The kind of regulatory advisors Europe has - "two German scientists, Hans-Jorg Buhk and Detlef Bartsch, are well known for their pro-GM views and have even appeared in promotional videos produced by the biotechnology industry".

A review of the European Food Safety Authority
and its work on genetically modified foods
and crops.


Members of the EFSA GMO Panel have to declare any direct or indirect financial interests they have. While most of the Panellists have not declared financial links with the biotechnology industry one scientist, Mike Gasson, has declared direct links4.

He is a consultant to Danisco Venture - a venture capital company that invests in biotechnology companies. It is also part of Danisco, which together with Monsanto wants to market GM fodder beet in the EU. He also has shares in Novacta a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company.

Friends of the Earth Europe questions whether scientists who are also employed by biotech companies should be participating in the decisions being made about GM foods.

Other scientists have declared that they have indirect links with the biotech industry. For example, Pere Puigdomenech works at an institute which also does research for biotechnology companies. He is also Co-chair of the 7th International Congress on Plant Molecular Biology an event sponsored by companies such as Monsanto, Bayer and DuPont.

Worryingly, either some Panellists are not completing their declarations fully or the EFSA website is not fully updated. For example Hans-Jorg Buhk was also on the steering committee of the Agriculture Biotechnology International Conference that took place in Germany recently. This high-profile pro-GM conference "Europe's most important date for AgBiotech in 2004" was sponsored by companies including Bayer, KWS, DuPont and
BASF5. There is no mention of this role in Buhk's declaration of interest. Friends of the Earth Europe believes that members of such an influential scientific panel should have no involvements that could give no rise to any suspicion of bias.

Furthermore, the two German scientists, Hans-Jorg Buhk and Detlef Bartsch, are well known for their pro-GM views and have even appeared in promotional videos produced by the biotechnology industry6 (a suspicion of bias is therefore likely to arise). Friends of the Earth Europe questions whether people who have publicly promoted GM crops in this way should be playing a key role in the approval of GM foods. Friends of the Earth Europe also has two other areas of concern about the membership of the GMO Panel.

4.1 Independence

Eight members of the GMO Panel nearly one third and including the Chair - also sit in regulatory agencies at the national level. This means that they are involved in making initial assessments of GM crop applications for their governments. In other words, these members have already worked on the applications and reached a conclusion as to their safety.

...the Panel, who are supposed to be arbitrating the scientific discussion about the safety of GM crops, is partly made up of people who may have already made their judgement about the GMO in question. The result is that, at any one time, up to one third of the Panel members have had to declare themselves ineligible to make decisions on the GM applications in front of them.

The EFSA scientific Panels can also draw on outside help if certain expertise is inadequately represented in their own membership...

The GMO Panel has already used a small number of experts from outside its membership. In one case, during their deliberations to establish guidance notes for applications the GMO Panel used the services of Dr Richard Phipps from the University of Reading, UK. Dr Phipps is known to favour the introduction of GM crops and is a signatory to a declaration in support of agricultural biotechnology14.

He has carried out research for the biotechnology companies Monsanto and Bayer. He has even been quoted in a Monsanto press release from 1999 stating that US dairy farmers were "fortunate" to be able to use the GM growth hormone rBST a product that has been banned in Europe on scientific and animal welfare grounds.15

It is unclear why the EFSA GMO Panel decided to choose Dr Phipps, but it is worrying that the Panel was either unaware or unconcerned about his work for the GM industry. It is extremely disappointing that virtually the first outside 'ad hoc' expert chosen by the GMO panel was someone who has publicly expressed enthusiasm for GM crops.