Date Added to website 12th August 2014
Sense About Science orchestrates Anne Glover lobby
The following notes relate to a letter sent by that mysterious and somewhat sinister organization called "Sense about Science", which purports to represent the scientific community and to promote sound "evidence based" science. Following the publication of a letter from Greenpeace and other NGOs relating to the role of the EU's Chief Scientific Officer, SAS entered the fray with a blatant piece of political lobbying on behalf of Anne Glover, dressed up as a defence of scientific integrity........
Both letters are reproduced below. These are our comments relating to the SAS letter, which is being heavily promoted:
1. This letter from SAS is being used to garner signatures from within the scientific community, but its wording is typically disingenuous and cynical, since it employs the standard technique of seeking support for a generalist statement (ie that the integrity and independence of EU scientific advice must be defended) which is then used to promote a quite different proposition (ie that Anne Glover has done a fine job as CSA and that she should be reappointed, with greatly enhanced powers). Some of those who have signed this letter will know exactly what is going on; but many others will not, and will tend to accept the absurd SAS claim that Greenpeace and "other prominent NGO voices" are seeking to remove "independent evidence-based scrutiny" of EU policies." Nothing could be further from the truth; the NGOs concerned are in fact seeking to enhance the quality of independent evidence-based advice by ensuring that it comes from a variety of different sources rather than being channeled through the office of the CSA, bearing in mind that Anne Glover has consciously but improperly taken on the role of "scientific lobbyist" during her term of office.
2. In accusing Greenpeace and others of seeking to "undermine the integrity and independence of scientific advice received at the highest level of the European Commission", the SAS letter states, with respect to the role of the CSA: "We would further defend the record of Professor Anne Glover in having delivered impartial and rigorous advice as she is mandated to do in this role." That of course is total nonsense, since neither Anne Glover nor Mr Barroso has ever revealed what advice has been asked for or received. Nobody except Mr Barroso and his staff will know whether Anne Glover's advice is good or bad; indeed we can assume that most of it is probably bad, since she has demonstrated a singular lack of understanding of how the scientific process actually works.
3. On the matter of GM crops and foods, we take issue with the claim by SAS that Glover's advice "can only be based on the conclusions of leading scientific bodies." If she did that, her advice would cease to be independent and her own role would be redundant. It is also absurd to pretend that the scientific academies of the world are in total agreement on the safety of GMO crops and foods. There is in fact great disagreement on this issue, and we could list other august bodies who have urged great caution on the matter of GM safety, not to mention a statement from a long (and growing) list of independent researchers who have denounced the idea of a "scientific consensus" on this matter.
4. The letter states: "........ it is all the more important that scientifically accurate and rigorous advice is given freely and without fear or favour." We would agree with that, in an ideal world. But we do not live in such a world, and we know that there are powerful commercial forces at play which introduce bias into the scientific enterprise and which habitually use spinning techniques to portray "advocacy science" as being accurate and rigorous. Both fear and favour are built into the system. The statement that "Policy makers or lobbyists who seek to remove scientists because they don't like their findings or advice do so at the peril of their citizens" has a very hollow ring to it, since it is well known that scientists like Seralini, Pusztai, Carman, Hilbeck, Malatesta, Carrasco and Chapela have all been vilified mercilessly by the GM industry and its acolytes simply because they discovered inconvenient things which brought into question the safety of GM crops and foods. Some of those who have signed the SAS letter have played leading roles in this series of ad hominem attacks. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.....
5. The SAS letter says: "Finally, with respect to any organisations engaged in shaping policies in Brussels, we would hope that they would welcome rather than oppose independent evidence-based scrutiny of those policies." This is a direct swipe at the letter from Greenpeace and the other NGOs, completely misrepresenting their position. That is both dishonest and despicable. In fact, the NGOs state quite clearly that they want even better independent evidence-based scrutiny than that which exists at present. What they want is a broader base for that scrutiny.
6. On the matter of "evidence based" scrutiny and advice, the SAS letter implies that Glover, as current CSA to Mr Barroso, gives just that. Sadly, she does not. She does not, apparently, understand the scientific process, and she does not even understand the meaning of the word "evidence." She lies through her teeth about there being "no evidence of harm" relating to GM crops and foods, ignoring a vast body of peer-reviewed science and showing scant respect to the large body of scientists who place public health issues above the interests of agrichemical multinationals and academics working in the GM field. As we have stated before, Glover's strategy appears to be the establishment of "scientific orthodoxies" in all key fields of scientific endeavour, presumably with a view to enhancing the status and value of science and scientists. Eccentrics, mavericks and independent scientists who discover things that are "inconvenient" to the establishment view would be frozen out or victimised, and the world of Orwell and Stalin would be brought a little closer. This is not simply bizarre -- it is positively sinister. And it appears to be exactly what SAS wants as well.
7. And finally this: "For European citizens to have confidence in the way our institutions evaluate and develop policy, they need to be assured that there is access to independent scientific advice at the highest level and that this independence is not compromised." More nonsense from SAS. Here they are actually suggesting that Greenpeace and the NGOs are seeking to compromise the "independence" of the advice reaching the President of the EC. But the advice coming from the CSA is already heavily compromised by Glover's links with various scientific academies and with bodies which exist to further the commercial interests of their members. She has been all too willing to flag up her close ties with some of these bodies through conference attendances and statements to the media.
All in all, this is a grubby little letter which has just one purpose -- to ensure that Anne Glover, who has demonstrated her lack of scientific understanding by turning into a lobbyist, is reappointed to the post of CSA with enhanced powers. That would suit the GM industry very well indeed, and probably a few other industries as well, since they all need friends in the corridors of power..... and if public health is compromised as a consequence, so be it.........
GMWatch responds to Sense About Science over its defence of chief scientific advisor role
Beware the rise of the government scientists turned lobbyists
Beware the omniscient scientific adviser
(1) The original letter from Greenpeace and other NGOs, as sent to President-elect Juncker
To the President-elect of the European Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker
Subject: The position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission
Dear Mr Juncker,
We are writing to you to express our concerns regarding the position of Chief Scientific Advisor
to the President of the European Commission. This post was created by Commission President
Barroso at the suggestion of the United Kingdom, and was held by Ms Anne Glover since January
2012. The mandate of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) is "to provide independent expert advice
on any aspect of science, technology and innovation as requested by the President".1
We are aware that business lobbies urge the Commission to continue with the practice established
by Mr Barroso and even to strengthen the chief adviser's formal role in policy making. 2 We, by
contrast, appeal to you to scrap this position. The post of Chief Scientific Adviser is fundamentally
problematic as it concentrates too much influence in one person, and undermines in-depth scientific
research and assessments carried out by or for the Commission directorates in the course of policy
Until now, the role of Chief Scientific Adviser has been unaccountable, intransparent and
controversial. While the current CSA and her opinions were very present in the media, the nature of
her advice to the President of the European Commission remains unknown. We have not been able
to obtain any information on what the Commission President has requested advice on, let alone
what advice has been given. To the media, the current CSA presented one-sided, partial opinions in
the debate on the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture, repeatedly claiming that
there was a scientific consensus about their safety 3 whereas this claim is contradicted by an
international statement of scientists (currently 297 signatories) saying that it "misrepresents the
currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this
We hope that you as the incoming Commission President will decide not to nominate a chief
scientific adviser and that instead the Commission will take its advice from a variety of
independent, multi-disciplinary sources, with a focus on the public interest. We remain at your
disposal if you wish to receive more detailed explanations of our concerns.
Hans Muilerman, Pesticide Action Network
Christoph Then, Testbiotech
Jamie Page, Cancer Prevention and Education Society
Claire Robinson, GM Watch and Earth Open Source
André Cicolella, Réseau Environnement Santé
Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director, Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL)
Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory
Jorgo Riss, Director, Greenpeace European Unit
Christophe Morvan, Fondation Sciences Citoyennes
1 Cf. Ms Glover's webpage on the European Commission's website, http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-
2 Letter from Business Europe to Commission President Barroso, 6 May 2014.
3 For instance: No risk with GMO food, says EU chief scientific advisor, Euractiv.com, 24 July 2012,
4 ENSSER Statement: No scientific consensus on GMO safety, 21 October 2013. http://www.ensser.org/increasingpublic-
(2) The SAS letter published on the SAS web site -- with the intention of garnering more and more signatures from working scientists.
Dear Mr Juncker
We write to you with some urgency in response to a letter you will have just received from nine NGOs urging you to abolish the position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission. The letter, which includes Greenpeace as a signatory as well as other prominent NGO voices, alleges that the "post of Chief Scientific Adviser is fundamentally problematic" and asks you to "scrap this position"1.
As organisations and individuals who share a commitment to improving the evidence available to policy makers, we cannot stress strongly enough our objection to any attempt to undermine the integrity and independence of scientific advice received at the highest level of the European Commission. The mandate of the Chief Scientific Advisor is to "provide independent expert advice on any aspect of science, technology and innovation as requested by the President"2. We would reassert the fundamental value of this role, which is already minimally resourced for the task of improving the use of evidence in policymaking - a goal that attracts strong support across Europe. We would further defend the record of Professor Anne Glover in having delivered impartial and rigorous advice as she is mandated to do in this role. Some of us will be writing to you individually in more detail on these points and on the background to the recognised need for that role and others have written to you previously.
We note that the nine NGOs are opposing not just this position in general but specifically because they disagree with Professor Glover's advice on genetically modified crops and organisms. Professor Glover's advice can only be based on the conclusions of leading scientific bodies, which is - in the words of a recent European Commission report, that "GMOs are no more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies"3. This fundamental conclusion is reiterated by, among others, the scientific academies of Africa, Europe and elsewhere, the World Health Organisation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science4.
In polarised and divisive policy debates, as we have seen with climate change, it is all the more important that scientifically accurate and rigorous advice is given freely and without fear or favour. Policy makers or lobbyists who seek to remove scientists because they don't like their findings or advice do so at the peril of their citizens.
Finally, with respect to any organisations engaged in shaping policies in Brussels, we would hope that they would welcome rather than oppose independent evidence-based scrutiny of those policies.
For European citizens to have confidence in the way our institutions evaluate and develop policy, they need to be assured that there is access to independent scientific advice at the highest level and that this independence is not compromised.
Yours, on behalf of our organisations,
Professor Jos WM van der Meer, President, European Academies' Science Advisory Council
Professor Sierd Cloetingh, President, Academia Europaea
Professor Paul Hardaker, Chair, Sense About Science
Sir Richard Sykes, Chair, the Royal Institution
Professor James Wilsdon, Chair, Campaign for Social Science
Mr Hetan Shah, Executive Director, Royal Statistical Society
Professor Mark J Bailey, Director, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Professor Nigel Brown, President, Society for General Microbiology
Dr Mark Downs FSB, Chief Executive, Society of Biology
Ms Kate Baillie, Chief Executive, Biochemical Society
Professor David Webb, President-Elect, British Pharmacological Society
- See more at: http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/maintain-eu-chief-scientific-advisor.html#sthash.iOc1vGWF.dpuf