochen: Hotelzimmer und Anreise wurden von Unternehmen gezahlt, die an diesem Forschungsbereich ein ökonomisches Interesse haben. 

Für viele klingt das, besonders im heutigen Kontext, wie ein heikler Interessenkonflikt. Dessen ungeachtet kann kein Geld der Welt Fakten ändern. Eine Verzerrung der wissenschaftlichen Recherche kann nur dann stattfinden, wenn eine Gleichung nachweislich gefälscht wurde oder mit unklaren Daten gepfuscht wurde.

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Car emissions. File photo dated 02/02/07 of car exhaust emissions, as car manufacturers which try to cheat emissions rules could face unlimited fines under a new crackdown proposed by the Government. Issue date: Friday February 2, 2018. The planned penalties come after the Volkswagen emissions scandal, when the German motor giant was found to be using so-called "defeat devices" to ensure its diesel cars passed laboratory tests of polluting emissions. See PA story TRANSPORT Emissions. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire URN:34758320 |

Die EFSA, die Europäische Behörde für Lebensmittelsicherheit, muss sich derzeit mit Vorwürfen dieser Art beschäftigen. Eine europäische NGO namens Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) verurteilt die Arbeitsgruppe, die die Sicherheit von sogenannten Gene Drives bewertet. 

Mithilfe dieser Gene Drives kann man dafür sorgen, dass sich eine gentechnische Veränderung, z.B. eine gentechnisch erzeugte Resistenz von Stechmücken gegen den Malariaerreger, in einer Population schnell ausbreitet. CEO behauptet, dass zwei Drittel der Arbeitsgruppe der Europäischen Behörde „finanzielle Verbindungen“ zu Industrie und Organisationen haben, die ein besonderes ökonomisches Interesse an der Gentechnik haben.

In einem detaillierten Brief reagierte die EFSA im Juni auf die Anschuldigungen. Die Agentur sah keinen einzigen Fall, in dem die beschriebenen „Verbindungen“ von Bedeutung waren, und nennt klare Beispiele.  

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Illustration der DNA: Die Entschlüsselung des Erbguts wird immer günstiger. Vor allem die ethischen Folgen sind kaum absehbar

Im Falle Michael Bonsalls, Professor für Mathematische Biologie an der Oxford University, habe es keine „direkten finanziellen Verbindungen“ zum britischen Biotech-Unternehmen Oxitec gegeben, da es sich um Forschungsaktivitäten handelte, die von der University of Oxford und Oxitec mitfinanziert wurden. 

Im spezifischen Fall handelte es sich um öffentlich-privat finanzierte Forschungsprojekte durch ein Unternehmen und EU-Forschungsgelder, was den besagten Wissenschaftler weder zum Mitarbeiter des genannten Unternehmens, noch finanziell von diesem abhängig macht. Öffentlich-privat finanzierte Projekte sind üblich, da die Expertise von Unternehmen nötig ist, um essenzielle Ziele zu erreichen.

Der Schaden bleibt, trotz widerlegter Vorwürfe 

Doch egal, wie viele Widerlegungen die EU-Agentur für Lebensmittelsicherheit vorbringt, ein Großteil des Schadens ist bereits entstanden. Schlagzeilen mit der Aufschrift „Wissenschaftler im Bereich Lebensmittelsicherheit wird Korruption vorgeworfen“ sind alles, was diese Aktivisten, die Feinde der industriellen Landwirtschaft sind, brauchen. Damit wird das Vertrauen in die Wissenschaft unterminiert.

Doch auch Journalisten erleben diese neue Diffamierung, etwa die Französin Emmanuelle Ducros. Die Mitarbeiterin von „L’Opinion“ ist bekannt für ihre Kolumnen, in denen sie Innovationen gegen Anti-Gentechnik, Anti-Freihandels- oder Anti-Pestizidaktivisten verteidigt. 

