GM Free Cymru

EFSA dodgy dealings under scrutiny

The never-ending saga of complaints against EFSA rumbles on -- as shown in the three items below. Not to put too fine a point on it, the organization is rotten to the core, as it has been since its inception... It has always done the bidding of the GM industry; it has always sen its function as the facilitation of GM consents rather than the protection of the public; it has maintained the revolving doors between its GMO Panel and the GM industry; it has lived with clear conflicts of interest by Harry Kuiper and others, and has never done anything about it; and it has cherry-picked the science used in GMO assessments from the very beginning, viewing GM industry studies through rose-tinted spectacles while dismissing out of hand anything "uncomfortable" about GMOs that might come from independent studies. EFSA's GMO Panel should be closed down. We would all be better off without it, since its spends all its time assessing GMO varieties which nobody wants, which bring no cost, taste or nutrition benefits to consumers or farmers, and which do nothing to improve the environment.

1. EFSA AND OTHER AGENCIES FAIL BUDGET DISCHARGE TEST

European Parliament, Belgium, Press Release

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fTEXT%2bIM-PRESS%2b20120327IPR41993%2b0%2bDOC%2bXML%2bV0%2f%2fEN&language=EN

27.03.2012

SUMMARY: "The decision to postpone the discharge for the food safety Agency in Parma was taken with 15 votes in favour, 7 against and 4 abstentions. [...] MEPs also pointed to conflicts of interests, given that the Chair of the Management Board was reported to have direct links to the food industry, and to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the International Life Science Institute - Europe. The committee called on the Court of Auditors to finalise and present an audit on conflicting interests within the Authority and on the Authority itself to show what it has done to improve screening of staff members and members of expert panels."

The EU Medicines Agency, Environment Agency, Food Safety Authority and Council of Ministers all failed to win the Budgetary Control Committee's approval on Tuesday for the way in which they spend EU funds. All other EU Institutions and agencies were granted budget management "discharges" (approvals).

Medicines Agency

The decision to postpone the discharge for the Medicines Agency in London was taken with 14 votes in favour and 9 against. MEPs asked for an action plan to improve procurement and contract management and sought assurances as to the impartiality of the Agency's employees and of national experts temporarily seconded to it. MEPs were also not amused by the refusal of the Agency's Management Board to establish a new payment system.

Environment Agency

The decision to postpone the discharge for the Environment Agency in Copenhagen was taken with 16 votes in favour and 10 against. MEPs criticised the fact that from June 2010 to April 2011, its Executive Director was also a member of the International Advisory Board of the NGO Earthwatch. She was also reportedly a member of the NGO Worldwatch.

Some staff members, including the Executive Director herself, went on "research" trips to Earthwatch projects in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, for which, according to the Executive Director, the Agency paid Earthwatch •33,791. MEPs called on the Agency to provide detailed information on these trips and the amounts paid to Earthwatch and Worldwatch in financial 2009 and 2010.

MEPs also want the Environment Agency to clarify its recruitment arrangements and provide more information about the credentials of its guest scientists.

Food Safety Authority

The decision to postpone the discharge for the food safety Agency in Parma was taken with 15 votes in favour, 7 against and 4 abstentions. MEPs found it unacceptable that meetings of the 15-strong Management Board cost on average •92.630 - or •6.175 per member - and called for "drastic cuts in these excessive costs".

MEPs also pointed to conflicts of interests, given that the Chair of the Management Board was reported to have direct links to the food industry, and to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the International Life Science Institute (ILSI) - Europe.

The committee called on the Court of Auditors to finalise and present an audit on conflicting interests within the Authority and on the Authority itself to show what it has done to improve screening of staff members and members of expert panels.

Council

Committee Members unanimously decided to postpone the Council's discharge. Parliament and the Council have long debated whether - and how - Parliament should fulfil its role as the discharge authority for the management of the Council's budget. MEPs hope that mediation by the Council's current Presidency might lead to a workable arrangement.

The Commission, Parliament and the European Development Fund were already granted budget discharges on Monday.

What's next?

Parliament as whole will vote on the discharges during its plenary session in May. The rapporteurs are Inés Ayala Sender (S&D, ES) for the EU institutions and Monica Luisa Macovei (EPP, RO) for the agencies.

2. AN IMPORTANT VICTORY

Conflicts of interests within the EU agencies: Corinne Lepage welcomes postponement of fiscal discharge of budget

Brussels, March 27 2012

After the vote, Corinne Lepage, MEP, said:

"By voting against discharges of EMA and the EFSA, the European Parliament sends a strong signal: European agencies must immediately put an end to conflicts of interest that undermine democracy, their work and credibility of European decisions. agencies have begun this work, we now expect to demonstrate a more demanding. They must define measures much stringency with controls and sanctions, to prevent private interests influence their work to serve the public interest.

