EFSA closes public consultation of its independence policy with constructive stakeholder debate

12 October 2011

More than 150 delegates gathered in Brussels on 12 October to discuss the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) draft policy on Independence and Scientific Decision-Making Processes. A broad spectrum of participants attended the event where everyone shared the same objective: how to ensure EFSA provides the highest calibre of scientific advice while remaining independent.

In his address, John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy recognised the efforts that EFSA has made over the years to ensure that the Authority is independent: “I can underline that over the years the independence provisions have been strengthened considerably and have contributed significantly to the fact that EFSA's reputation is one of a truly independent body offering solid scientific advice.” Commissioner Dalli then continued: “EFSA's rigorous scientific output has been the very backbone of many of our legislative initiatives. It has also been the basis of our risk management decisions, some of which have dealt with very serious threats to the food chain – the recent E. coli crisis being a very good example.

In her opening remarks, EFSA’s Executive Director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, highlighted the fact that contributions from stakeholders are a crucial aspect of the Authority’s work and that all views and opinions offered during the public consultation and workshop will be fully considered in the development of the final policy on Independence and Decision-Making Processes.

Kartika Tamara Liotard, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Pubic Health and Food Safety gave the keynote speech. Ms Liotard outlined that trust is one of most important foundations in public policy and that consumers need to be able to rely upon the decisions made by European Institutions. She highlighted that as Europe’s food safety watchdog, EFSA’s ability to deliver independent science is crucial.

A thought provoking discussion followed as a panel of regulators, social and natural scientists debated the basic ingredients for “Trust in Science”. Participants generally agreed that public trust is fundamental but had different opinions on what constitutes independence in science and how independence should be guaranteed in scientific decision-making processes. Panel members explained that due to the very nature of the process, high quality science must be impartial however scientists who are experts in their field will necessarily have interests. Risk assessors such as EFSA must therefore ensure that interests are closely monitored and that their processes are well explained and open to scrutiny and challenge.

Dirk Detken, Head of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at EFSA, provided an overview of the main pillars of the Authority’s draft policy and the main comments received during the written consultation process. He outlined the many initiatives in place that shape the scientific decision-making process of EFSA ensuring the implementation of its core values and explained how this policy will provide a more coherent framework for the future.

The three afternoon sessions allowed stakeholders with different perspectives to discuss their contributions to the main pillars of the draft policy during the written public consultation process. Constructive debates were held on key topics related to the policy: “Quality of Science”, “Governance, Openness and Transparency” and “Assessing Interests”. EFSA took away useful recommendations for further reflection in finalising the policy and had the opportunity to explain that many of the suggested additions to the policy were already standard practice within the Authority.

EFSA will shortly publish a report on the outcomes of the public consultation, including the recent stakeholder workshop. All comments received by stakeholders during this process will be taken into due consideration and, where appropriate, incorporated into a revised draft of the policy to be presented to the EFSA Management Board by the end of the year.

Webcast and documents


Agenda and documents

Morning session


Welcome address by Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, EFSA‘s Executive Director  
9.15 Keynote address by MEP Kartika Tamara Liotard, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Pubic Health and Food Safety
Session I: Setting the scene
9.30 – 11.15 Round Table - Trust in science: what are the basic ingredients?
Science and society: public engagement and confidence in science - by Ortwin Renn, University of Stuttgart(1.73 MB)
Explaining the scientific process - by Andrew Wadge, Food Standards Agency, United Kingdom(95.96 KB)
Managing independence of scientific authorities: the case of EFSA - by Martijn Groenleer, University of Delft(189.74 KB)
Learnings from an international perspective – by Murray Lumpkin, Food and Drug Administration, United States of America(1.08 MB)
11.15 – 11.45 Coffee/tea break
Session II: EFSA’s draft Policy on Independence and Scientific Decision-Making Processes
11.45 – 12.30 Introduction of EFSA’s draft Policy on Independence and Scientific Decision-Making Processes and overview of comments received - by Dirk Detken, Head of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, EFSA.(360.36 KB)
12.45 – 14.00 Lunch
Afternoon session
14.00 – 15.00 Interactive Session 1: Quality of science chaired by Vittorio Silano, Chair of EFSA‘s Scientific Committee
D. Jans, FEFANA(381.91 KB)
C. Then, Testbiotech(343.46 KB)
J. Schlundt, Danish Technical University(281.85 KB)
15.00 – 16.00 Interactive Session 2: Governance, Openness and Transparency chaired by Anne-Laure Gassin, Director of Communications, EFSA
B. Kettlitz, FoodDrinkEurope(361.29 KB)
N. Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory(1.16 MB)
C. Tomalino, Euro Coop(441.71 KB)
16.00 – 16.30 Coffee/tea break
16.30 – 17.30 Interactive Session 3: Assessing interests chaired by Hubert Deluyker, Director of Risk Assessment and Scientific Assistance, EFSA
R. Wittkowski, Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR)(333.81 KB)
N. Van Belzen, International Life Sciences Institutes Europe(199.84 KB)
C. Udsen, The European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC)(252.09 KB)
17.30 Closing address by John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy
Agenda (307.61 KB)