Ducros ist enormen Shitstorms ausgesetzt, seit die linke französische Zeitung „Liberation“ über sie schrieb. Ducros hatte als Moderatorin auf Branchenkonferenzen der Agrarwirtschaft gearbeitet – die Reisekosten und Unterkunft bezahlte die Industrie. Auch hier tauchten Vorwürfe einer unethischen Praxis auf. Aber journalistische Integrität ist doch nicht mit einer Hotelübernachtung zu kaufen! 

Die in der Wissenschaftsforschung traditionelle Frage: „Was sind Ihre Beweise?“ wird zusehends ersetzt durch „Wer finanziert Sie?“ Damit wird jede wissenschaftliche Debatte diskreditiert, im schlimmsten Falle beendet. Die Folgen davon sind auf lange Sicht verheerend.

Bill Wirtz arbeitet als Policy Analyst für das Consumer Choice Center in Brüssel

Originally published here

Viewpoint: Want to fight climate change? Embrace GMOs, don’t ban them

The fight against climate change has become one of the most widely discussed topics in the UK and globally. And for good reason. However, it is alarming that this noble goal is often used to justify all sorts of bans.

However unpopular it may be, gene modification has many benefits. It improves agricultural performance and reduces the need for chemicals. It also drives down the cost, energy usage and carbon emissions associated with tractor diesel fuel and pesticide spraying. Enabling gene modification would lead to lower prices in the shops and encourage farmers to innovate.

Read full, original article: Don’t ban meat – grow it in a lab

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Il faut rallumer la confiance des Français dans l’innovation scientifique

Les Français doutent des bénéfices de l’innovation et du progrès : il est temps que cela change.

Une étude récente a démontré que les Français sont parmi les plus sceptiques envers les innovations scientifiques et technologiques. Un fait qui a des conséquences sérieuses sur la performance économique, le commerce international et le débat public.

L’étude Fondapol du 19 mai 2019 montre que les Français sont les moins convaincus par l’avantage des innovations. Dans une autre étude Wellcome Global Monitor de 2018, 55% des Français pensent que la science et la technologie sont dangereux pour l’emploi.

Le scepticisme des Français n’est pas dirigé contre la nouvelles fusée de SpaceX, mais à la fois contre l’automatisation, le développement de l’intelligence artificielle ainsi que les innovations agricoles. Vu la croissance démographique mondiale, trouver des solutions pour nourrir la population est pourtant indispensable.

Beaucoup d’ONG et de politiques s’opposent aux néonicotinoïdes, au glyphosate (qu’il est déjà impossible d’acheter en France pour les particuliers, et bientôt pour les professionnels) et aux cultures génétiquement modifiées. Bien souvent, le discours montre un manque flagrant d’information et une certaine nostalgie pour un bon vieux temps fantasmé, d’avant le développement de l’agriculture intensive.

On a tendance à oublier le fait que cette agriculture intensive a éliminé la mortalité infantile par sous-nutrition et qu’elle a enrichi les classes les moins favorisées tout en permettant de réduire graduellement les heures de travail de 60 à 50 heures par semaine.

La plupart de ces avancées technologiques agricoles sont, pourtant, sans danger pour l’homme. Des études nombreuses, dont celles à long terme et avec des milliers de participants, nous l’expliquent depuis longtemps.

L’existence de plusieurs labels, dont les labels bio bien connus et ceux qui indiquent qu’un produit est non-OGM, donne même la possibilité aux consommateurs de choisir de ne pas consommer certains produits. Mais pour les activistes anti-science qui préfèrent tout interdire, ce n’est pas assez.

Risques et dangers, une nuance importante

Au niveau du commerce international, cela pose également un sérieux problème. Seize pays membres de l’Organisation mondiale du commerce (OMC), dont les Etats-Unis, critiquent les pratiques de l’Union européenne dans le domaine de l’agriculture.

Le reproche porte principalement sur l’approche particulière de l’UE, qui consiste non pas à porter ses interdictions sur les risques mais à adopter une approche hazard-based (“basée sur les dangers”). La différence est notable : le “danger” (hazard) doit être quantifié par le “risque” (risk), donc sur le degré d’exposition au danger.

