by Jemima Roberts and Tom Levitt
26 October, 2010
The credibility of the chair of the EU's food safety body
questioned after it emerged she had links with companies involved
with GM crops
Questions raised over why European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
chair Diana Banati failed to make clear her connections to
International Life Science Institute (ILSI), which advises biotech
Monsanto, Bayer and BASF
A key figure in charge of food safety within the EU has been forced
to quit her director role at a pro-GM group.
European Green MEPs had called for EFSA chair Diana Banati's
resignation after she had failed to disclose her seat on the board
of directors of the International Life Science Institute (ILSI),
which advises biotech corporations including Monsanto, Bayer and
However, she has been re-elected as chair of the European food
safety watchdog after EFSA confirmed she had resigned from
‘positions which may create a potential conflict of interest'.
Campaigners said her links were 'unbelievable' and brought into
question both the judgment of the EFSA’s senior management and the
impartiality of the organization as a whole.
‘The fact that the chair of the EFSA’s management board massaged her
CV to dissimulate her role in an industry funded organization which
advises biotech corporations like Monsanto, Bayer and BASF is
another nail in the coffin of EFSA’s credibility,' said Greenpeace
EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero.
Jonathan Matthews from GMWatch said she should have resigned from
EFSA rather than been re-elected. ‘She no longer has any
credibility’, he said. ‘ILSI is backed by the world’s largest food
and tobacco corporations, including Monsanto; the World Health
Organization (WHO) has
harshly criticized it over its lobbying
activities and has even restricted its WHO access’.
public statement EFSA admitted ‘the communication on potential
conflict of interests lacked clarity’ but said it ‘deplores the
unfounded attacks on the independence of the EFSA and its Chair’
emphasizing that the role of Chair does not equate to a ‘management
However, this is not the first time that the integrity of the EFSA
has been called into question.
A 2004 Greenpeace report, ‘The
European Food Safety Authority: Failing Consumers and the
Environment’ questioned the rigor of its scientific research into
GM, concluding that,
‘the criticisms of the old regulatory framework,
of poor quality data and lack of investigation of irregularities and
departures from substantial equivalence are still valid.’
In the UK, environment minister Caroline Spelman was recently
criticized for her past connections to Spelman, Cormack and
Associates, a food and biotechnology lobbying company she set up
with her husband.
She has since stated her support for GM.
A joint Greenpeace and
Avaaz petition calling for a ban on the
introduction of GM crops into Europe and the setting up of an
independent, ethical, scientific body to research the impact of GM
crops and determine regulation has received more than one million
signatures of support.