Adrian Percy

Let Science Shine

Science is complex and doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. Society has a seemingly endless fascination for elevating wit over wisdom. Bayer scientists’ are engaging in this year’s March for Science activities, taking a stand for choice, transparency and collaboration to help drive the industry’s success.

Imagine a mass of people marching in unison along a city street, moving with purpose and focused on the righteousness of their cause, as they loudly chant:

“What do you want?”

“Sound Science!”

“When do you want it?”

“After our randomized replicates have been shown to be statistically significant when compared to the control blocks and subsequently peer-reviewed and approved for publication in a major journal!”

Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Those of you watched the excellent documentary, Food Evolution, may recognize that the above example was largely taken from British author and activist, Mark Lynas, who spent years speaking out against genetically engineered crops in the name of environmentalism, but reversed his position after studying the facts. Unfortunately, when it comes to understanding science, Lynas is the exception, not the rule.

Adrian Percy
Adrian Percy
Adrian Percy
is the Global Head of Research and Development for Crop Science, a Division of Bayer.

One reason for this is that science is complex and doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. This is especially relevant in a world that seems fixated with pithy memes, snappy sound bites and social conversations conducted in less than 280 characters. It’s far more persuasive to use a few impactful quips than it is to engage in a lengthy discussion and yet the nature of science demands we be deliberative, not flippant. That’s why I’m excited about April’s March for Science event – finally, it’s a chance to let science shine!

I know that parts of the March for Science will be seen by some as overtly political and there may be those who rail against certain agricultural technologies and practices that we at Bayer support. That’s OK, because science is all about being challenged. Disagreements among scientists are what propels our constant search to find answers and better understand our world. Without robust debate, we would never question our preconceptions and would likely fail to find the truly transformative innovations that are needed to meet the challenges facing society in the future.

Bayer employees around the world participated in this year’s March for Science activities to take a stand for evidence-based reasoning, which often flies in the face of the “post-truth” era that seems to dominate our culture. And by directly engaging in this movement, they exemplify the core principles of choice, transparency, and collaboration that will be needed to help bring significant benefits to society and drive our industry’s future success. Let’s break each of these principles these down a bit more:

Choice: With a rising population, evolving pests, shifting consumer preferences and a changing climate, farmers need a variety of tools to help them grow food more sustainably. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to agriculture. While most consumers support innovations that feed the world, they also want choices that are safe to people, wildlife and the environment. Because we all want the same things, we believe science is our best hope to find choices that can satisfy both farmers and consumers.

Transparency: Late last year, Bayer announced our transparency initiative to allow public access to the safety data that underpins our product registrations. At a time when consumers have grown increasingly mistrustful of institutions, we think it’s important that they be given a chance to view what was once classified as confidential information. We believe in the integrity of our research and we want to let people see the science for themselves. After all, openness builds trust and leads to greater understanding.

Collaboration: While Bayer takes pride in our long-term commitment to internal research, we know that collaborating with others can bring insights to create new areas of opportunities and help foster stronger relationships. Sharing ideas and challenging assumptions is not only important for scientific research – it can also help to bridge the differences that are so divisive in our culture. AgVocating at events like the March for Science is a great way for us to show up and be part of the solution.

Celebrating the March for Science is not just an exercise for scientists to bring some much-needed attention to the important work they do, it’s also an opportunity to challenge our society’s seemingly endless fascination for elevating wit over wisdom. I’m reminded of the American satirist, H. L. Mencken, who reportedly said, “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” While the search for scientific truth may be painstakingly slow, difficult and is often quite controversial, it invariably points us in the right direction.

So, fear not and march on!

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