Nous savons par exemple que le glyphosate présent dans la bière est mauvais pour la santé… si nous en buvons 1000 litres par jour. Le danger est présent mais le risque d’y être exposé est absolument nul. C’est donc une histoire d’excès, pas de risque inhérent.

La poursuite de l’Union européenne et de la France pour la suppression de tout danger est utopique. Si cette politique du “risque zéro” est maintenue, l’Europe signe un arrêt net de son développement technologique. Les effets sont déjà très visibles actuellement.

Il est important de remarquer que parmi les pays signataires de cet appel à l’OMC contre ce genre de politique, il y a également des pays du Mercosur (Amérique du Sud), qui essaient de ratifier un traité de libre-échange avec l’Union européenne.

Les 16 pays signataires affirment que :

“Le choix de nos agriculteurs en matière de technologie est de plus en plus réduit par des obstacles réglementaires qui ne sont pas fondés sur des principes d’analyse des risques convenus à l’échelle internationale et qui ne tiennent pas compte d’autres approches pour atteindre les objectifs réglementaires.”

Les disputes au niveau de l’OMC vont continuer et s’éterniser, surtout si l’Union européenne et ses pays membres continuent de restreindre ces innovations agricoles.

Il est temps de se réconcilier avec le progrès

Il faudrait rallumer la confiance des Français envers l’innovation… et particulièrement l’innovation agricole. Cela signifie également d’avoir le courage d’affronter des activistes anti-science qui vont toujours argumenter avec véhémence contre chaque innovation.

Les technologies du génie génétique peuvent pourtant avoir un impact énorme sur la réduction du nombre de décès dus à des maladies telles que la dengue, la fièvre jaune et le virus Zika. Il est peu probable que les citoyens français soient prêts à accepter la prolifération de telles maladies juste pour plaire aux écologistes.

Pendant que la Chine, l’Inde, le Brésil ou les Etats-Unis innovent dans ce domaine, l’Europe ne peut pas se permettre de s’enfermer dans un conservatisme restrictif. Dans le domaine du nucléaire, ou dans celui de l’aviation avec Airbus, la France a su montrer que le mot “innovation” s’écrit également en français.

Croire au progrès scientifique et technologique est un acte humaniste mais aussi un premier pas vers le succès.

Originally published here

Don’t ban meat – grow it in a lab

Innovation is key to fighting climate change.

The fight against climate change has become one of the most widely discussed topics in the UK and globally. And for good reason. However, it is alarming that this noble goal is often used to justify all sorts of bans. Recently, for instance, Goldsmiths, University of London banned the sale of meat on campus.

Bans like this restrict our choices. And they often don’t achieve their desired goal. For instance, a ban on plastic straws and stirrers will come into effect in 2020. Some companies, like McDonald’s, are getting ahead of the ban by replacing plastic straws with paper ones. But recently, McDonald’s admitted that its new paper straws, which were supposed to decrease damage to the environment, cannot be recycled.

What’s more, when bans are seen as an easy solution, innovative ideas are often pushed out of the debate. The best way to reduce the impact of food production on the climate is to embrace innovation. On a positive note, Boris Johnson has promised to liberate the UK’s biotech sector from the EU’s anti-gene-modification rules. This could turn the post-Brexit UK into a global, future-oriented biotech powerhouse – and it could help the planet. This opportunity cannot be missed.

Currently, laws that cover genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the UK are primarily based on EU law. It is illegal to grow gene-modified crops for commercial purposes, but they can be imported. This approach is regressive and has left British agriculture lagging behind other non-EU countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, which have booming agricultural sectors.

