Diana Bánáti: I was not pushed by “disrespectful and injurious” EFSA

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

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Diana Bánáti: I was not pushed by “disrespectful and injurious” EFSA
Diána Bánáti, the recently resigned chair of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) management board, says she was not forced to depart by the Parma-based agency’s hierarchy – rather resigning herself after taking a new industry post.

Annoyed at EFSA’s statement that she was forced out, Bánáti (pictured) has written an open letter defending her independent parting from an agency she describes as, “disrespectful and injurious” ​to her.

“…certain comments made by EFSA and the Commission have forced me to write to you all again,”​ she wrote.

“I believe I acted with integrity and worked hard for the agency during my time as Chair of the EFSA [managing board], and believe the organisation is a valuable and effective one. So it is with great regret and sadness that I now see my integrity being called in to question by the very same organisation I served to the best of ability.”

Bánáti said she called EFSA executive director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, at precisely 11.52 on 8th May”,​ the same day her new post as executive director of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) was finalised.

Her new job was not announced until the next day – Wednesday May 9.

In the call she said she informed Geslain-Lanéelle that due to her new role, “I would be resigning my position as chair and member of the EFSA [managing board] - as well, of course, as my full-time employment post at the Hungarian Ministry of Rural Affairs.”

“disrespectful and injurious”

“Immediately after I had formally signed my contract with ILSI that Tuesday afternoon, I wrote to Catherine and to the MB informing you of my decision and my consequent intention to resign.”

“In other words, the totally correct decision to resign was mine, and at no point was it necessary for either EFSA nor the European Commission to ask me to resign - and nor did they do so, given that I had already informed them of my intentions.”

“I therefore find it disrespectful and injurious for my personal integrity to be questioned, just because I have taken a career decision of which some people may not approve.”

She concluded: “As a result EFSA should respect the free choices of all the scientists of which it has need to do its valuable work, to manage their own careers and make their own choices as they see fit, within the boundaries of effective, rigid and proportionate rules of conduct.”

The incident comes as a European Parliament committee has suggested EFSA’s budget could be slashed, citing potential conflicts of interest among EFSA staff as one grounds for doing so.

Bánáti in September 2010 was herself found not to have declared her membership of the board of directors at ILSI, something that cannot be discounted in EFSA’s own statement that she was forced to resign.

EFSA said working for ILSI was, “not compatible with her role as member and Chair of the EFSA Management Board”.

The parliamentary committee also expressed its disapproval that each meeting of EFSA’s 15-strong management board in 2010 had cost an average of €92,630 – or €6,175 per person.

The amount was nearly three times higher than the second most expensive management board of  a decentralised agency, it said.

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