EFSA’s Management Board took the opportunity of its meeting held on 16th December to reiterate the importance it places on the key principles of independence and transparency, especially with regard to the members of its scientific panels. The discussion during the board meeting was prompted by the recently published Friends of the Earth report (26th November) which was critical of EFSA and its work on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Management Board endorsed the statement published by EFSA on 29th November in response to the report, stating that it believes that it fully fulfils its role of providing independent, authoritative advice on issues related to GMOs. Following careful review of the concerns raised by Friends of the Earth, Board members gave a strong vote of confidence to the scientific experts of the GMO Panel.
EFSA’s Management Board took advantage of the discussion to restate the fact that EFSA is a fully independent body and to reconfirm the role of its Scientific Committee, its Scientific Panels and Ad hoc Working Groups in providing objective scientific advice and opinions.
All members of EFSA’s Scientific Committee and its 8 Panels have been carefully selected following a call of interest. They have been appointed on the basis of their scientific excellence and expertise in risk assessment.
In accordance with article 37 in the founding regulation 178/2002 the members of EFSA Panels must act independently of any external influence. On this basis, all members have made a declaration of commitment and a declaration of interest indicating either the absence of any interest, or any direct or indirect interests which might be prejudicial to their independence.
EFSA strives to select the best experts in Europe. It is therefore normal that in certain cases, these experts are also involved in risk assessments at national level. EFSA does not take the view that the participation in risk assessment committees or panels at national level represents a conflict of interest. Scientific opinions for the European Union as developed by EFSA panels are in fact the outcome of a consensus building process of individual opinions and views of experts with relevant expertise. For reasons of full transparency however, experts involved at national level all declare this involvement but this does not exclude them from discussions.
In keeping with its commitment to openness, the GMO Panel has taken a pro-active approach in involving stakeholders, including Friends of the Earth, in its generic activities such as the Guidance Document on the risk assessment of genetically modified plants and derived food and feed.
EFSA will continue to pursue its policy of transparency and independence and in this respect proposes in future not only to publish the Declarations of Interest of the Committee and Panel members but also to provide further information on the Declarations of interest of all Working Group members on its website.
EFSA’s Management Board also reviewed progress made by the Authority in 2004 and provisionally adopted its 2005 work programme.