However unpopular it may be, gene modification has many benefits. It improves agricultural performance and reduces the need for chemicals. It also drives down the cost, energy usage and carbon emissions associated with tractor diesel fuel and pesticide spraying. Enabling gene modification would lead to lower prices in the shops and encourage farmers to innovate. PODCASTWeed, cigarettes and Irn-Bru, with Julia Hartley-BrewerSPIKED

Aside from allowing the growth of GM crops, it is also essential to create fair market conditions for GM foods. Currently, under EU legislation, products containing GMO are labelled as such. This gives an unfair advantage to GMO-free food. It is intended to direct us away from the most innovative products.

Worse, gene-modification bans limit our choice by preventing the sale of meat substitutes, like those developed by Impossible Foods, or GM salmon. After Brexit, the UK could be the first European country to sell these – but only if it chooses the path of innovation. Retaining the EU’s anti-GM rules would also be a significant obstacle to striking trade deals around the world.

Imposing bans – whether on meat, plastics or GMOs – always seems like the easiest and most obvious course of action. But in the long run, encouraging innovative substitutes will be far more rewarding. More innovation means less environmental damage, more choice for consumers, and more prosperity for the country.

Maria Chaplia is European affairs associate at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here

Breakenridge: Paying for plasma — the rules need an update

 A poll commissioned by the Consumer Choice Centre and released last week showed that 63 per cent of Canadians — including 65 per cent of Albertans — believe that the compensation of plasma donors is morally appropriate.

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Canadians support paying blood plasma donors – survey

A majority of Canadians support paying people for donations of plasma, which are blood products used to make specialized medicines, a new poll has found.

Sixty-three per cent of Canadians endorse the idea as “morally appropriate” while support is strongest, at 75 per cent, among those between the ages of 18-34.

But a narrow majority of older Canadians, age 55 and up, believe paying people for plasma donations is “morally inappropriate”.

The donation of plasma is similar to blood donations, but the process takes longer, about two hours instead of 30 minutes.

Because of a lack of plasma supply in Canada, about 75 per cent of it used in this country comes from the U.S., where donors are paid.

Last week, Canadian Blood Services announced plans to open three plasma-only donation centres, including one in Kelowna scheduled to open in the spring of 2021, to try bolster the country’s supply.

The B.C. NDP government banned paid plasma in 2018, and similar bans exist in Alberta and Ontario.

The new survey, commissioned by the Consumer Choice Centre, found that 56 per cent of B.C. residents support paying plasma donors as “morally appropriate. Although a majority, that was the lowest level of support found in Canada’s six main regions.

Supporters of a ban on paying people for plasma donations say it may negatively affect blood donations, exploits the poor, and violates human dignity because blood should not be paid for.

Those who support payment for plasma donations say the process is safe, with no transmission of any diseases from paid-for plasma donors in the past 20 years, and it would address Canada’s plasma shortage.

Plasma, a yellow liquid that houses red and white blood cells, is increasingly used to make a variety of medicines for the treatment of conditions and illnesses such as burns, respiratory diseases, and immune deficiencies.

The usage of one plasma protein product, immune globulin, has doubled internationally over the past decade.

David Clement, Toronto-based representative of the Consumer Choice Centre, said in a release the results of the new opinion poll should convince governments the public supports payment for plasma donations.

“We have long argued that allowing compensation for blood plasma donors was overdue, and now we know that Canadians from coast to coast agree,” Clement said in a release.

In Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, where paid plasma clinics operate, donors are typically paid between $30-$50.

Donors must go through medical screening to ensure they’re healthy. Their plasma is subject to the same kind of analysis and treatment as other donated blood products to ensure it’s safe to use.

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Brexit opens up British biotech bonanza

The authors, Fred Roeder, Maria Chaplia, and Bill Wirtz, emphasise how timely the note is given Brexit approaching its final stage and Boris Johnson’s ambition to ‘liberate the UK’s bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules’.

“Revolutionising the UK biotech sector by allowing it to utilise the latest developments of genetic engineering in food production and healthcare is only possible if the existing restrictions are relieved and replaced with a more pro-consumer, pro-innovation, and prosperity-fostering approach,” said CCC managing director Mr Roeder.

