EFSA pesticide panel infiltrated by industry insiders, according to new report

Sunday, March 02, 2014 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: EFSA pesticide panel, industry insiders, cumulative risk assessment

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(NaturalNews) A report by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe reveals how the pesticide industry has infiltrated global environmental regulatory bodies and sabotaged efforts to research the chemicals' toxic effects.

The report focuses on the pesticide panel of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and its failure to implement a 2005 order from the European Commission to start investigating the health effects of mixtures of different pesticides, a practice known as cumulative risk assessment (CRA).

Although pesticides have historically been tested and regulated as single chemicals, people are actually exposed to mixtures of many pesticides over the course of a single day. According to Hans Muilerman, chemicals coordinator for PAN Europe, 26 percent of all fruits and vegetables sold on the European market contain residues of more than a single pesticide.

"So if you ate an apple in the morning with three pesticides, strawberries in the afternoon with five pesticides and tomatoes in the evening with four pesticides, you are exposed to a toxic mixture," Muilerman wrote for "And this exposure comes on top of exposure to more chemicals from cosmetics, plastics and through air pollution."

Industry Infiltration

Although the EFSA was ordered to move toward CRA in 2005, the agency has yet to act on this directive. This delay was the impetus behind the new PAN Europe report, titled "A Poisonous Injection: How Industry Tries to Water Down the Risk Assessment of Pesticide Mixtures in Everyday Food."

"Eight years after the EU mandated such risk assessments for pesticide residues in food, EFSA still fails to carry them out, leaving consumers and citizens unprotected against the harms of mixtures of pesticides in food," the report reads.

"We wondered how it was possible that EFSA neglected its mission to protect people's health for so many years," Muilerman wrote. "We learned that massive infiltration by industry linked academics within the authority's scientific panels was the main cause."

The researchers found that, within the pesticide panel of the World Health Organization (WHO), 73 percent of all members were tied to the pesticide industry and had conflicts of interest but did not disclose those links before accepting seats on the panel. Yet none of these panelists were active researchers, as would be expected on a science-based panel.

By outnumbering all impartial panelists, the industry-linked panelists were easily able to prevent the panel from taking action on CRA, the report says. Of the authors of the WHO's final pesticide framework, five out of six had strong ties to the pesticide industry.

The situation was similar within the EFSA's pesticides panel, where only 22 percent of panelists were active researchers. Yet the majority (52 percent) had industry ties, and 19 percent had a formal relationship with the International Life Sciences Institute, an industry lobbying group. These panelists encouraged a pre-existing tendency among older experts and civil servants to being aversive to changing the way that pesticide testing had always been done, leading to a lack of action on the CRA directive.

In 2011, the EFSA ordered the panel to take CRA seriously. In 2012, it disbanded the panel due to "lack of significant progress."

Yet the EFSA has not learned the lesson of this fiasco, PAN Europe warns. The agency is now collaborating with the EU's Acropolis research program, which has also been infiltrated by the pesticide industry.

"There is a lack of professionalism within EFSA and a lack of awareness on scientific integrity," Muilerman reports. "We have proposed that EFSA should... put in place a 'science integrity officer' whose job is to change the culture at the agency, and restore independent science by involving independent scientists."

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