José Julio Ortega-Calvo, Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology, CSIC, Spain

As a member of the Stakeholder Bureau (SB) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), appointed by SETAC Europe, I have had a first-hand opportunity to witness EFSA’s efforts for building and maintaining confidence with academic stakeholders (ACADs). The EFSA defines an “academic” broadly; referring to a “scientific body,” which includes organizations like SETAC Europe. Their engagement has been evident to us by the involvement of EFSA in a variety of key SETAC activities. For example, Bernhard Url, EFSA Executive Director, was a keynote speaker at the SETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting held in Rome this year to talk about “Food Safety in a Complex Changing World.” Contributions by EFSA employees, such as Angelo Maggiore were reflected in in the scientific program of the Rome meeting, and we have welcomed the participation of Mark Egsmose, Scientific Officer at the Pesticides Unitof EFSA, in the SETAC Europe Council. The interactions were also facilitated by the reclassification by EFSA, communicated in February 2018, of SETAC Europe as a food safety organization in accordance to its independence rules.

The dialogue that began last year at this EFSA SB platform is also an excellent opportunity for SETAC Europe communication strategies to interact more closely with the other scientific organizations and representatives of the other six stakeholder categories constituting the Bureau (consumers, NGOs, farmers, business and food industry, distributors and practitioners). The representative role on the SB consists on capturing the views of the stakeholders in this category, which includes different scientific organizations, in addition to SETAC Europe, covering a wide variety of interests, such as nutrition, animal welfare, research and innovation, social and environmental responsibility, and chemistry and its related fields.

This year, we have maintained the communication within ACADs through conference calls, organized by SETAC Europe staff Roel Evens, who serves as scientific secretary for this activity. On the calls, we discuss the different communication aspects, including the program for the EFSA’s Stakeholder Forum 2018 and a workshop on improvement of risk assessment and research methodologies, to be organized jointly by EFSA and ACADs. This active communication has allowed us to bring a consolidated view to the SB meetings, the last one was recently held on 17 October in Brussels.

In relation to the Forum 2018, ACADs agreed to a series of approaches and topics described in the proposed program, which was discussed in that last SB meeting. The program for this one-day interactive conference, to be organized on 20 November 2018 in Brussels, will include a plenary session and three parallel breakout sessions. Up to 112 participants are expected, representing EFSA registered stakeholder organizations. The Forum is chaired by the EFSA Executive Director and attended by the Chair of the Management Board of EFSA. The topics for discussion at the Forum will cover a wide variety of issues with the final goal of providing stakeholders with a better understanding of EFSA’s scientific decision-making processes and to improve the quality of EFSA’s scientific outputs. They will include data sharing, use of guidance documents, communicating uncertainties, transparency and engagement in risk assessment (RA), future of data and RA research priorities.

At the October meeting, the EFSA and ACADs also agreed to organize a workshop in February 2019. The main objective of the workshop is to provide EFSA with ways to improve the scientific quality of the methods of risk assessment and risk research used or allowed by EFSA in its assessment of risks in the food chain and the environment. By taking advantage of EFSA’s policy for active engagement and cooperation with stakeholders, the workshop provides an opportunity for EFSA academic stakeholders to present examples where methods and protocols can be improved through state-of-the-art scientific approaches. As a starting point, the workshop will be based on the original idea presented through SB by one of the academic representatives. The idea was initially discussed at the 2nd Meeting of the EFSA Stakeholder Bureau, held 18 April in Brussels, where it was agreed to put it forward. At this workshop, we will also build upon the EFSA Scientific Conference, which was held from 18–21 September in Parma, Italy. The workshop program has been designed for one day, 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 tentative topics are 1) data quality and design of risk assessment studies, 2) risk assessment of genetically modified plants, and 3) risk assessment of pesticides and other organic chemicals.

Author’s contact information: jjortega@irnase.csic.es

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