The EU Chief Scientific Adviser and endocrine disrupting chemicals
New evidence the role's existence enabled undue influence at the top of the European Commission
Last summer, CEO joined several other NGOs to write a joint open letter to ask the newly-elected President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to scrap the position of Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission (CSA). This letter was met with very violent responses from various business and science groups accusing us of being ''anti-science'', which makes no sense given that the CSA does not produce science but something very different: confidential advice to top EU politicians on scientific matters. The initial signatories of the letter were joined by many others to publish a second open letter to get the facts straight.
In a nutshell, our concern was that the EU already has a formal system in place for gathering/assessing scientific evidence and producing risk assessment (JRC, DG Research, agencies, SANCO's scientific committees etc) and that the creation of the CSA position undermined this entire structure by introducing the possibility to reintroduce personal opinion in an official manner (the CSA is an EU official) at the very end of the process: when scientific assessments reach the top of the European Commission for decision-making. In this perspective, the opinions and even the competence of the person at stake is very much a non-issue: the problem is the very existence of the position. Such a combination of weakness (one person with a small office) and power (privileged access to the most senior decision-makers of the European Commission) indeed makes it a perfect channel to bypass whatever scientific assessment the rest of the EU system produces.
Chances are this is the reason business groups have been insisting so much to, first of all, create the position1 and then not only keep it but also expand its powers. Business Europe keeps pushing with generalities about the societal importance of science and innovation, we hope that the publication of the detailed evidence below will enable a better understanding of what is really at stake here: the continued existence or not of a privileged lobbying channel to influence public legislation.
Following our second open letter, several media such as Le Monde and The Guardian quoted or let us publish our concerns about the position of Chief Scientific Adviser, and in particular her role in the specific example of the EU initiative on endocrine disrupting chemicals. This, we argued (based on documents obtained by free-lance journalist Stéphane Horel for her August 2014 documentary Endocrination), was a case where the very existence of a Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission had been used to unduly influence the highest levels of the European Commission.
The current Chief Scientific Advisor, Pr. Anne Glover, wrote to us on September 12, copying the journalists involved, to ask us to "correct mis-information regarding my role in the review of the Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) legislation by the Commission". We sent Mrs Glover - and the journalists - a detailed response, together with the relevant evidence to substantify our concerns. More than a month later, Pr. Glover still has not replied to our response.
As we write, there is no indication that any decision regarding the future of the position would have been made already by Jean-Claude Juncker.
PS : some email addresses in the documents we publish have been redacted to preserve the privacy of the individuals concerned.
- 1. ALEMANNO A. What Role for a Chief Scientist in the European Union System of Scientific Advice? p.9, October 28, 2014 - European Journal of Risk Regulation, 3/2014