COGEM is an independent scientific advisory committee composed of scientists and supported by a professional secretariat.
The Minister of Infrastructure and Environment (IandM) appoints the 20 members of COGEM. Since it showed to be impossible to cover the whole field of COGEM with 20 members, the commission has also associated members. The Executive board of COGEM appoints the 20 associated members.
All members are selected for their scientific expertise and do not represent any organisation. The members have expertise in different fields such as ecology, bacteriology, virology, genetically modified plants and animals, zoology, public perception and ethics. The members and their fields of expertise are listed here.
The members of the COGEM Executive board are the chairman of COGEM and the chairmen of the different subcommittees. The Chairman of COGEM is appointed by the Minister of IandM having heard the members of COGEM.
COGEM has four scientific subcommittees:
The first three subcommittees carry out risk assessments and prepare scientific advices on risk aspects and measures for controlling environmental risks. The subcommittee Contained Use focuses on more general issues related to GMO legislation and does not deal with specific applications for permits. It acts like a working group; it has no permanent members and its composition is tailored to the subject matter of each specific case. The subcommittee ‘Ethics and Societal Aspects’ informs the minister, by means of so-called topic reports (‘signaleringen’), about ethical and societal aspects related to genetic modification.
COGEM publications, like advices and reports, are prepared by the subcommittee concerned. In case specific expertise is lacking amongst the COGEM members, external experts are consulted. All publications are put forward for approval to all COGEM members Consequently, publications are published and endorsed by COGEM and not by a specific subcommittee.
Each subcommittee meets six times a year. In these meeting general issues, advices and topic reports are discussed. Advices on notifications are discussed in the meetings if possible in view of the statutory deadlines. Otherwise they are dealt with by e-mail.
The subcommittee on Agriculture issues scientific advice on environmental risk aspects of genetically-modified plants and associated micro-organisms, and advises on measures to control the identified risks. In most cases, these advises are linked to specific notifications. Particular attention is paid to the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment and placing on the market of GMOs.
The subcommittee on Medical and Veterinary Aspects issues scientific advice on environmental risk aspects, and measures aimed at controlling the risks of genetic modification in the medical or veterinary field. Risk assessments include gene therapy studies, production methods of vectors and viruses, and the use and construction of genetically modified animals or micro-organisms.
The subcommittee on Ethics and Societal Aspects identifies ethical and societal aspects related to genetic modification. Particular attention is paid to the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment and the market introduction of GMOs. However, COGEM does not issue any political or policy recommendations with respect to these matters . The commission sets out the various arguments to facilitate a balanced decision-making process, which systematically takes the various arguments into account.