15 November 2001
Scientists must ‘ring politicians’ bells’

By Andrew Blake

“SCIENTIFICALLY illiterate” policy-makers are ignoring the contribution new technologies can make to sustainable agriculture, according to crop protection scientists.

“Most politicians are scientifically illiterate, but they have a responsibility to listen to us,” Chris Leaver of the University of Oxford said at the British Crop Protection Conference in Brighton on Wednesday (14 November).

The big question is how messages about the benefits of scientific advances can be relayed to those who make key decisions, he says.

Syngentas Willy De Greef believes politicians misconceptions about who is likely to benefit from GM advances is a big stumbling block.

“But if we dont ring their bells, knock on their doors or come down their chimneys, they arent going to listen.”

One-to-one briefings are probably the best strategy, he maintains.

Scientific papers need re-writing and summarising in simple terms to encourage dialogue.

“Politicians arent scientists. They are so well-briefed by lobbyists that, unlike us, they dont go looking for information.

“For every visit I make to authorities, Greenpeace probably makes 20.”

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