There is no excuse for failing to employ independent scientists on EFSA expert panels
30 June 2013
For several years, NGOs and public interest scientific groups have criticised the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for employing too many scientists with conflicts of interest with industry on its expert panels which give scientific opinions on risky products like GMOs, food additives and pesticides. For example, see
In response to the criticisms, EFSA has maintained that experts without links to industry are hard to find. EFSA's executive director Catherine Geslain-Laneelle said: “If we exclude everyone who receives money from industry, we won’t have many experts left.”
NGOs that are critical of EFSA have remained sceptical of this claim. And a study conducted in the US (where if anything, industry influence on academic research is greater than in the EU) confirms that they are right to be sceptical.
In a mailed survey of 3,080 academic life science researchers conducted in 2007, the researchers found that:
* 52.8 percent had some relationship with industry, but...
* Almost half (47.2%) reported no relationships with industry.
* There was a steady, if small, decline in the proportion of faculty with industry funding from 1995 to 2006.
* Non-clinical scientists (those who are not involved in conducting clinical trials of drugs) have significantly fewer connections with industry than clinical scientists. So over 50% of scientists in non-clinical areas like GMOs and pesticides have been absolutely free (for the 3 years prior to the survey) of industry connections.
We conclude that there is no excuse for failing to employ independent scientists on EFSA expert panels.
The study (open access):
Zinner, D. E., et al. (2009). Participation of academic scientists in relationships with industry. Health Aff (Millwood) 28(6): 1814-1825.