European Parliament postpones EFSA budget approval over conflicts of interest

In a plenary vote, the European Parliament today adopted a report by Monica Macovei MEP (PPE), deciding that the approval of the European food agency’s 2010 budget will be postponed. Also, a strong resolution was adopted denouncing the conflicts of interest that have plagued the agency. A similar decision was taken on the approval of the 2010 budget of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

  Nina Holland of Corporate Europe Observatory comments: “This vote is a very important signal that conflicts of interests with industry are not acceptable. By postponing the approval of EFSA’s budget, the EP has used its powers to tell EFSA to be serious about the links between its experts and staff on the one hand, and industry on the other. After all, EFSA is supposed to be ‘the independent voice of science’ guiding EU institutions. Despite EFSA’s new rules, it is uncertain whether conflicts of interest will be adequately dealt with. The new rules are a considerable improvement, but they are not 100% conflict-proof.”

A few weeks from now the names of the new experts on eight EFSA panels will be published. Media and other interested parties have to wait for that moment before they can investigate whether the new rules have the effect of banning conflicts of interest from the EFSA panels.

Importantly, the Macovei report provides a basis to break the systemic links between EFSA and ILSI Europe, an industry lobby group. [1]  Only yesterday, ILSI Europe announced that it has chosen EFSA’s current management board chair – Diána Bánáti – as its next executive director. Bánáti had to leave ILSI in 2010 after it was exposed she was holding a position on the board of ILSI while at the same time playing a crucial role in EFSA.

Nina Holland says: “This job move is a shocking and unacceptable revolving doors case, and it reveals the close links that still exist between EFSA and ILSI. The EU institutions are revising EFSA’s founding regulation right now. It is more clear than ever that industry interests should be banned for EFSA management board members for good. Bánáti’s move back to ILSI should never have been possible, and a 2-year cooling-off period should be applied for management board members.”

For further information:

Nina Holland: +31 6 30285042

[1] ILSI, a corporate lobby group. Corporate Europe Observatory, May 2012.

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