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Open letter on the conflicts of interest with the seed industry of a national expert seconded to DG SANCO

To: Commissioner T. Borg

Cc: Commissioners D. Ciolos, J. Potočnik, Secretary General of the Commission C. Day

Dear Commissioner,

We are writing to you in order to express our concerns about the conflict of interests of Madame Isabelle Clément-Nissou, a national expert seconded from France to DG SANCO. She is now a ‘Policy Officer on Seed and Reproductive Material’ working to support the drafting of future legislation on these dossiers, notably the key upcoming review of the EU legislation on the Marketing of Seed and Plant Propagating Material (S&PM). In our view, Madame Clément-Nissou appears to be in a situation explicitly forbidden by rules on the secondment of national experts to the Commission which state: in order to ensure that the Commission's independence is not compromised by private interests, it should be stipulated that seconded national experts must come from a national, regional or local public administration or an IGO(public intergovernmental organization)." 1

Although Mrs. Clément-Nissou is supposed to be sent by the French Government, she was actually sent on behalf of GNIS (Groupement National Interprofessionnel des Semences), where she was Director of International Relations until September 2011 when she joined DG SANCO. The reason the French Agriculture Ministry sent her may have been because of the French administration's highly unusual relationship with GNIS: although this organisation is a private and commercial organisation representing the seed sector, it has been entrusted (since 1941) with the public service of controlling and monitoring seed quality as well as levying a tax on sales of seeds throughout France. Despite its public role, GNIS is a privately funded lobby group run by and staunchly defending the interests of the seed industry: the fact that this organisation has been entrusted to a public service does not make it a “national, regional or local public administration or an IGO. The fact that France has largely given away the direction of its seed policy to industry is problematic, but this situation should not be allowed to negatively influence the drafting of EU legislation.

We therefore ask you that the contract as seconded national expert of the person at stake is terminated and that appropriate action is taken to make sure that DG SANCO's work is not affected by conflicts of interests in the future.

With kind regards,

Ivan Mammana, Martin Pigeon
Researchers and campaigners at Corporate Europe Observatory

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