An environmental group accused Europe’s top food safety agency on Monday of repeated bias in favor of genetically modified (GMO) foods and links with the biotech industry.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) denied allegations of bias made in the report by Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE).
The report said the EFSA’s GMO panel had ignored views of scientists working for EU governments and issued a string of positive assessments on GMO safety.
The report said: “The GMO panel of the European Food Safety Authority has not made a good start. In just over a year it has published twelve scientific opinions, virtually all favorable to the biotechnology industry.” An EFSA spokesperson said: “EFSA believes that it fully fulfills its role of providing independent authoritative advice on GMO issues.”
“EFSA is not influenced by commercial or any other interests in this area.”
Set up in 2002, EFSA’s views are used by the European Commission as independent scientific opinion on the safety risk of GMO products for entry into the food chain, for consumption by humans and animals, and release into the environment.
EFSA’s opinions are required by EU law if any country objects to an application to authorize a new GMO product on EU territory.
If its opinion is favorable, the application may proceed and is first submitted to a committee of member state experts, usually from the environment and food safety areas.
FoE said the agency had ignored large differences between a GMO product and its non-GMO equivalent, and accused it of not looking at possible long-term effects of GMO crops and foods.
Despite the EU ending a five-year blockade on authorizing new GMO products earlier this year, EU governments are still divided on the merits and disadvantages of GMO foods.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD