EFSA engages in open debate on GMOs in the European Parliament

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) welcomes the debate on the risk assessment of genetically modified plants (GMOs) organised by the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) group of the European Parliament on January 12, 2011. EFSA’s senior scientific officers joined the wide-ranging, open discussion, taking the opportunity to explain how EFSA’s rigorous risk assessment procedures are anchored in its core values of independence, scientific excellence and transparency. EFSA’s most critical commitment is to provide Europe’s policy makers with objective and timely scientific advice of the highest quality to support their decision-making. EFSA is always ready to uphold the integrity and scientific independence of its experts against any prejudiced or unjustified attack.

In the European Parliament, EFSA’s scientists spelled out the sound science behind EFSA’s risk assessment of GMOs and outlined the extensive work that the GMO Panel’s experts have carried out to date, in particular on developing the guidance document on environmental risk assessment of GM plants as well as updating the guidance document on the risk assessment of GM food and feed safety.

The European Parliament meeting was yet another chance for EFSA to listen to the views of other scientists, MEPs, industry, representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others on GMOs, as it does on a regular basis through consultations with stakeholders across all areas of its work.

EFSA’s scientists highlighted the rigour and transparency of EFSA’s risk assessment practices which guide the work of EFSA’s Scientific Committee and Panels to help ensure its opinions respect the highest scientific standards. This guarantees that decision-makers at European and Member State level can be confident of receiving advice free of political, economic or other influence. European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, confirmed that EFSA has in place a whole set of procedures aiming to prevent conflicts of interests, and which would be reinforced in the near future.

Around 1,700 external experts are obliged by EFSA to submit Declarations of Interests each year and before each meeting in which they take part. These procedures are among the most stringent of any public or international body in the world. By following these procedures, EFSA each day limits or excludes experts from taking part in its scientific activities.

But EFSA is not complacent. It regularly assesses the implementation of its Declarations of Interests policy through its own internal auditor and through the internal audit service of the European Commission. EFSA has commissioned external consultants to review the implementation of the Declarations of Interests policy and to benchmark it against other organisations. In 2011, independent consultants will conduct the second five-yearly assessment of the Authority, focusing in particular on the way EFSA’s principles of independence, scientific excellence and transparency are applied.

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