Anne Glover criticises ‘push back’ in Brussels role

The European Commission’s former chief scientific adviser has spoken out about the ‘push back’ she said she received against her role in Brussels

February 3, 2015
Anne Glover

Source: Friends of Europe

Anne Glover, who recently stepped down from the position, said that a lot of her colleagues were fearful of how her advice could impact their work and questioned whether it was necessary.

Professor Glover, chair in molecular and cell biology at the University of Aberdeen, became the Commission’s first chief scientific adviser in 2012 and mostly worked under its previous president, José Barroso.

But she resigned in November several months after group of environmental organisations wrote to the new president Jean-Claude Juncker calling for her position to be scrapped because of her support for genetically modified crops. Professor Glover said that President Juncker would not be seeking a replacement for her role.

Talking at the Science Media Centre today, Professor Glover said that the Commission did not devote a lot of resources to the post and the ground was not prepared for her arrival.

“I was perhaps a little bit surprised by the amount of push back to the new position…I think a lot of people felt: Why do we need a chief scientific adviser? Is this going to interfere with what I do?” she said.

Professor Glover said that it was not her job to “make up” another side to evidence “if there is a scientific consensus” on a particular matter, such as the safety of genetically modified crops.

She criticised some non-governmental organisations for their “lack of honesty” because they keep saying there is insufficient evidence on the safety of genetically modified crops. “There is [evidence]. That is the consensus, I am not making it up,” she said.

The polarisation of arguments and lack of willingness of some organisations to discuss their views was a “huge disappointment” in her tenure, Professor Glover said.

“It really concerns me because non-governmental organisations have a very special role. Citizens by and large trust NGOs, they are a valuable voice and therefore they have a big responsibility. They need to stand up to that responsibility,” she said.

She added that the Commission has made a “strong statement” in the new presidency that it wants to support innovation and jobs. “But it is hard to support innovation if you yourself are not innovative,” she said.

But she said that overall her experience in Brussels had been “overwhelming” great.

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