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EFSA: conflicts of interest on board

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is responsible for assessing and communicating food safety in the European Union, for everything from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to pesticides. However EFSA has recently been criticised because its scientific assessments of new GM crops and pesticides rely almost exclusively on corporate research data. Some EFSA experts have also been accused of being too close to the food and drink industry . Several cases of ‘revolving doors’ (where EFSA employees move straight to industry, or from industry to EFSA) and conflicts of interest have been highlighted. Now, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has discovered that three EFSA board members are advisors for Big Food companies, working through industry-funded think tanks which aim to manipulate political and scientific debate concerning food risks. A fourth member of the board is director of a fund which has shares in a company selling GM feed. Those conflicts of interest risk influencing the judgement of these board members when involved in EFSA’s work, in particular when they establish work programmes and appoint members of the agency’s scientific committee and panels.

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Documents released to Corporate Europe Observatory following a Freedom of Information request reveal how pro-biotech lobby platform Public Research Regulation Initiative (PRRI) unites industry, researchers and regulators in ‘like-minded’ groups to influence crucial international biosafety talks under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

In May 2017, the global biotech and seed industry lobby groups landed in Budapest for their annual congress. They launched a joint campaign with one key goal: to get governments worldwide to adopt a zero-regulation approach to new genetic modification (GM) techniques, often termed gene-editing techniques. The seed industry magazine SeedWorld stated that the timing of this international campaign is critical “as policymakers and governments around the world discuss plant breeding innovations, and if and how they should be regulated”.

On the occasion of the International Day of Farmers' Struggle, we have jointly with allies prepared five short visions for a sustainable, healthy and fair food and trade policy to restart this important debate.

Wouldn't it be time that the EU stops allowing a direct representation of the food industry's interests on the Board of the EU Food Safety Authority (EFSA)?

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