Campaigners today called for a complete overhaul of the rules governing the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), following allegations that four members of EFSA's management board have direct links to the food industry, causing conflicts of interest .
Lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory has today sent a letter to EU Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli urging him to take action after EFSA defended the conflicts of interest and said they fell within the rules.
CEO argues in its letter that EFSA’s independence cannot be guaranteed if members of its management board are employed by private companies or lobby groups with a vested interest in influencing EU food regulation.
The call for action comes ahead of a Commission-organised conference on Thursday 17 March on GM risk assessment and management, which will discuss the independence of the EU's risk assessment bodies. Commissioner Dalli is to speak at the event .
Corporate Europe Observatory research coordinator Olivier Hoedeman said:
“It is completely unacceptable that food industry lobbyists should be allowed to sit on EFSA’s management board where they can influence the agency’s work programme and the appointment of members of its scientific panels. Is it credible for the Commission to claim that people employed by or otherwise directly linked with organisations with vested commercial interests can be trusted to act in the public interest?”
CEO highlighted concerns over four board members in a letter to EFSA on March 4th . EFSA responded that of the four, Matthias Horst (chief lobbyist for the German food industry) and Piet Vanthemsche (representing farmers, but with financial interests in the GM seed industry) sit on the board as official representatives of stakeholders in the food chain – as stipulated under the Founding Regulation.
Milan Kováč (director of the International Life Sciences Institute Europe), and Jiří Ruprich (Danone Institute), also highlighted in the report, were not listed as official representatives by EFSA, yet both have links to food industry bodies. CEO has asked Commissioner Dalli to clarify why they have been given positions on the board, given their links to food industry.
According to EFSA’s website, management board members “do not, in any way, represent a government, organisation or sector” .
In October 2010 the chair of EFSA’s management board, Professor Diána Bánáti, was forced to step down from the board of the International Life Sciences Institute following concerns over conflicts of interest .
Olivier Hoedeman, tel: +32 (0)2 893 0930, Mobile: +32 (0)474 486 545, email: email@example.com