Did the EU Commission interfere with the scientific independence of EFSA?

EFSA factsheet on New GE published ‘just in time’ to serve political goals

1. July 2023

30 June 2023 / Testbiotech has sent a letter to the EU Commission to express its concerns about the scientific independence of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which may have been compromised by the EU Commission. The reason: EFSA issued a factsheet on the risks of plants obtained from new genetic engineering (New GE, new genomic techniques, NGT) and took a position supporting EU Commission plans to deregulate the technology. If these techniques are deregulated, mandatory risk assessment would, in many cases, no longer be required. This position is, however, not sufficiently backed by science and partly contradicts previous EFSA findings.

EFSA’s public statements appear to support the Commission’s political goals. Testbiotech is, therefore, warning that the Commission may have undermined the scientific independence of EFSA by requesting public statements to reject scientific arguments on the risks of NGT applications in plants. Even though Commission statements say otherwise, it appears that science no longer seems to be the basis for political decision-making. At the same time, the Commission’s political strategies seem to be shaping EFSA communications on science. Testbiotech has, therefore, underlined these concerns in its letter by citing specific findings:

In the context of its scientific reports, EFSA has in the past stated that they neither had a mandate to systematically and comprehensively assess unintended genetic changes caused by the processes of New GE nor to systematically assess the relevant publications. EFSA is now giving the exact opposite impression in its factsheet.

Furthermore, EFSA claims that “the genetic modifications achievable by NGTs [do not] go beyond what is possible with conventional breeding”. This statement not only seems to contradict previous EFSA reports, there are also many peer-reviewed publications that show the opposite.

Testbiotech is aware that the Commission is under pressure from several sides. Nevertheless, relevant science should not be set aside simply because it contradicts political goals. As Testbiotech wrote to the Commission: “The earth is not flat and NGT plants cannot be considered safe without mandatory and detailed risk assessment.”

Christoph Then, info@testbiotech.org, Tel + 49 151 54638040

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