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Tue, 24 November 2020

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EU ‘backward’ for sacking chief scientist

EU ‘backward’ for sacking chief scientist

Crop Protection Association

2 min read Partner content

The new European Commission has been called “backward” for abolishing the post of Chief Scientific Adviser.

The role was created in 2012 by the then President of the Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, to "provide independent expert advice on any aspect of science, technology and innovation as requested by the President".

But under new President Jean-Claude Juncker, who took over this month, the role will not be renewed.

British scientist Prof. Anne Glover is the Chief Scientific Advisor, but she has faced condemnation from some 'green' pressure groups over her support for GM crops.

A group of anti-GM activists had called on Juncker to abolish her role as they claimed it was "fundamentally problematic as it concentrates too much influence in one person".

British MEPs and scientists have condemned the decision to scrap the post.

Nick von Westenholz, CEO of the Crop Protection Association, said it "sends a clear message that scientific advice is not taken seriously at the highest levels in Europe, which is concerning".

He added: "The removal of the post of Chief Scientific Adviser is a backward step, and troubling at a time when scientific endeavour should have a more important role than ever in tackling many European policy issues; not least in response to the food security challenge.

"The food and agriculture industry has long been calling for scientific evidence and research to play a stronger part in policy decisions, and for the role of chief scientists in decision-making to be increased.

"It is our belief that regulation should be risk-based and that the precautionary principle and its relationship to assessing risk should be reviewed."

Prof Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, told the BBC:

"Scientific advice must be central to EU policy making, otherwise you run the risk of having important decisions being unduly influenced by those with mixed motives.

"If the Commission has a plausible plan for ensuring that scientific evidence will be taken seriously they need to start sharing it with people soon, otherwise they will encourage those who portray the Commission as out of touch and not willing to listen to informed advice."

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