Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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A red light for consumer information

In June, MEPs voted on new legislation on food labelling – determining what nutritional information should be displayed on the packaging of items such as snacks, soft drinks and ready-meals. The vote has been the subject of a major lobby campaign by the food industry, opposed to mandatory information on food packaging. See our update on the voting result: http://www.corporateeurope.org/lobbycracy/blog/nina/2010/06/29/industry-...

A new report by CEO reveals how the Confederation of the food and drink industries of the EU (CIAA) has spent €1 billion opposing proposals for front-of-pack ‘traffic light’ labels – which have a green symbol for healthy options and a red symbol for sugary, fatty and salty foods – in favour of a system based on guideline daily amounts (GDAs), which shows how many calories a ‘portion’ contains as a percentage of an adult’s daily needs. Download the report CIAA has criticised CEO's report and the €1 billion figure. Read an update on that debate on our Brusselssunshine blog.

Health and consumer campaigners argue that such labels are less effective because they rely on an arbitrary notion of a portion, and only reflect adult needs, which are not relevant for children – often the target market for snacks and sweets. They favour the traffic-light label which is much easier to understand for a larger audience and the most socially disadvantaged. But their voices were completely outnumbered by industry’s campaign, which included TV adverts, lunch debates with MEPs, and tons of detailed ‘voting recommendations’ sent to MEPs.

Industry also commissioned two studies to look at consumer perceptions of labels from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), a think tank which is funded by the food industry. The studies focused almost exclusively on industry’s preferred GDA approach and did not compare it with traffic lights to see which scheme provides shoppers with the best information at-a-glance on healthier foods. An independent study in Australia found that people who used traffic light labelling were five times more likely to be able to identify healthier food products than those who saw the single coloured counterpart promoted by industry. In March, the European Parliament’s Environment committee rejected the traffic-light system by 32 to 30 votes and that Committee’s report is due to be discussed and adopted by MEPs next week in Strasbourg.

MEP Carl Schlyter, member of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) is shadow rapporteur on the food labelling dossier for the Greens. In an interview with CEO, he reflects on one of the biggest lobbying battles in Brussels in recent years. Read our interview with MEP Carl Schlyter ‘Hard-core’ lobbying: “voting recommendations” sent to MEPs on food labelling regulation CEO has collected more than twenty e-mails from industry lobbyists with “voting recommendations” for MEPs ahead of the ENVI committee vote, in March 2010, on the ‘Sommer report’ about the new EU regulation on food labelling. Read a sample of e-mails sent to MEPs by lobbyists High time for CIAA to come clean on its lobbying CIAA's €1-billion campaign to promote the GDA labelling system was clearly a key element in its political strategy to combat other, stricter labelling options which it feared would damage sales of unhealthy food, such as the 'traffic light' system. This system was rejected in the European Parliament's plenary vote on 17 June. Read our update (23 June 2010)

