Will EFSA ever become independent from the food industry?

All food products in the EU must first be evaluated as being safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before being put on the market. It is therefore very important for the food industry to have EFSA saying the right thing... and for EFSA to be rigorously independent from the food industry!

But the agency keeps being criticised for the conflicts of interests of the experts on its panels, who are regularly shown to receive money or be unduly influenced by the food industry. Why does the agency keep appointing the wrong people? Is there a way to improve the situation?

Protesters in front of EFSA, November 2012

Conflicts of interest are also the tip of a larger iceberg. By law, the data used by EFSA to assess a product is provided by the company producing this product, and EFSA cannot publish this data without being sued by the company at stake, so it never does it. This means the scientific community cannot audit what EFSA does. Which, in turns, means that what EFSA does is not science but something else: regulatory science. Can such a flawed system be changed, and how?

In this dedicated section, you can find our main publications documenting the problem as well as our suggestions for trying to fix it. The below video is an educational tool from 2012 explaining in 3 minutes what the major problems at EFSA are. (Also available in French or with Spanish subtitles here).

Jess Rowlands, a US expert exposed in the "Monsanto Papers" in a possible collusion with Monsanto, intervened in EFSA's glyphosate assessment, providing information which comforted EFSA in its decision to discard the conclusions of a key study showing cancer in mice exposed to glyphosate. Following the revelation, EFSA told the press and civil society that it had double-checked Rowlands' information. But when requested by CEO to prove it had actually performed these double-checks, EFSA had nothing to show.

After many years of criticism and a very long drafting process, EFSA has finally adopted and published its new independence policy. But does it solve the problems it needs to solve? A lot remains unclear. Here is our first analysis.

Glyphosate specialists consulted by CEO argue that EFSA’s data disclosure to CEO could in principle allow limited scrutiny on the agency's glyphosate assessment work, and some insights, but in practice the data is very difficult to handle and cannot be used for publication, making it impossible for scientists to use.

The official EU assessment of glyphosate was based on unpublished studies owned by industry. Seven months later, the pesticide industry still fights disclosure and, so far, successfully. We obtained a copy of their arguments.