I welcome more of this result that it has been two years since I voted against these discharges and I call for a reform of European expertise. I salute the courage and the lucidity of the rapporteur, Mrs Macovei (EPP), who understood that addressing conflicts of interest, it was not harmful to our agencies, but on the contrary strengthen the foundations of their credibility, and create conditions of confidence of our citizens towards European expertise. "

The Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament today voted for a postponement of the discharge budget of the European Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the European Aviation Environment Agency (EEA).

All amendments co-authored by members Corinne Lepage, Sonia Alfano, Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE) and Bart Staes (Greens), were adopted. The amendments aimed to improve the procedures for checking conflicts of interest within the EMEA and EFSA. They also asked EFSA to consider a conflict of interest in participation in a panel of experts affiliated with the industry through participation in ILSI (International Institute of Life Sciences, group scientific lobby funded by industry), and felt that the product evaluation and development of evaluation methods should not be based only on data provided by the manufacturers themselves, but take into account the scientific literature independent .

Contact: Francois Damerval, parliamentary assistant, +33 (6) 63 88 58 44

3. INDEPENDENCE OF EFSA'S GMO RISK ASSESSMENTS CHALLENGED

CEO, March 21 2012

http://www.corporateeurope.org/pressreleases/2012/independence-efsas-gmo-risk-assessment-challenged

*Complaint filed with the EU Ombudsman

Munich/ Brussels - Testbiotech supported by Corporate Observatory Europe (CEO), is today filing a new complaint with the EU Ombudsman questioning the independence of the chair of the panel of experts tasked with assessing the risk of new genetically engineered plants entering the European Union [1].

Harry Kuiper has chaired the GMO Panel at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) since 2003 but has also maintained strong ties with International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) including taking part in a task force led by a Monsanto employee. ILSI is funded by the food and agrochemical industry and Kuipers work on the task force was alongside staff from Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, Dupont and Syngenta, all of which produce genetically engineered plants.

Testbiotech research has shown that the work of this ILSI task force has directly influenced Kuiper's work at EFSA [2]. Kuiper is expected to leave the GMO panel within the next few months as he comes to the end of his term.

Christoph Then of Testbiotech said: 'We urgently need more clarity. Harry Kuiper has been involved in each and every case of risk assessment of genetically engineered plants since the start of EFSA. The public has a right to know if consumers and the environment were really protected in the best possible way.'

Nina Holland from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) added: "Harry Kuiper's position as a chair of the GMO Panel is a clear case of a conflict of interests. This raises important questions about the decisions made while he was chair and we want the Ombudsman to investigate this."

EFSA recently introduced new rules to improve its independence, which has been welcomed by many observers [3]. But Testbiotech and CEO remain concerned that the problem of widespread conflicts of interest has not been solved. A number of EFSA experts have strong ties to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and EFSA has not taken action to remedy this.

The EU Ombudsman has already upheld another complaint concerning the former head of the GMO unit at EFSA, Suzy Renckens who went through the 'revolving doors' to work as a lobbyist for the biotech industry [4]. In December 2011, the Ombudsman came up with a first recommendation stating that, 'EFSA should acknowledge that it failed to observe the relevant procedural rules.' It was Renckens that at her time at EFSA was responsible for overseeing conflicts of interest in the GMO panel, and who should have acted on the case of Harry Kuiper.

Contacts:Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), ceonina@corporateeurope.org, Tel. +32 (0)2 893 0930, Mobile: +31 (0) 6 302 85 042 , www.corporateeurope.org

Christoph Then, Testbiotech, info@testbiotech.org, Tel. + 4915154638040, www.testbiotech.org

Notes:

[1] Letter to the Ombudsman:http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/Testbiotech%20letter%20to%...

The complaint: http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/Testbiotech%20complaint%20...

[2] Testbiotech report 'European Food Safety Authority: A playing field for the biotech industry', http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/EFSA_Playing_Field_of_ILSI...

See also: Corporate Europe Observatory Report: 'Conflicts on the menu - A decade of industry influence at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)', http://www.corporateeurope.org/publications/conflicts-menu

[3] EFSA information on the interpretation of the new rules on independence indicates that experts would be allowed to be involved in ILSI actvities, except 'if the subject matter of the taskforce or working group included any advice or development of assessment methods for regulated products or substances, that would be considered as activity V.B (ad hoc or occasional consultancy)'. Activities in this category (current or historic) are not allowed for panel chairs and vice-chairs; and current activities are not allowed for regular panel members. Kuiper's activities for the ILSI biotech taskforce is unlikely to have been allowed as this taskforce promoted concepts relevant for GMO risk assessment.

[4] The case of Suzy Renckens and the previous case of the EU Ombudsman: http://www.testbiotech.org/en/independence