In June, MEPs voted on new legislation on food labelling – determining what nutritional information should be displayed on the packaging of items such as snacks, soft drinks and ready-meals. The vote has been the subject of a major lobby campaign by the food industry, opposed to mandatory information on food packaging. See our update on the voting result: http://www.corporateeurope.org/lobbycracy/blog/nina/2010/06/29/industry-...A new report by CEO reveals how the Confederation of the food and drink industries of the EU (CIAA) has spent €1 billion opposing proposals for front-of-pack ‘traffic light’ labels – which have a green symbol for healthy options and a red symbol for sugary, fatty and salty foods – in favour of a system based on guideline daily amounts (GDAs), which shows how many calories a ‘portion’ contains as a percentage of an adult’s daily needs. Download the report CIAA has criticised CEO's report and the €1 billion figure. Read an update on that debate on our Brusselssunshine blog.Health and consumer campaigners argue that such labels are less effective because they rely on an arbitrary notion of a portion, and only reflect adult needs, which are not relevant for children – often the target market for snacks and sweets. They favour the traffic-light label which is much easier to understand for a larger audience and the most socially disadvantaged. But their voices were completely outnumbered by industry’s campaign, which included TV adverts, lunch debates with MEPs, and tons of detailed ‘voting recommendations’ sent to MEPs.Industry also commissioned two studies to look at consumer perceptions of labels from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), a think tank which is funded by the food industry. The studies focused almost exclusively on industry’s preferred GDA approach and did not compare it with traffic lights to see which scheme provides shoppers with the best information at-a-glance on healthier foods. An independent study in Australia found that people who used traffic light labelling were five times more likely to be able to identify healthier food products than those who saw the single coloured counterpart promoted by industry. In March, the European Parliament’s Environment committee rejected the traffic-light system by 32 to 30 votes and that Committee’s report is due to be discussed and adopted by MEPs next week in Strasbourg.MEP Carl Schlyter, member of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) is shadow rapporteur on the food labelling dossier for the Greens. In an interview with CEO, he reflects on one of the biggest lobbying battles in Brussels in recent years. Read our interview with MEP Carl Schlyter ‘Hard-core’ lobbying: “voting recommendations” sent to MEPs on food labelling regulation CEO has collected more than twenty e-mails from industry lobbyists with “voting recommendations” for MEPs ahead of the ENVI committee vote, in March 2010, on the ‘Sommer report’ about the new EU regulation on food labelling. Read a sample of e-mails sent to MEPs by lobbyists High time for CIAA to come clean on its lobbying CIAA's €1-billion campaign to promote the GDA labelling system was clearly a key element in its political strategy to combat other, stricter labelling options which it feared would damage sales of unhealthy food, such as the 'traffic light' system. This system was rejected in the European Parliament's plenary vote on 17 June. Read our update (23 June 2010)
 

This week's European Commission decision to extend Glyphosate's market authorisation points to many broader problems - here is a CEO overview of the issues at large.

The official EU assessment of glyphosate was based on unpublished studies owned by industry. Seven months later, the pesticide industry still fights disclosure and, so far, successfully. We obtained a copy of their arguments.

In recent times we have seen various examples of green activists “coming out” as GMO-proponents, arguing that GMOs are safe and have multiple benefits: reduced pesticide use, higher income for farmers, contributing to food security, reduced greenhouse gas emissions... As an essential part of their discourse, organisations that continue to reject GMO technology are depicted as old-fashioned and as acting in contradiction to their own aims.

Mark Lynas is a well known example of this in the UK, with an (in)famous public apology for his past role in the anti-GM movement that drew a lot of media attention. Lynas' move has been copied by others, like blogger Stijn Bruers in Belgium. This framing of the GMO debate has proven quite attractive to the media, even though it is not always clear why specifically these people are seen to have the credentials to merit this attention.

There are many fundamental flaws in the argumentation they are putting forward. Claire Robinson of GMWatch, at the request of Corporate Europe Observatory, has written a rebuttal of many of the claims made by these newly converted GMO proponents. For practical reasons, this rebuttal follows the argumentation and claims made in an article by Bruers on his blog about GMOs .

On 15 June 2016, the Commission will finally announce the long-awaited scientific criteria for EDCs. Time to do a recap of this last season’s main episodes.

A few weeks after the May coup against Dilma Rousseff by conservative parties backed by the country's largest corporations, Brazil's “interim” government, led by Michel Temer, signed an emergency loan to the State of Rio de Janeiro to help finance infrastructure for the 2016 Olympics. The bailout was conditional to selling off the State's public water supply and sanitation company, the Companhia Estadual de Águas e Esgotos (Cedae). 

When we interviewed City Councillor and chair of Rio’s Special Committee on the Water Crisis Renato Cinco, in December 2015, he was already warning against such privatisation threats and provided important background information on the water situation in Rio.

José Manuel Barroso's move to Goldman Sachs has catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda. It is symbolic of the excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.

Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth and LobbyControl today wrote to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, calling on him to investigate Angelika Nieber MEP over a possible conflict of interest.

CEO presents some first reflections on the UK's vote for Brexit.

 
 
 
 
 
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The corporate lobby tour