“Driven by a noble aim ‘to protect human health and the environment and ensure consumer choice’, the strict legislation on GM products in the UK has, however, failed to recognise the advantages of gene modification and how it could benefit consumers. This foregone opportunity to encourage the progress of the UK biotech sector has left the UK far behind numerous countries,” added Ms Chaplia.

Mr Wirtz ventured: “GM pest-resistant crops could save about £60 million a year in pesticide use in the UK. This would be much welcomed by UK farmers and consumers. Moreover, £60 million in savings means more leeway for competitive food pricing within the country. With food prices in the EU rising by 2% annually, the UK could prove that food can become cheaper by more than just dropping tariffs, but also through more efficient and technologically advanced farming and by dropping non-tariff trade barriers such as the extremely strict EU GMO rules.”

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Synthetic farm chemicals boost harvest

This is a very dangerous and reckless preposition. As one commentator said, the conference was anti-science activism based on environmental fantasies.

“Agroecology as a political doctrine has no place in science-based policy discourse, and its promotion – given the scientific knowledge we have to today – is immoral. It needs to be stopped,” said Bill Wirtz, a policy analyst.

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Boris Sparks Hope for Science

In his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has delivered a promising outlook for the UK’s tech and agricultural sector, by committing to a more innovation-prospering future after Brexit. Johnson mentions “a bioscience sector liberated from anti genetic modification rules… we will be the seedbed for the most exciting and most dynamic business investments on the planet.” He also adds: “Let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world”, in a move cheered by the National Farmers Union.

If you’re reading op-eds in the Guardian and blog entries from certain environmentalist groups, you’d think that this is some sort of gift from the PM for the sake of inflating British business. They’re mistaken, as unleashing scientific innovation in the United Kingdom means much more than that.

We know for instance that that growing a GM pest-resistant crop like this in the UK could save about £60 million a year in pesticide use. This is certainly good news for farmers, yet lest we forget – £60 million in savings means more leeway for competitive food pricing within the United Kingdom. With food prices in the EU rising by 2 per cent, the new government can send a powerful message that yes, food can become cheaper through more than just dropping tariffs, but through more efficient and technologically advanced farming. As of now, GM crops aren’t grown in the UK, but imported genetically modified soy is used for animal feed.

We also know that upcoming generations have much more favourable views towards scientific innovation in the agricultural sector than their parents. A 2018 poll of 1,600 18 to 30-year-olds, carried out for the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), found that two-thirds support agro-tech innovations – only 22 percent being concerned about the use of gene-editing or genetically-modified crops.

So why agro-tech, and why now?

As the UK looks towards a free trade future after the withdrawal from the European Union, Boris Johnson knows that the UK economy needs to be competitive and up to the challenge of changing environments and markets. Genetically-modified crops and gene-editing present amazing opportunities in the years to come, not only in the area of food, but also in patient choice. Gene-editing technologies could have a huge impact in reducing the death toll from diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever, and the Zika virus.

This why the scientific community in the European Union will be more inclined with Boris Johnson than its own political leadership. 117 European research institutions have recently signed an open letter calling on ECJ to enable gene editing, bemoaning the strict legislation currently in place.

They write: “The strict legislation will make precision breeding hyper-expensive and, by consequence, a privilege of just a few large multinational companies. As such, European farmers will miss out on a new generation of hardier and more nutritious crop varieties that are urgently needed to respond to the results of climate change.”

One year ago, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided in Case C-528/16 that gene-editing should be treated the same way that genetically-modified organisms are handled at the moment, keeping them in essence practically illegal.

In the future, the European Union will have its own challenge of dealing with scientific innovation. For Boris Johnson, the hope needs to be that he can follow-up his promises with actions, delivering a prosperous era of innovation for Britain. By setting an example of breeding technologies and their benefits for human health and consumer choice, the UK could even become a new beacon of scientific research, to which the EU could eventually aspire to.

Originally published here

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