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EFSA chair moves to food industry lobby group

1.EFSA chair resigns over conflict of interest
2.EFSA Chair Moves to Food Industry Lobby Group

EXTRACTS: "This shows that Bánáti never really left ILSI," he said. "EFSA has had somebody on the management board who had a massive conflict of interest without saying it. This shows that the composition of the management board needs much more attention from the European Commission." (item 1)

Currently there is controversy over the European Commision's nomination of Mella Frewen to the EFSA board. Frewen, who in the past worked as a lobbyist for US biotechnology company Monsanto, is director-general of FoodDrink Europe. (item 1)

Nina Holland said: "This move is an absolute scandal and highlights how the European Commission must revise the founding regulations of EFSA to eradicate such conflicts of interest from the management board." (item 2)
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1.EFSA chair resigns over conflict of interest
Dave Keating
European Voice, 
http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2012/may/efsa-chair-resigns-over-conflict-of-interest/74290.aspx

[image caption: Diána Bánáti leaves EFSA to rejoin International Life Sciences Institute Europe]

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has demanded that Diána Bánáti resign as chairwoman of its management board because she is rejoining the board of the International Life Sciences Institute Europe (ILSI), a research and advocacy organisation for food science. She is to become the executive and scientific director at ILSI.

Bánáti was the centre of controversy in 2010 when it was revealed that while chairing the EFSA board she also held an undeclared position on the board of ILSI. José Bové, a French Green MEP, demanded her resignation from EFSA, saying that her ILSI position was in conflict with EFSA's role approving foods in the EU, including genetically modified (GM) organisms.

ILSI, he said, lobbied for the interests of the food industry and promotes GM crops. Embarrassed by the revelation, EFSA told Bánáti she could not serve in both positions. Bánáti resigned her position with ILSI in order to stay on the board of EFSA.

Christoph Then of Testbiotech, an anti-GM research group, condemned the reappointment. "This shows that Bánáti never really left ILSI," he said. "EFSA has had somebody on the management board who had a massive conflict of interest without saying it. This shows that the composition of the management board needs much more attention from the European Commission."

Incompatible positions

In a statement released on Wednesday (9 May), EFSA said it had requested Bánáti's resignation after learning about her return to ILSI, which is to be announced officially by ILSI tomorrow (10 May). The EFSA statement said the second position was “not compatible with her role as member and chair of the EFSA management board”.

There have been numerous allegations by environmental and health campaigners of conflict of interest within EFSA or overly close ties between EFSA and the biotech industry. Last month the authority admitted to the European ombudsman that it had not properly responded to the case of Suzy Renckens, the former head of EFSA's GM unit, who left EFSA in 2008 and moved directly to a lobbying position with biotechnology company Syngenta. There have also been allegations that Harry Kuiper, who chaired the GM panel at EFSA for nearly ten years, had strong ties with ILSI.

Currently there is controversy over the European Commision's nomination of Mella Frewen to the EFSA board. Frewen, who in the past worked as a lobbyist for US biotechnology company Monsanto, is director-general of FoodDrink Europe.

EFSA has maintained that it would not be possible or responsible to bar anyone with food industry ties from serving at the authority. In its statement, the authority stressed that the management board “has no power to review EFSA's scientific outputs nor to influence their adoption procedure, which is the sole responsibility of EFSA's scientific committee and panels”.

Tomorrow (10 May) the European Parliament will vote on whether or not to approve EFSA's spending in 2010. A hold has been put on it by the Parliament's budget committee because of concerns over conflict of interest.
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2.EFSA Chair Moves to Food Industry Lobby Group
Corporate Europe Observatory, 9 May 2012

Campaigners call for a cooling off period to be imposed

Brussels, 9 May 2012 Campaigners today condemned the latest revolving doors case at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) after the chair of the management board Diana Banati was asked to resign after accepting a post as the head of the food industry lobby group ILSI Europe [1]. EFSA said that the post was "incompatible" with her role as chair.

Nina Holland from Corporate Europe Observatory said it was totally unacceptable that Banati should be able to move from such an important position within the regulatory authority straight to a lobbying job and that such a situation could arise, revealed fundamental problems in the way that EFSA had been set up.

Tomorrow the European Parliament votes in plenary on the approval of EFSA's budget with calls for approval to be postponed because of conflicts of interest.

Nina Holland said:

"This move is an absolute scandal and highlights how the European Commission must revise the founding regulations of EFSA to eradicate such conflicts of interest from the management board. EFSA's close links to the food lobby through ILSI Europe undermine the authority’s ability to act in the public interest. There is a clear conflict of interests in this case and a cooling off period should be imposed."

The European Food Safety Agency was recently forced to admit that it had failed to act appropriately in a previous case of revolving doors when an expert on EFSA’s GMO panel left to become a lobbyist for biotech company Syngenta, without any cooling off period [2].

ILSI Europe is one of the main industry lobby groups and plays a key role in exerting industry pressure on EFSA [3]

Monica Macovei MEP, in a report, is calling for the approval of EFSA's 2010 budget to be postponed because of conflicts of interest at EFSA. The report explicitly refers to ILSI Europe as an industry lobby group. The report has already been accepted by the Budget Committee.

Contact: Nina Holland, tel: +31 630285042 / Olivier Hoedeman, tel + 32 2893 0930 / +32 474 486 545

Notes:

[1] http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/120509.htm

[2] The EU Ombudsman criticised EFSA for mishandling the case of Suzy Renkens who went from EFSA's GMO panel to become a lobbyist for Syngenta. http://www.corporateeurope.org/pressreleases/2012/european-food-safety-authority-admits-failure-revolving-doors 

[3] http://www.corporateeurope.org/blog/new-briefing-international-life-sciences-institute-ilsi-corporate-lobbygroup