International Life Sciences Institute

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The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is a nonprofit [501c3][1][2] science organization founded in 1978 and headquartered in Washington, DC. It is a member organization whose members are primarily food and beverage, agricultural, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies.[3] According to its 2009 annual report,[4] 68% of its revenue comes from member support; 17% from grants and contributions; and the balance from publications, conference registration, and other sources.

ILSI is a global organization with 16 branches that operate at the global, regional, or country-specific level. These include ILSI Argentina; ILSI Brazil; ILSI Europe; ILSI Focal Point in China; the ILSI Health & Environmental Sciences Institute; ILSI-India; ILSI Japan; ILSI Korea; ILSI Mexico; ILSI North Africa and Gulf Region; ILSI North America; ILSI North Andean; ILSI South Africa; ILSI South Andean; ILSI Southeast Asia Region; and ILSI Taiwan.

It also includes the ILSI Research Foundation, which, unlike the branches, does not have members.

According to ILSI’s bylaws,[5] 51% of its Board of Trustees must come from the public sector, primarily universities. The balance of trustees is elected from its membership.

Mission and Science[edit]

According to its website,[6] ILSI’s mission is to “improve public health and well-being by engaging academic, government, and industry scientists in a neutral forum to advance scientific understanding in the areas related to nutrition, food safety, risk assessment, and the environment.” It further identifies “Four Global Issues” of specific interest which are: biotechnology; functional foods; obesity; and risk assessment. ILSI conducts original research, publishes research, and organizes scientific conferences to achieve its mission.

Tobacco Controversy, Industry Funding, and Integrity in Science[edit]

A 2001 editorial article in British Medical Journal[7] further claimed ILSI received money from tobacco industry throughout the period 1983 to 1998. In the article, ILSI denied accusations it sought to undermine tobacco control efforts. It further noted the infrequent symposia and publications sponsored on inhalation toxicology in the 1980s only tangentially addressed cigarette smoke. In these instances, ILSI addressed the effects of second-hand smoke.

For example, in the 1989 ILSI Monograph Assessment of Inhalation Hazards,[8] three of 33 chapters address tobacco. Two of those papers show unequivocally that second hand smoke has adverse effects on respiratory infection and lung function, especially in children[9] and that epidemiological data show a “statistically significant increase in lung cancer risk of about 40%” for nonsmokers married to smokers.[10] The third article did not address risk per se, but rather compares the strengths and weakness of study designs for assessing risk.[11]

ILSI is aware its funding raises questions about the neutrality of its science. The North American branch of ILSI (ILSI North America) initiated a Conflict of Interest project which resulted in simultaneous publication of the article “Funding Food Science and Nutrition Research: Financial Conflicts and Scientific Integrity” in full or excerpted in six peer-reviewed journals.[12] The article outlines eight ground rules to ensure the integrity of industry-supported science.

Notes and references[edit]