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Monday, 12th March 2012

Conflicts on the Menu: A Decade of Industry Influence at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

Source: Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU)

From the Executive Summary:

In 2012 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) celebrates its 10th anniversary. ESFA has been strongly under attack, and increasingly so in the past few years. In this report Corporate Europe Observatory and Earth Open Source take stock of what there is to celebrate. But the reality is sobering. Criticism of the way the way EFSA deals with the safety of products like pesticides, food additives, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is widespread and comes from many different sources: civil society groups, Members of the European Parliament, other public institutions, scientists, and, increasingly, the media.

Too often it’s not independent science that underlies EFSA decisions about our food safety, but industry data. EFSA panels base their scientific opinions on risky products like pesticides and GMOs largely on industry-sponsored studies. EFSA has often been found to ignore independent research for unscientific reasons. The agency has issued controversial guidelines for the assessment of pesticides and GMOs that benefit industry, not the public interest. In some cases EFSA even copies wording from industry sources.

Nor are all of the EFSA experts who make these decisions independent. Many EFSA panel members have ties with biotech, food, or pesticide companies. EFSA’s rules allow blatant conflicts of interest to persist. Food industry lobbies are even represented on the EFSA management board. Panel members and management have strong, systematic ties to the industry lobby group, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), which is funded by major food, chemical, and biotech corporations. The ‘revolving door’ (where public officials move to industry jobs or vice versa) is also at work in EFSA.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »



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