European Court of Justice rules that EFSA may not keep names of expert reviewers confidential.

  • In recent years, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been criticized for an alleged lack of transparency in the way that its experts review and consider data to support product safety assessments.  Historically, EFSA has not disclosed the names of the expert reviewers involved in any given review.  In 2010, two parties with an interest in a particular EFSA guidance document requested that EFSA release specific documents related to its preparation, including the comments of expert reviewers.  EFSA denied the request in part, specifically refusing to disclose information about the expert reviewers.  The parties sought further relief in court.
  • In July 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a ruling that may bar EFSA from keeping the names of its expert reviewers confidential in the future.  Also, the ECJ ruling could be applied retroactively, thus requiring EFSA to release the names of experts involved in past reviews.  It appears that requests for such information will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
  • The ruling is being heralded as a victory for those who seek enhanced transparency in the EFSA regulatory process.

Scotland bans GM crops.

  • In early 2015, the European Parliament adopted a law permitting member states to prohibit or restrict the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in their territories, even where such cultivation is permitted at the EU level.
  • The Scottish government has announced its intent to ban the cultivation of GM crops in its territory, citing the GM “opt-out” provision expressly provided for in European law.
  • Scotland’s action highlights the potential fragmentation of the EU into “pro-GM” and “anti-GM” territories, which will diminish predictability and flexibility for biotechnology companies in the European marketplace.