The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) plays a key role in the authorisation of thousands of products ending up in the food chain (GMOs, pesticides, food additives, nanotech products). Conflicts of interest at EFSA expert panels seem endemic, in particular their relations with industry lobby group ILSI. In the last couple of years, there has been growing awareness and attention from MEPs, media and public.
An investigation was started by the European Court of Auditors, whose report was published in September saying that the EU agencies did not handle conflicts of interest adequately. The European Parliament finally approved EFSA's 2010 budget, but only including a long list of conditions to be met before the next budget approval. The European Commission is planning to revise the EFSA founding regulation and has published a Roadmap for all agencies that includes the conflict of interest issue. EFSA last year started a process to design new rules on conflicts of interest, which have brought some improvements. When EFSA renews the membership of 8 of the expert panels in late June 2012, it will become clear how effective the new rules really are.
In the various articles, blogs and letters published in this section, CEO with other organisations lists numerous recommendations for radical change at EFSA, both regarding the science used, and the independence of the experts, management board and staff. In our joint report with Earth Open Source "Conflicts on the menu: a decade of industry influence at the European Food Safety Authority", we aim to provide an overview of how EFSA works, and give various examples of the agency’s reliance on industry data and industry-linked experts. The report is also available in French.
The below video is an educational tool explaining in 3 minutes what the major problems at EFSA are. Also available in French and with Spanish subtitles here.
Not long after November's demonstration, EFSA took the initiative to organise a meeting in Brussels with the signatory organisations and the European Commission, in order to discuss the demands. This presented an interesting development in our dialogue with the EU institutions, which to date had seen then generally dismissing the very idea that there could be a problem in the EU food safety system. The meeting took place on 30 January.
Signed by several European civil society networks and organisations, this list of demands for the reform of EFSA was published on Monday 12 November during a conference of farmers, scientists and citizens held in the premises of Parma's University, Italy, and delivered to EFSA during a demonstration in front of its headquarters the following day. (summary - full version downloadable in the pdf below)
Corporate Europe Observatory
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making.