Excellent press release
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH DEMANDS SACKING OF INDUSTRY SCIENTISTS IN EFSA SHAKE UP
Press release, For immediate release 30 May 2006
Brussels, 30 May 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe has today warned the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that it will only gain public trust if it frees itself from the biotechnology industry and employs neutral scientists. EFSA is expected to announce new members of its scientific panels this week.
Adrian Bebb, GM Foods Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said, "Europe's food safety agency needs to be cleaner than clean if it wants to build trust with the general public. In the past it has employed industry-friendly scientists who have dismissed all safety concerns and rubber-stamped virtually every application by the biotech industry."
"EFSA is now installing a new set of scientists and this time, public health and environmental safety must be put before the interests of big business," added Bebb.
Criticism of EFSA's work on genetically modified foods (GM or GMOs) has been growing over recent months with both national Environment Ministers and the European Commission calling for more transparency, and more investigation into the long term effects of GM crops and foods (1).
Recent papers released by the European Commission to Friends of the Earth Europe were critical of EFSA's methods, describing one study that EFSA relied on as "scientifically flawed". The Commission papers also outline how cancer and allergies from eating GM foods cannot be ruled out and recommend that GM crops should not be grown until their long-term effects are known. (2)
Friends of the Earth Europe accuses EFSA of three major discrepancies:
- EMPLOYMENT OF INDUSTRY-FRIENDLY SCIENTISTS: EFSA's GMO Panel contains a number of influential scientists that have strong pro-GMO interests. (3)
- EMPLOYMENT OF SCIENTISTS WITH CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: A large number of EFSA scientists also sit on national food safety committees. This means that they are asked to judge opinions that they helped write in the first place.
- DECLARATION OF INTERESTS NOT LEGALLY ENFORCED: EFSA has refused to enforce EU law requiring all the scientists to declare any interests. Most scientists leave their declaration forms blank in spite of clear pro-GM interests.(4)
Friends of the Earth Europe first accused EFSA of being biased towards the biotechnology industry in a report in November 2004 (5). Since then EFSA has given positive opinions to all but one application for new GMOs and has disregarded virtually every safety concern raised by scientists working for the 25 EU member states.
Environment Ministers from almost all member states criticised EFSA's work on GMOs at the March Environment Council, forcing the European Commission to introduce new proposals in April. These called on EFSA to justify why they do not accept scientific objections from member states and to address the long-term safety effects of genetically modified foods and crops.
For more information, please contact:
1. The Commission has proposed practical improvements to the way the European GMO legislative framework is implemented. Press release IP/06/498, 12 April 2006.
2. See Hidden Uncertainties
3. Examples of pro-GM scientists include:
- one scientist was until recently a consultant for a GMO investment company: Mike Gasson acted until last year as a consultant to Danisco Venture - a venture capital company that invests in biotech companies.
- three scientists are supporters of a pro-GMO pressure group: Hans-Jörg Buhk, Joachim Schiemann and George Sakalaris are supporters/members of the Public Research and Regulation, an industry-funded pressure group that campaigns for weaker biosafety legislation and campaigns against public access to information.
- two scientists who appeared on a GM industry promotional video: Jorg Buhk and Dartlef Bartsch gave interviews in a film promoting GM maize.
In addition, EFSA employs a large number of external experts to help it write its opinions. This list of experts includes Andrew Cockburn (former Director of Scientific Affairs at the US biotech corporate Monsanto) and Richard Phipps (a researcher who has worked for many GM companies including Monsanto and Germany's Bayer).
4. Buhk was on the steering group for the biggest GM conference in 2004 but failed to declare this as an interest. Both Buhk and Schiemann have not declared their support of the Public Research and Regulation as an interest
5. See Throwing Caution to the Wind,