Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

Independence of EFSA's GMO risk assessment challenged

  • Dansk
  • Nederlands
  • English
  • Suomi
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Ελληνικά
  • Italiano
  • Bokmål
  • Polski
  • Portuguese
  • Română
  • Slovenščina
  • Español
  • Svenska

Munich/ Brussels, 21.3.2012 Testbiotech, supported by Corporate Observatory Europe (CEO), is today filing a new complaint with the EU Ombudsman questioning the independence of the chair of the panel of experts tasked with assessing the risk of new genetically engineered plants entering the European Union [1].

Harry Kuiper has chaired the GMO Panel at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) since 2003 but has also maintained strong ties with International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) including taking part in a task force led by a Monsanto employee. ILSI is funded by the food and agrochemical industry and Kuipers work on the task force was alongside staff from Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, Dupont and Syngenta, all of which produce genetically engineered plants.


Testbiotech research has shown that the work of this ILSI task force has directly influenced Kuiper's work at EFSA [2]. Kuiper is expected to leave the GMO panel within the next few months as he comes to the end of his term.

Christoph Then of Testbiotech said: 'We urgently need more clarity. Harry Kuiper has been involved in each and every case of risk assessment of genetically engineered plants since the start of EFSA. The public has a right to know if consumers and the environment were really protected in the best possible way.'


Nina Holland from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) added: "Harry Kuiper's position as a chair of the GMO Panel is a clear case of a conflict of interests. This raises important questions about the decisions made while he was chair and we want the Ombudsman to investigate this."


EFSA recently introduced new rules to improve its independence, which has been welcomed by many observers [3]. But Testbiotech and CEO remain concerned that the problem of widespread conflicts of interest has not been solved. A number of EFSA experts have strong ties to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and EFSA has not taken action to remedy this.


The EU Ombudsman has already upheld another complaint concerning the former head of the GMO unit at EFSA, Suzy Renckens who went through the 'revolving doors' to work as a lobbyist for the biotech industry [4]. In December 2011, the Ombudsman came up with a first recommendation stating that, 'EFSA should acknowledge that it failed to observe the relevant procedural rules.' It was Renckens that at her time at EFSA was responsible for overseeing conflicts of interest in the GMO panel, and who should have acted on the case of Harry Kuiper.

Contacts:
Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), ceonina@corporateeurope.org, Tel. +32 (0)2 893 0930, Mobile: +31 (0) 6 302 85 042 , www.corporateeurope.org

Christoph Then, Testbiotech, info@testbiotech.org, Tel. + 4915154638040, www.testbiotech.org


Notes:

[1] Letter to the Ombudsman:
http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/Testbiotech%20letter%20to%...

The complaint:
http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/Testbiotech%20complaint%20...

[2] Testbiotech report 'European Food Safety Authority: A playing field for the biotech industry', http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/EFSA_Playing_Field_of_ILSI...

See also: Corporate Europe Observatory Report: 'Conflicts on the menu - A decade of industry influence at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)', http://www.corporateeurope.org/publications/conflicts-menu

[3] EFSA information on the interpretation of the new rules on independence indicates that experts would be allowed to be involved in ILSI actvities, except 'if the subject matter of the taskforce or working group included any advice or development of assessment methods for regulated products or substances, that would be considered as activity V.B (ad hoc or occasional consultancy)'. Activities in this category (current or historic) are not allowed for panel chairs and vice-chairs; and current activities are not allowed for regular panel members. Kuiper's activities for the ILSI biotech taskforce is unlikely to have been allowed as this taskforce promoted concepts relevant for GMO risk assessment.


[4] The case of Suzy Renckens and the previous case of the EU Ombudsman: http://www.testbiotech.org/en/independence

Related issues: 
 

Polluters in Peru blog

Heard by the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Bernhard Url, EFSA's director, said that the EU had "enough scientific capability around [...] without a chief scientific adviser".
An analysis of the revised independence policy of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). More reworded than revised, actually.
Will EFSA become more transparent, and to lobbyists or scientists? After its public consultation on its draft transparency policy, the Authority must now choose.
A presentation explaining the situation at the European Food Safety Authority and why conflicts of interest scandals keep accumulating there.
A new draft EU directive currently looked at by the European Parliament wants to protect companies' "trade secrets", but uses definitions so large and exceptions so weak that it could seriously endanger the work of journalists, whistle-blowers, unionists and researchers as well as severely limiting corporate accountability. We publish a joint statement together with several other groups for the directive to be radically amended.
In the face of a disastrous Lima Outcome for local communities, their environments and the climate, many of the climate justice groups attending COP20 released a joint statement in response to what countries had agreed to, as well setting our own agenda.
The UN climate talks in Lima, COP20, have had the pervasive influence of business all over them. Yet despite this, business is still not happy with the influence it has on the talks and wants a greater role.
As the UN climate talks – COP20 – wrap up in Lima, CEO took part in a press conference to reflect on what two weeks of negotiations mean for climate justice and the road to Paris. Organised by the Institute of Climate Action and Theory, CEO was joined by with Michael Dorsey (board member of Sierra Club) and Jagoda Munic (Chair of Friends of the Earth International).

Alternative Trade Mandate

Corporate Europe Forum