European Food Conflicts (Of Interest) Will Force Parliament Vote

ScienceInsider brings the latest word in the struggles over European research conflicts of interest.  In May, the European Parliament voted to postpone the discharge of accounts for three European science agencies, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The EFSA must, by law, be reviewed by an external auditor every few years.  The latest review, covering 2006-2010 (but extended to include a December 2011 policy on agency independence), was recently released by the auditing firm Ernst and Young.  The EFSA press release doesn’t address conflicts of interest policies directly, but highlight’s the auditor’s findings that the agency has an “advanced and robust systems in place for ensuring independence.”  While the report does not see a need for major changes in procedures or governance, it does indicate (page 12) that EFSA needs more transparency and additional communication concerning (among other things) “screening procedures and decisions on conflicts of interest.”

As you might guess, the lawmakers that encouraged the vote to delay discharge are not pleased.  Monica Macovei is quoted by ScienceInsider indicating she would encourage a further no vote on discharging the accounts for EFSA in November.  Between now and then, the EFSA Management Board will review the findings, and a separate conference in Parma will be held in November to discuss the auditors’ report.  I am trying to learn what would happen should the agency (or any of the others subject to the delay vote from May) fail to win discharge of its accounts.  I would expect some people get fired, but I need to learn more.

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