Independence of the BfR
Public discussion about the independence of the executive and political advisory bodies is important, because it allows institutions like the BfR to measure themselves by quality and transparency standards.
The German Bundestag has dealt with the possible conflicts of interest and one-sided technical handling of the risk assessment of genetically modified organisms and plant protection products and the federal government has provided parliament with an answer to this question.
The BfR is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). The institute is charged with the scientific risk assessment of foods, products and chemicals. These assessments serve as a decision-making basis for the executive on the one hand and politics on the other. The objective of the BfR here is to place its contributions towards the execution of legislation and its political consultancy on a sound scientific foundation: existing knowledge has to be adequately considered and clearly presented while relevant scientific opinions to the contrary have to be expressed.
The overall concept of the BfR explicitly stipulates interaction with all stakeholders (NGOs, consumer associations, trade, industry, politics, science and the media). The involvement of various stakeholders in an advisory capacity is of great importance, especially where different scientific positions are represented and justified. The BfR has formed various committees in order to cover scientific advisory requirements in the necessary specialised breadth and depth. Their members are selected for their scientific excellence and they represent the various stakeholder groups, coming from universities and other research institutions, national and regional authorities, trade and consumer associations, private laboratories and industry. These external experts advise the BfR, but they are not involved in official decision-making processes.
The functional independence of the BfR is political will which was anchored by law when the institute was established. In this way, it is ensured that the health risk assessments produced by the BfR are not influenced by political, economic or social interests.