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More NGOs unite against the EC chief scientific advisor role

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By Anna Bonar+

20-Aug-2014
Last updated on 21-Aug-2014 at 13:10 GMT

“We argue that it is unreasonable to expect that one single person can guarantee objective and competent advice on a widespread range of issues to the European Commission’s President,
“We argue that it is unreasonable to expect that one single person can guarantee objective and competent advice on a widespread range of issues to the European Commission’s President," said Luisa Colasimone, Communications Manager at Greenpeace EU.

More non-governmental organisations are backing Greenpeace and HEAL in their efforts to scrap the position of European Commission’s chief scientific advisor (CSA). 

Initially nine organisations wrote a letter to Jean Claude Juncker on 22 July. Now 13 more organisations joined them according to EurActiv .

“Next to environmental and health NGOs, there are now also more and more organisations that focus on transparency in politics which have joined our call,” confirmed Luisa Colasimone, Communications Manager at Greenpeace EU.

The position currently held by Anne Glover was established by the incumbent President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. Juncker would need to decide whether to keep it before he takes over from Barroso in November.

“We argue that it is unreasonable to expect that one single person can guarantee objective and competent advice on a widespread range of issues to the European Commission’s President.

“The model of relying on a single CSA is problematic: it lacks transparency and does not guarantee objective scientific advice,” Colasimone told FoodNavigator.

Joined efforts of various NGOs were a response to Glover’s pledge that her advice should remain ‘not transparent’.

“We believe that scientific scrutiny in policy-making is essential. In the majority of European countries, governments rely for advice on scientific committees composed of various experts, who prepare transparent and public reports,” said Colasimone. 

“What the lobbyists have realised is that the more you concentrate scientific advice into the hands of one person, the easier it is to control the science. If on top of this that person is unaccountable and allowed to keep any advice secret, then that makes the job of anyone who wants to manipulate science even easier,”  Dr. Paul Johnston, head of Greenpeace science unit, wrote in his blog entry .

Genetically-modified food debate

Glover had to face criticism after a controversial statement that “there is no more risk in eating genetically modified organism (GMO) food than eating conventionally farmed food”?

“In the GMOs debate, we simply pointed out that Anne Glover stated as a fact that there was scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs while there is a statement by 300 scientists disputing this. Her positive advice about the safety of GMOs doesn’t seem to take this into account,” Colasimone told FoodNavigator.

Colasimone pointed out that if Juncker decides not to re-appoint a CSA it wouldn’t affect the European Commission’s scientific expertise.

“The EU has in place a complex structure of scientific advisory committees responsible for identifying knowledge gaps, commissioning research, distilling complex bodies of evidence into what is and is not known in relation to a particular matter of policy, advising on risks, and so on.

“It is not as if without a CSA the European Commission would not have access to scientific advice” she said.

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