Buitoni, Kinder… Food scandals are emerging in recent weeks. Given this, the agri-food lobbies are waking up, while a “food security police” will be created under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture. This morning, Daniel Benamouzig, author of an investigation on the subject, was Apolline Matin’s guest on RMC and RMC Story.
In the face of food scandals, beware of lobbies! This is the warning of Daniel Benamouzig, sociologist, CNRS researcher and author of Lobbyists on the menu, agri-food companies against public health (Editions Raison d’agir), guest this morning of Apolline Matin on RMC and RMC Story. The Sciences Po professor believes that the consumer, when shopping, is “at the center of an information battle to make (his) choices of him.”
The sociologist speaks of “a permanent, long war, with battles, like during the establishment of nutriscore, with soldiers, divisions” between the different lobbies and the rulers. Objective: to be able to show one’s own truth about the products, the packaging where “manufactured”, “transformed”, “produced” in France can confuse the clues and where the composition of the products can go from the simplest to the most complex. to decipher for the consumer.
Lobbying at the heart of politics
For the lobbies and in particular the industrialists of the sector, there are several ways to act to win the battle of opinion and first of all by going to work with the politicians. Daniel Benamouzig says that lobbyists make themselves present to politicians “with meetings, meals, clubs.” This is how clubs were born in the National Assembly, such as “the French table club, with one hundred member deputies, the pig’s friends club or a club called Vive le foie gras!”.
“Why not defend the interests of certain products from certain sectors, but how do you strike a balance between the interests of consumers and economic interests?” asks the holder of the Chair of Health at Sciences Po Paris.
This is how, working in politics, some lobbyists reach positions of responsibility. Audrey Borollo, general delegate of the Vins et société association, a very influential organization in the world of wine, has been appointed agricultural adviser to Emmanuel Macron. “It is a regrettably ordinary mechanism. These are things that we observe at all scales”, explains the research director of the Center for the Sociology of Organizations.
Another decision favorable to the lobbies according to Daniel Benamouzig, the decision made this week by Bercy to abandon food safety controls in favor of the Ministry of Agriculture. “A priori, the Ministry of Agriculture is usually more porous to economic interests,” says Daniel Benamouzig. “From the point of view of health, the balances between (the ministries of) Agriculture and Health are at the expense of health issues. That (and transfer) is a source of vigilance to have”, considers the sociologist.
>>> To also read: Bercy abandons food safety controls at the Ministry of Agriculture
Infiltrated in scientific journals
Lobbyists are also present in scientific journals. Agri-food companies finance certain articles in prestigious journals and can thus influence the scientific debate. “Upstairs, there is a work of building knowledge by financing certain investigations, extracting favorable results and communicating them”, explains Daniel Benamouzig.
There is also another way of influencing scientific research, for agri-food groups, not contributing research but trying to destabilize research that is unfavorable to them: “Lobbies cannot contribute positive elements either, but try to weaken the negative arguments that others bring. Yes ( a group) has difficulties, they will try to show that the studies are not so reliable, that it has only been shown in animals but not in man, etc. A way to stop scientific progress to preserve their interests.