Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Unbelievable!

Industry Association Wields Hidden Influence over Key U.S., International Health Safeguards
Corporate Accountability International

The U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and 17 other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are petitioning the World Health Organization (WHO) to cut its official ties to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), an association of major industries they say is exerting improper and undue influence over important health policies. The WHO Executive Board is scheduled to reconsider ILSI's status at a January 23 to 28 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

WHO is an agency of the United Nations that develops international policy and programs for improving global health. Its guidelines governing its relationship with NGOs requires that specific NGOs "be free from concerns which are primarily of a commercial or profit-making nature."

ILSI does not meet that standard. Despite its innocuously sounding name, ILSI's members are large multinational corporations with major financial stakes in WHO decisions--decisions that influence health and environmental policies in the United States and around the globe.

"WHO and other public health agencies risk their scientific credibility and may be compromising public health by partnering with ILSI," the coalition of 18 health, environmental and labor organizations wrote in a December 22, 2005, letter to the WHO Executive Board. "We therefore recommend that WHO sever formal ties with ILS1." (A WHO Executive Board staff member replied to NRDC via email and said that she would not distribute the letter to the board).

At best, ILSI's participation in WHO's decision-making process represents a blatant conflict of interest, according to NRDC. At worst, its participation has biased WHO policies and jeopardized public health in dozens of countries.

ILSI represents several hundred corporations in the chemical, processed food, agro-chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Its membership includes Atofina Chemicals, Bayer CropScience, Coca Cola, Dow Agrosciences/Dow Chemical, DuPont, Eli Lilly, ExxonMobil, General Mills, Glaxo Smith Kline, Hershey Foods, Kellogg, Kraft, McDonald's, Merck & Co. Monsanto, Nestle, Novartis, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Proctor and Gamble, and Syngenta. (For a complete list, go to www.ilsi.org.)

Over the years, ILSI has participated in WHO activities despite its members' obvious special interest in the outcome.

mContinued...

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