This article is part of our special report Science, public opinion and policy-making.
It’s crucial for the industry to move from a defensive to a pro-active attitude and be able to communicate with the public and social networks in order to achieve a science-based policy making, according to Daniel Guéguen.
Guéguen, a European lobbyist and visiting professor at the College of Europe, noted that regulation should be either linked to facts and evidence or “clichés” and emotions.
“It’s the core of the Better Regulation project. The trend is good but in practice the Commission and the EU is not moving forward to guarantee a regulation based on science.”
On the contrary, he claimed, it’s moving backwards and this is extremely dangerous.
“If regulations like on biofuels and pesticides are based on emotion it’s going to be detrimental for the EU competition vis-à-vis the rest of the world.”
Guéguen observed a growing trend in Brussels that the EU agenda is driven by the civil society and NGOs. “And they are asking more and more environment, more sustainability, precautionary principle: I understand it.”
“But everything has its limits and the industry needs to react and answer.”
He found it “amazing” that Greenpeace managed to collect one million signatures against glyphosate, but wondered “what is the strength of these one million signatures compared to a positive opinion of the European Food Safety Authority?”
Guéguen added it was a “miracle” that glyphosate was re-authorised for five years but noted that the European Parliament immediately set up the PEST committee.
“Even from the title, one could have doubts over its objectivity. The balance of power is in the camp of NGOs,” he emphasised.
A balanced and consistent approach
Ramunas Macius, RRP Corporate Development Vice President of JTI, explained that there are many factors having an impact on decision-making: ideology is one of them, but socio-economic aspects should be also considered important.
“But if we look at economics, this is also evidence, such as jobs generated by different economic operators and this evidence should be taken into consideration,” he underscored.
Macius said not everything was black and white and backed a “balanced and consistent” approach, which will allow different participants to plan better.
“What makes things bad is sometimes the not clear decision-making,” he added.
“One may have the best evidence and science but if people do not trust or understand the scientific evidence then it’s a failure and everyone involved should think about that and explain it in a better way.”
“Make evidence understandable for people. Decisions are not made in isolation from people and especially in the implementation, people should be engaged.”
Macius pointed out that the EU has good principles and Better Regulation is one of them and in general there is a sound procedure in place.
“The question is: is it contaminated by different political interests? Transparency plays a critical role here. The more we debate, the more we understand decisions. And in many cases, the EU is an example for the rest of the world,” he concluded.