News last update:6 Aug 2012

EFSA overcharged and undervalued

Herman Koëter recently resigned as Science Director with the European Food Safety Authority passing fierce criticism on the organisation.

According to Koëter EFSA is seriously overcharged, while political preferences of the European Commission more and more are reflected in research questions.

Koëter says that the head of EFSA, Frenchwoman Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, is too much influenced by politicians and industry. "Several times we have been asked by the European Commission to have another look at the dangers of genetically modified food, while we just had delivered a report on this subject," he said.

Koëter sees ugly roles of anti-GM countries, such as Italy and Austria, on the one side and pro-GM countries on the other. "They just don't take one answer for granted. The European Commission is solving this by endlessly doubting our judgements and asking for further new research. This way they are continuously pushing the final verdict forward."

The independence of the Scientific Committee and the Panels was the most important reason for starting EFSA in 2002, Koëter writes in a letter.

Consumer trust
"The success of EFSA and its foundation – consumer trust – was built on this independence," he said, referring to several feed scares that preceded the formation of EFSA.

The organisation has no time for political driven research, since it is already overcharged. The situation is acute. "We are researching the safety of food additives, which has to be done in shorter period of time. This sometimes conflicts with the highest standards of scientific methods," he said.

Health claims
For example the qualification of new health claims are a considerable problem. "We were equipped to do several hundreds of claims per year. However in the first year we received 40,000 claims. Geslain-Lanéelle limits what and how we have to research. That is practical, but not according to my standards." It also does not reflects the standards of other workers at EFSA, who are increasingly unhappy, emphasises Koëter.

EFSA is just capable of guaranteeing food safety, but everything has its limits. I say: Parma [EFSA HQ, ed.] has a problem. It is time for openness, not for denial."

EFSA refused to react on the allegations of an "ex-employee".

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