Presentation of ANSES
The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) was created on 1 July 2010. It is an administrative public establishment accountable to the French Ministries of Health, Agriculture, the Environment, Labour and Consumer Affairs.
ANSES undertakes monitoring, expert assessment, research and reference activities in a broad range of topics that encompass human health, animal health and well-being, and plant health. It offers a cross-cutting perspective on health issues by assessing health risks and benefits, often through the prism of the human and social sciences. Its monitoring, vigilance and surveillance work provides input for risk assessment. ANSES fully addresses all types of risks (chemical, biological, physical, etc.) to which a person may be subjected, intentionally or otherwise, at all ages and stages of life, including through exposure at work, while travelling, while engaging in leisure activities, or via their diet.
The Agency also assesses the effectiveness and risks of veterinary medicinal products, plant protection products, fertilisers, growing media and their adjuvants, as well as biocides, with a view to delivering marketing authorisations. It also provides assessments of chemicals within the framework of the European REACh regulations.
Formal requests to ANSES can come from several sources:
- the government,
- stakeholders represented on its Board of Administrators,
- labour unions.
The Agency can also issue internal requests when it deems necessary to do so.
ANSES's organisational structure
The ANSES Board of Administrators includes the five colleges of the Grenelle Environment round table:
- public authorities,
- social partners,
- professional bodies,
- NGOs and non-profit associations,
- elected officials,
together with qualified individuals and representatives of Agency staff.
Voting rights are shared equally between the members of the group of governmental representatives and the other members.
The Board of Administrators is assisted by thematic steering committees open to non-ANSES figures who are highly involved in and/or representative of specific trends in civil society.
These committees help to define directions and priorities for the ANSES work programme. There are five of them:
- Environmental health,
- Occupational health,
- Food and nutrition,
- Animal health and well-being,
- Plant health.
The Agency also relies on a Scientific Board that ensures the quality and independence of its expert assessment work. The Scientific Board is independent and made up exclusively of scientists. It gives a large number of seats to foreign scientists and it ensures a balance between the Agency’s major fields of expertise. It also oversees the process of evaluating the Agency's research activities.
Collaborative and impartial expert assessment
The reliance on collective expert assessment for evaluating health risks is one of the basic principles set down in the founding charter on which ANSES is based. Collective expert assessment is carried out according to a procedure that selects and brings together experts from different disciplines around a single topic, takes into account all the available scientific evidence, offers a collective, adversarial forum for any opinions and theories expressed by the experts, and provides advice and/or recommendations that are systematically made public. The Agency has approximately 800 external experts working in its various groups. They are chosen through a public call for applications and are selected based primarily on criteria of scientific competence and on the basis of a review of any potential conflicts of interest.
The Agency also relies on a network of 9 reference and research laboratories located throughout France that are internationally recognised in various fields or disciplines and which are in geographical proximity to their respective sectors.
To ensure the independence of its expert assessment work, ANSES has a specific body, the Committee for ethical standards and prevention of conflicts of interest, created by the Board of Administration on 8 February 2011 and chaired by the philosopher Pierre Le Coz. It can intervene in all situations, including each of the stages of collective expert assessment. A member of the Board of Administration, the Scientific Board, an Expert Committee, the Director General or a member of ANSES's staff may also petition this Committee.
It is empowered to collect all the necessary documents for its investigation and to hear third parties which might inform its decision. It submits its opinions and recommendations to the petitioning individual or organisation as well as to the Agency's Board of Administration and Director General.
An agency which is open to society
The Agency is committed to promoting openness to society and organises regular discussion meetings with stakeholders (public authorities, professional bodies, trade unions, consumer organisations, environmental NGOs, associations representing occupational accident victims, elected officials, qualified individuals). These often take the form of special meetings for associative groups on specific topics (water, pesticides, plastics, bee health, etc.).
On certain subjects that are key issues for society, ANSES can set up special dialogue committees with stakeholders which are tasked with informing the Agency on society's expectations in terms of risk assessment and research.
ANSES keeps the public informed of its conclusions through the systematic publication of its work and recommendations on its website and by organising or participating in some thirty scientific events each year. A monthly newsletter available in French and in English is distributed to more than 15,000 French and foreign contacts, and an RSS feed provides real-time access to its website news.