European Food Safety Authority

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Established in 2002, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) describes itself as:

the keystone of European Union (EU) risk assessment regarding food and feed safety. In close collaboration with national authorities and in open consultation with its stakeholders, EFSA provides independent scientific advice and clear communication on existing and emerging risks.[1]

Risk assessment

Risk assessment for GMOs

The EFSA has never given a negative opinion on a GMO put forward for approval, whatever the scientific concerns about its safety.[2] In July 2009 it gave a positive opinion even on Monsanto's GM maize MON810, which is banned for health and environmental reasons in six EU Member States as allowed under EU law.[3]

GMO Unit

The GMO Unit was established as a department dedicated to risk assessment for GMOs and to oversee the coordination of the GMO Panel. The Unit was led by Suzy Renckens from 2002 to 2008.[4]

According to the EFSA:

The GMO Unit provides administrative and scientific support to the work of the GMO Panel and may carry out other projects in EFSA’s remit. The unit may also produce scientific outputs on behalf of EFSA, for instance in response to urgent requests for scientific advice.[5]

GMO Panel

The GMO Panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assesses new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for approval in Europe and reports to the European Commission, which then submits its decision to the European Council. In the event that the Council cannot reach a qualified majority for or against authorisation, the matter is sent back to the Commission, which is free to authorise the GMO based on a special regulatory procedure called comitology.

In 2010, Testbiotech published the report European Food Safety Authority: A playing field for the biotech industry. The report addresses conflicts of interest within the GMO Panel membership to demonstrate how the Panel's relationship with the biotech industry - and in particular via the influence of a task force of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) - resulted in comparative assessment being taken as the starting point in the EFSA guidelines on risk assessment of genetically engineered plants. Comparative assessment, an approach to risk assessment which assumes equivalence between conventional breeding and genetic engineering, has serious implications for the scientific rigour of research into the risks of genetically engineered plants.[6]

Monsanto's GM maize in the EU

EFSA gave a positive opinion on the safety of feed and food use of Monsanto's GM Roundup-ready maize NK603 in 2004, and on its cultivation in the EU in 2009.

French scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini's study on rats being fed with NK603 showed that the rats tested with Roundup died earlier than their control group, developing severe tumours and kidney and liver pathologies. The rats only fed with the GM maize also developed tumours.[7] EFSA is criticized for having based its assessment on a Monsanto study that tested the effects of the GM maize on rats for a short period of only 90 days.[8] Séralini pointed out that in his research most of the tumours among the rats he studied only appeared after the first year.[9]

According to Corporate Europe Observatory, more than half of the GMO Panel experts who signed the approval for this GM maize had links with industry resulting in conflicts of interest, as defined by the OECD.[10]


Conflicts of interest on EFSA's management board

In March 2011 Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) highlighted in a report that at least four members of EFSA’s management board are employed by or otherwise linked with food industry lobby groups and other commercial interests, a situation that creates conflicts of interest. These board members are: Matthias Horst (director general of the German food industry lobby BVE), Milan Kováč (director of International Life Sciences Institute Europe), Jiří Ruprich (Danone Institute) and Piet Vanthemsche (farmers’ lobby COPA and Agri Investment Fund).[11][12]

Resignation of Diána Bánáti

Diána Bánáti was appointed member of the EFSA Management Board in June 2006, re-appointed for a second term in 2010 with a 4-year mandate, and elected Chair of the Management Board in October 2010.[13] She resigned from EFSA on 08 May 2012, informing it of her decision to take up a professional position at the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a body which acts on behalf of numerous food and biotech multinationals, including Danone, Kraft Foods, Monsanto, Nestle and Procter & Gamble.[14]

A report by the parliament's budget committee, issued before Ms Banati's resignation, raised questions about her links with ILSI, going back to 2010, that said she had "failed, in 2010, to declare her membership of the Board of Directors of the ILSI". It called the EFSA board's scrutiny of its members' declarations of interest "insufficiently rigorous and detailed".[15]

The EFSA insisted that Hungarian Professor Bánáti has had no influence or control over the organisation’s decision on food or crop safety issues. EFSA has been criticised to have allowed her remain in her EFSA position for so long, despite the fact that it has been known for a long time that she had connections to the GM industry and the wider food industry through ILSI.

Green MEP José Bové stated that the conflict of interest in her role with ILSI made her position as EFSA chair completely "inappropriate and untenable".[16]

ILSI denies being an industry lobbying body. It describes itself as a "non-profit, worldwide organisation whose mission is to provide science that improves public health and well-being."[17]

Executive Director

Dr. Bernhard Url was appointed the role in June 2014, having previously served as their acting executive director for seven months. Dr. Url joined EFSA in June 2012 as head of the risk assessment and scientific assistance department. He is a qualified veterinarian by training and therefore is said to 'bring a high-level management experience from food-safety organisations to his role at EFSA.' [18]

Management Board Members 2015

Previous Management Board members


EFSA's Director of Science Strategy and Coordination as of March 2013 is Hubert Deluyker.[21]




European Food Safety Authority
Largo N. Palli 5/A
43121 Parma
+39 0521 036111
+39 0521 036110
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  1. EFSA, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), EFSA website, accessed 02 July 2009.
  2. EurActiv, "Commission hesitant to approve more GM crops," 08 May 2008, accessed 02 July 2009.
  3. FoEE, "EFSA back in bed with GMO industry: MON810 opinion shown to Monsanto but not to public," Friends of the Earth Press Release, 30 June 2009, accessed 02 July 2009.
  4. Testbiotech (2010), "European Food Safety Authority: A playing field for the biotech industry," Testbiotech report, p3, accessed 9 January 2013.
  5. EFSA (2013), About the GMO Panel and the GMO Unit, accessed 12 January 2013
  6. Testbiotech, "European Food Safety Authority: A playing field for the biotech industry," Testbiotech report, 2010, accessed 9 January 2013.
  7. Séralini, G. E., et al. (2012). "Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize." Food and Chemical Toxicology 50(11): 4221-4231.
  8. Hammond, B., et al. (2004). "Results of a 13 week safety assurance study with rats fed grain from glyphosate tolerant corn." Food Chem Toxicol 42(6): 1003-1014.
  9. Séralini, G. E., et al. (2012). "Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize." Food and Chemical Toxicology 50(11): 4221-4231.
  10. Corporate Europe Observatory, "Study on Monsanto's GM maize intensifies concerns about EFSA's reliability – Monsanto strikes back with PR offensive," 21 September 2012, accessed 04 October 2012.
  11. Corporate Europe Observatory, "Serial conflicts of interest on EFSA’s management board," 23 February 2011, accessed 16 Mar 2011. (Focuses on links with the food and feed industry.)
  12. Corporate Europe Observatory, "Exposed: conflicts of interest among EFSA’s experts on food additives," 15 June 2011, accessed 04 October 2012. (Focuses on links with companies that make food additives.)
  13. EFSA, FAQ on the resignation of Diana Banati as member and Chair of EFSA´s Management Board, accessed 04 October 2012.
  14. Peter, Laurence, "Euro MPs criticise managers of EU agencies," BBC News 10 May 2012, accessed 04 October 2012.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Poulter, Sean, "EU watchdog forced out over links to 'Frankenstein food' firms," Mail Online 10 May 2012, accessed 04 October 2012.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Executive Director EFSA, accessed 2 April 2015
  19. Management Board Members EFSA, accessed 2 April 2015
  20. EFSA, Management Board members, accessed 04 October 2012.
  21. EFSA (2013) Hubert Deluyker, acc 5 Mar 2013