José Julio Ortega-Calvo, Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

Since my last update, many activities related to communication between the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and its academic stakeholders (ACADs) (academic refers here to “science” and includes, according to EFSA, scientific organizations like SETAC Europe), have occurred or are about to start. Perhaps the most imminent one is the “Workshop on Risk Assessment Methodology,” which will take place on 14 March 2019 in Brussels. The venue for the workshop is the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Rue du Trône, 62, Bruxelles 1050, Belgium. The objectives of the workshop, organized by EFSA with ACADs, are to provide a forum for the exchange of views on EFSA’s latest work and to gather stakeholder input on future initiatives related to risk assessment methodologies. The workshop program has been designed as a one-day event, where each of three specific but interconnected topics will be presented by two leading keynote speakers, followed by a group discussion and a final wrap-up session. The three topics are:

  1. How to design studies for use in risk assessment
  2. Risk assessment of genetically modified organisms
  3. Risk assessment of pesticides

The workshop is open to participants coming from universities, research institutes, and learned and scientific societies. Due to the maximum capacity of the meeting room, the workshop will be able to accommodate up to 60 participants. The registration link will be launched soon by EFSA, and interested members from any sector at SETAC Europe are welcome to email me  or Roel Evens, SETAC Europe Scientific Project Manager, for further details.

In the meantime, EFSA’s second annual Stakeholder Forum, held on 20 November 2018 in Brussels, brought together more than 60 representatives of stakeholder organizations, a 20 percent increase over last year’s attendance. The forum was attended by representatives of the European Commission (EC), EFSA’s Management Board and EFSA staff. The one-day event enabled an exchange of views on the authority’s ongoing work and plans. This year’s program was co-designed with registered stakeholders, building on the previous Stakeholder Forum and on input from the meetings of the Stakeholder Bureau held in April and October 2018. The plenary session focused on the ongoing initiatives relevant to EFSA’s future work, touching on topics such as the current review of the EU Food Law and the European Commission proposal for a regulation on transparency and sustainability of the risk assessment process, the recommendations from EFSA’s Management Board following the latest external evaluation, and preliminary outcomes from the Scientific Conference 2018. The five workshop topics included data sharing, communicating uncertainties, transparency and open data in risk assessment, the future of data, and regulatory science and innovation. The many possibilities for interactions with our SETAC community on these topics can be found on the 2018 Forum report and presentations.

Finally, another set of very interesting face-to-face communications arose as a result of the current discussions on future developments in food safety at EFSA and the EC. These discussions build upon a foresight study published by the EC in the Joint Research Centre (JRC) Science for Policy Report “Delivering on EU Food Safety and Nutrition in 2050 – Future challenges and policy preparedness.” Four exploratory scenarios developed by the JRC in 2015 were considered relevant as a reference for EFSA’s and the EC’s strategic scanning. The scenarios – global food, regional food, partnership food and pharma food – were developed based on 10 key drivers for food safety and nutrition based on an extensive literature review and expert workshops. The four scenarios represent four divergent directions for the EU, while the reality may combine elements from these different scenarios. These highly stimulatory discussions, held in a couple of well-organized winter workshops in Parma and Brussels, allowed creative thinking on how to follow possible changes in the environment-agriculture-food-diet-health connections. The holistic approaches, which are already being applied in these discussions, will certainly make SETAC science relevant in this area.

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