Ditching chief scientific adviser role is ‘madness’

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Genetically modified organism President European commission

Ditching the role of chief scientific adviser to the president was 'madness', warned the IFST
Ditching the role of chief scientific adviser to the president was 'madness', warned the IFST
The EU has been slammed for ditching the role of chief scientific adviser to the president, with one informed source calling the decision “madness”.

The Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) warned the decision could undermine the quality of EU decision making in key areas. “It’s madness,” ​said IFST ceo Jon Poole.

Scrapping the role appeared to make no sense when so many policy decisions need to be informed through a robust evidence-based approach, he said. “Science lies at the heart of many of the big issues we are facing including: health and nutrition, sustainability, climate change, food security.

“The CSA role appears to have been scrapped along with other roles but there is also an inference that this decision might be on the back of pressure from some environmental lobby groups over topics such as the introduction of GMOs ​[genetically modified organisms]. If there is any truth in this, then that would be an even more worrying decision.”

‘Pressure from some environmental lobby groups’

Pressure groups have long opposed the introduction on GMO techniques into the UK and have destroyed GMO cereals trials.

The IFST looked forward to hearing what alternative plans were put in place to ensure that balanced science remained at the heart of EU decision making.

Professor Anne Glover, who has held the post of chief scientific adviser since 2012, confirmed this week (November 12) that she would quit the post at the end of January 2015. After her departure the post will cease to exist, he added.

The decision has also sparked a chorus of disapproval from UK farmers’ organisations. In a rare display of unanimity, the presidents of the four UK farming unions issued a joint statement criticising the decision.

The NFU president Meurig Raymond described the decision of the new European Commission as “deeply troubling”. ​The decision wasa backward step for science, said Raymond, speaking on behalf of Nigel Miller, president NFU Scotland, Ian Marshall, president of the Ulster Farmers Union and Stephen James, president of NFU Cymru.

‘Deeply concerning’

“At a time when we need to address serious concerns around food security, energy security and the collective EU response to the threat of climate change; it is deeply concerning that the voice of science should be stifled,”​ he added.

The four presidents thanked Glover for her work in championing the importance of science and innovation to drive EU growth. They also pledged to seek assurances from the commission as to how the role will be continued.

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) – which represents the British agricultural supply chain – said policies and regulations should be based on hard evidence and capable of scientific scrutiny.

AIC chief executive David Caffall said: “Scientific advance and technical revolution have so much to offer in meeting the challenges of feeding a growing world as well as benefits to many other industries, which is why we will continue to call for scientific input at the heart of Europe’s decision.”

The AIC looked forward to seeing what the new commission president Jean Claude Juncker proposed after scrapping the role put in place by his predecessor Manuel Barroso.

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