Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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EU member states refuse nomination ex-Monsanto employee for EFSA management board

After a stormy year of debate around conflicts of interest at Europe's 'independent' food safety agency EFSA, the European Commission recently threw some oil on the fire by nominating one of Brussels' principal food lobbyists - Mella Frewen - for EFSA's management board. But today, EU member states negotiators have reported that Frewens nomination has been rejected.

Mella Frewen, lobby chief at food industry lobbygroup FoodDrinkEurope (previously known as the CIAA) and former Monsanto employee was on the list of 14 potential candidates, from which 7 will have to be selected to replace half of the EFSA management board members this summer. Frewen has been the chief lobbyist at FDE since 2007 where she actively lobbied for instance to allow contamination of the food chain with genetically engineered plants which were not authorised in Europe. Frewen would replace Matthias Horst, chief lobbyist of the German food industry, who is now on the EFSA management board.

Corporate Europe Observatory revealed last year that no less than 4 members on the EFSA management board had links to industry. CEO and other groups argued that for an 'independent' food agency, there is simply no justification to have industry lobbyists on the board of EFSA. Management board members are installed on personal title and are supposed to act in the public interest, says EFSA's founding regulation. This is simply not credible when food lobbyists are chosen as board members.

The European Parliament unitedly denounced the nomination of Mella Frewen. At the beginning of May, the EP adopted a critical report on EFSA's budget, telling the agency to take serious action against conflicts of interest, in particular with food and biotech industry lobbygroup ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute). With a very bad sense of timing, ILSI announced one day before the vote that EFSA management board chair Diana Banati will be their new executive director! Banati has a history of close involvement with ILSI. When in 2010 it became known that she was still on the ILSI board of directors while already being chair of the EFSA management board, she was forced to step down from the ILSI position. Since then, Banati said in Scientific journal Nature, “I have met many scientists who work with ILSI as a result of my normal scientific work”, saying that she had no formal relationship with ILSI until she was contacted for the new job.

As laid out in EFSA's founding regulation, the members of the management board are appointed by the EU member states (the Council) in consultation with the European Parliament.

Members are chosen from a shortlist of candidates drawn up by the European Commission, following a public call for expression of interest. The founding regulation says that four of the 14 board members “shall have a background in organisations representing consumers and other interests in the food chain”.

Mella Frewen, lobby chief at food industry lobbygroup FoodDrinkEurope (previously known as the CIAA) and former Monsanto employee was on the list of 14 potential candidates, from which 7 will have to be selected to replace half of the EFSA management board members this summer. Frewen has been the chief lobbyist at FDE since 2007 where she actively lobbied for instance to allow contamination of the food chain with genetically engineered plants which were not authorised in Europe. Frewen would replace Matthias Horst, chief lobbyist of the German food industry, who is now on the EFSA management board.Corporate Europe Observatory revealed last year that no less than 4 members on the EFSA management board had links to industry. CEO and other groups argued that for an 'independent' food agency, there is simply no justification to have industry lobbyists on the board of EFSA. Management board members are installed on personal title and are supposed to act in the public interest, says EFSA's founding regulation. This is simply not credible when food lobbyists are chosen as board members.The European Parliament unitedly denounced the nomination of Mella Frewen. At the beginning of May, the EP adopted a critical report on EFSA's budget, telling the agency to take serious action against conflicts of interest, in particular with food and biotech industry lobbygroup ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute). With a very bad sense of timing, ILSI announced one day before the vote that EFSA management board chair Diana Banati will be their new executive director! Banati has a history of close involvement with ILSI. When in 2010 it became known that she was still on the ILSI board of directors while already being chair of the EFSA management board, she was forced to step down from the ILSI position. Since then, Banati said in Scientific journal Nature, “I have met many scientists who work with ILSI as a result of my normal scientific work”, saying that she had no formal relationship with ILSI until she was contacted for the new job.As laid out in EFSA's founding regulation, the members of the management board are appointed by the EU member states (the Council) in consultation with the European Parliament.Members are chosen from a shortlist of candidates drawn up by the European Commission, following a public call for expression of interest. The founding regulation says that four of the 14 board members “shall have a background in organisations representing consumers and other interests in the food chain”.
 

The official EU assessment of glyphosate was based on unpublished studies owned by industry. Seven months later, the pesticide industry still fights disclosure and, so far, successfully. We obtained a copy of their arguments.

The European Commission proposal on scientific criteria defining endocrine disruptors (EDCs) is the latest dangerous outgrowth of a highly toxic debate. The chemical lobby, supported by certain Commission factions (notably DG SANTE and the Secretary-General) and some member states (UK and Germany), has put significant obstacles in the way of effective public health and environment regulation.

This May is dense on the EU chemicals regulation front. Crunch time for two major files: the European Commission needs to publish the identification criteria for endocrine disrupting chemicals, and together with EU States must decide how, or not, renew the market approval of glyphosate, an herbicide produced and defended by Monsanto. Last week, the Professor Alan Boobis happened to be involved in both.

Demonstrating the problematic symbiosis between corporate interests and EU institutions, the same lobbying consultancies often get hired by both.

A few weeks after the May coup against Dilma Rousseff by conservative parties backed by the country's largest corporations, Brazil's “interim” government, led by Michel Temer, signed an emergency loan to the State of Rio de Janeiro to help finance infrastructure for the 2016 Olympics. The bailout was conditional to selling off the State's public water supply and sanitation company, the Companhia Estadual de Águas e Esgotos (Cedae). 

When we interviewed City Councillor and chair of Rio’s Special Committee on the Water Crisis Renato Cinco, in December 2015, he was already warning against such privatisation threats and provided important background information on the water situation in Rio.

Corporate Europe Observatory's new report 'A spoonful of sugar' illustrates how the sugar lobby undermines existing laws and fights off much-needed measures that are vital for tackling Europe’s looming obesity crisis.

José Manuel Barroso's move to Goldman Sachs has catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda. It is symbolic of the excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.

Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth and LobbyControl today wrote to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, calling on him to investigate Angelika Nieber MEP over a possible conflict of interest.

 
 
 
 
 
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The corporate lobby tour