Science, public opinion and policy-making

Are EU restrictions and bans putting scientific progress at risk? [Shutterstock]

The re-authorisation of Monsanto’s weedkiller glyphosate and the ban of three neonicotinoids – a class of insecticide – have opened a heated debate on the role of science in policy-making.

The discussion about evidence-based policy-making has taken centre stage in Brussels following the glyphosate saga, opening a Pandora’s Box regarding the role of science in EU politics.

Stakeholders, be it industry or NGOs, do not always support the decisions of EU agencies, such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In the case of glyphosate, the industry praised EFSA for its decision to re-authorise the controversial substance while environmental NGOs blamed the European Commission for lacking transparency.

On the other hand, the NGOs hailed the ban of neonicotinoids while the industry questioned the method used by the EU agencies in its assessment.

The European Commission insists it always acts in a manner which is “consistent” with science.

But there are cases, such as the discussion on the future of crop-based biofuels, where Commission officials admit having taken into consideration the “perception” of public opinion on a particular issue.

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