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European Parliament postpones EFSA budget approval

1.European Parliament postpones EFSA budget approval over conflicts of interest
2.Chair of Management Board at EFSA quits because of conflict of interests
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1.European Parliament postpones EFSA budget approval over conflicts of interest
Corporate Europe Observatory, May 10 2012
http://www.corporateeurope.org/pressreleases/2012/european-parliament-postpones-efsa-budget-approval-over-conflicts-interest

In a plenary vote, the European Parliament today adopted a report by Monica Macovei MEP (PPE), deciding that the approval of the European food agency's 2010 budget will be postponed. Also, a strong resolution was adopted denouncing the conflicts of interest that have plagued the agency. A similar decision was taken on the approval of the 2010 budget of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Nina Holland of Corporate Europe Observatory comments: "This vote is a very important signal that conflicts of interests with industry are not acceptable. By postponing the approval of EFSA's budget, the EP has used its powers to tell EFSA to be serious about the links between its experts and staff on the one hand, and industry on the other. After all, EFSA is supposed to be 'the independent voice of science' guiding EU institutions. Despite EFSA's new rules, it is uncertain whether conflicts of interest will be adequately dealt with. The new rules are a considerable improvement, but they are not 100% conflict-proof."

A few weeks from now the names of the new experts on eight EFSA panels will be published. Media and other interested parties have to wait for that moment before they can investigate whether the new rules have the effect of banning conflicts of interest from the EFSA panels.

Importantly, the Macovei report provides a basis to break the systemic links between EFSA and ILSI Europe, an industry lobby group. [1]  Only yesterday, ILSI Europe announced that it has chosen EFSA's current management board chair Diána Bánáti as its next executive director. Bánáti had to leave ILSI in 2010 after it was exposed she was holding a position on the board of ILSI while at the same time playing a crucial role in EFSA.

Nina Holland says: "This job move is a shocking and unacceptable revolving doors case, and it reveals the close links that still exist between EFSA and ILSI. The EU institutions are revising EFSA’s founding regulation right now. It is more clear than ever that industry interests should be banned for EFSA management board members for good. Bánáti’s move back to ILSI should never have been possible, and a 2-year cooling-off period should be applied for management board members."

For further information:

Nina Holland: +31 6 30285042

[1] ILSI, a corporate lobby group. Corporate Europe Observatory, May 2012.

http://www.corporateeurope.org/blog/new-briefing-international-life-sciences-institute-ilsi-corporate-lobbygroup
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2.Chair of Management Board at EFSA quits because of conflict of interests
Test Biotech, 9 May 2012
http://www.testbiotech.org/en/node/656

Brussels – Upon request of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Diána Bánáti has resigned on 8 May as member and Chair of the Management Board with immediate effect. She has decided to take up a professional position at the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).

According to Testbiotech informations she now will become the chair of ILSI Europe. Diána Bánáti was under criticism since September 2010 because she was Board Member of ILSI Europe. After leaving ILSI, she was re-elected as chair of EFSA’s Management Board in October 2011. Now she is returning to ILSI Europe which is funded by food industry and agrochemical companies.

The move of Banati just was made public just one day before a decisive vote in European Parliament: Tomorrow the Parliament will take a vote on a report from its Committee on Budgetary Control not to discharge the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) budget for the year 2010. In the report from the Committee on Budgetary Control EFSA is criticized very harshly for conflicts of interest and revolving door cases. Notably, the report calls the links between EFSA and the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) a source of conflicts of interest. ILSI is funded by food industry and agrochemical companies. Links with ILSI are documented on the level of the Management Board as well as in the panels such as the one for genetically engineered plants, for food additives and for pesticides.

“Fundamental changes are needed at EFSA. The mechanisms for internal controls have been failing drastically. One reason for this is the composition of the Management Board which should control EFSA and safeguard its independence. So far, industry has too much influence on this board, its representatives should be excluded in future to give EFSA a real chance for a change,” says Christoph Then for Testbiotech.

Currently the European Commission has nominated an ex-employee of Monsanto and chief lobbyist of EU food industry, Mella Frewen to become one of the new members of the Management Board. This proposal has been criticised by NGOs and the European Parliament alike. Now the governments of the Member States have to vote on it. Testbiotech is amongst those urging fundamental changes to EFSA's founding regulations, which are due for review later this year. Industry lobbyists should be banned from EFSA’s management. Instead, there should be more representatives from consumer and also environmental organisations on the board.

Contact: 

Christoph Then, Testbiotech, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Tel. + 4915154638040, www.testbiotech.org

Further information: 
Link to the Report of the Budgetary Committee
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/document/activities/cont/201204/20120404ATT42587/20120404ATT42587EN.pdf
Link to recent report of Testbiotech about conflict of interests at EFSA
http://www.testbiotech.org/en/node/650
Link to the case of Mella Frewen
http://www.testbiotech.org/en/node/631
Link to ILSI briefing
http://www.corporateeurope.org/blog/newbriefinginternationallifesciencesinstituteilsicorporatelobbygroup