Food watchdog forced out over links to GM firms
EU watchdog forced out over links to 'Frankenstein food' firms
Daily Mail, 10 May 2012
A senior EU watchdog has been ordered to resign over her links to the 'Frankenstein Food' industry.
Diana Banati was chairman of the management board of the European Food Safety Authority, which is responsible for vetting GM crops and food.
The authority has asked Professor Banati to step down with immediate effect because of her association with the International Life Sciences Institute.
The institute is financed by food industry giants including several involved in developing GM crops, such as Monsanto and Bayer.
Critics say the organisation lobbies governments and health organisations to support policies that favour the interests of its corporate sponsors.
Green campaigners are demanding that any decisions made by EFSA to approve GM crops and food in recent years should be revoked pending further investigation.
Professor Banati, who is Hungarian, has faced questions about her impartiality since her association with ILSI was raised by green campaigners last July.
The professor had failed to ensure that her connections to ILSI, specifically that she had been a member of the American organisation’s board, were clearly declared.
At the time, EFSA stood by the professor and attacked what it said were 'unfounded attacks on the independence of the EFSA and its Chair'.
However, yesterday, the watchdog said they had asked the professor to resign with immediate effect amid concerns about EFSA’s independence and the importance of maintaining public trust in its decisions.
The decision came after it emerged that the professor plans to take up a full-time post with ILSI, which is based in Washington.
As such, she will be using the expertise and contacts gained from working for the EU body to help GM giants and other food industry companies influence policy across the world.
EFSA said: 'Upon request of EFSA, Diána Bánáti has resigned on May 8 as member and Chair of the Management Board, effective immediately.
'She has decided to take up a professional position at the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) which is not compatible with her role as member and Chair of the EFSA Management Board.'
It pointed to the organisation's code of conduct which 'obliges all members to consider possible public perception, in all facets of their professional and private life, in particular with regard to any activities which could raise doubts about their independence'.
It added: 'The Code of Conduct stipulates that, given the public character of their function, members shall conduct themselves in a way that maintains and promotes the public's trust in the Authority.'
The EFSA insisted that Professor Banati has had no influence or control over the organisation's decision on food or crop safety issues.
However, campaigner Jonathan Matthews from GM Watch said: 'She should have been removed from her position at EFSA some time ago.
'It has been known for a very long time that she had connections to the GM industry and the wider food industry through ILSI.
'It is a clear conflict of interest and she should not have been in this key position at EFSA.' The Green group of MEPs in the European parliament welcomed the professor's departure.
Green MEP José Bové said: 'The clear conflict of interest in Ms Bánáti's role with ILSI made her position as EFSA chair completely inappropriate and untenable. Against this background, resignation was the only option and we only regret that it has taken so long for the agency to come to its senses.
'Given the sensitive nature of EFSA's work, especially as regards the authorisation of GM organisms, the need for the independence of its staff and board is essential.
'The presence of key staff and board members with direct links to the food industry is not acceptable. Ms Bánáti's resignation is a first step to cleaning up the agency.'
ILSI denies being an industry lobbying body. It describes itself as a 'non-profit, worldwide organisation whose mission is to provide science that improves public health and well-being.'
Professor Banati could not be contacted for a comment.