The chief scientific adviser to the European Commission has been ousted after a lobbying campaign led by Greenpeace, which objected to her support for genetically modified crops.
Professor Anne Glover had said there was no evidence of adverse impacts of GM crops and that opposing them was “a form of madness”.
She revealed in an email yesterday to the heads of national science academies that her post had “ceased to exist” and that she would leave the commission in January.
Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, and many other senior scientists condemned the decision by Jean-Claude Juncker, the new commission president, not to maintain the post of chief scientific adviser.
Greenpeace and eight other campaign groups wrote to Mr Juncker in July urging him to abolish the post because it “concentrates too much influence in one person”.
The letter accused Professor Glover, a former chief scientific adviser to the Scottish government, of giving the media “one-sided, partial opinions” on GM crops and wrongly claiming that there was scientific consensus about their safety.
More than 20 scientific bodies, including the Royal Institution and the Royal Society of Chemistry, wrote to Mr Juncker days laterurging him to ignore the demands of Greenpeace and other groups.
They wrote: “Lobbyists who seek to remove scientists because they don’t like their findings or advice do so at the peril of their citizens.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Juncker said yesterday that the post had “expired” rather than been abolished. She said that Mr Juncker had not yet decided “how to institutionalise” the provision of scientific advice.
Sir Paul said: “This appears to be a very backward step by the new commission, having only made the enlightened decision to raise the profile of scientific advice three years ago.”
Professor Colin Blakemore, director of the Centre for the Study of the Senses, at the University of London, said: “It’s a sad day for science, policy, politics and the public in Europe.”
Owen Paterson, the former environment secretary, said that Professor Glover was a “thoroughly good egg” who had been very supportive of his efforts to overcome EU restrictions on growing GM crops in Britain.
He said: “It shows the wholly malign influence of the green blob who, not content with trashing [GM] Golden Rice trials in the Philippines, have now moved on to removing respected scientists in important positions who give advice they don’t like.”