Meeting with environmental NGOs and Consumer on GMO
In line with its policy on engaging with organisations with a legitimate interest in EFSA’s work, EFSA invited representatives from NGOs active in the area of GMOs and consumer groups to provide an update on EFSA’s activities. During the meeting, there was an exchange of views on scientific and procedural issues related to EFSA’s work and on EFSA’s advice to risk managers in this field. The meeting took place with Mr Marco Contiero, EU Policy Director Genetic and Engineering, Greenpeace European Unit, Ms Janet Cotter, Senior Scientist, Greenpeace, International Science Unit, Mr Adrian Bebb, Food and Farming campaigner, Friends of the Earth and Ms Maria Luisa Villa, Public Affairs Officer at BEUC (the European Consumers' Organisation). EFSA’s Executive Director, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle chaired the meeting and a number of EFSA staff also attended.
In a constructive atmosphere, the discussions evolved around various aspects of procedural and scientific nature of GMO risk assessment. The following issues were discussed: the transparency of EFSA’s scientific working processes; EFSA initiatives on cooperation with Member States during the risk assessment process (including environmental risk assessment); actions taken by EFSA on the independence of its scientific experts; the incorporation of the latest scientific advances in guidance to applicants; the availability and robustness of scientific data and the involvement of stakeholders. Specific points were raised on how scientific uncertainties are reported in EFSA opinions and on the determination of potential long-term impact on human health and the environment as being part of the risk assessment. In addition, participants also asked for further information on the update to EFSA’s environmental risk assessment guidance for applicants. Amongst others, the current guidance includes sections on the assessment work to be carried out on non-target organisms (that is to say, mainly insects that are not the target of the insect-resistance GM plants, but also other organisms which could be unintentionally affected by a genetic modification of the GMO), the statistical and biological criteria used in its risk assessment, the set-up of field trials. Also discussed was public access to documents and the composition of the broad pool of ad hoc experts the GMO panel is associated with.
At the end of the meeting all participants agreed that in light of the fruitful discussion, it would make sense to continue the dialogue and to envisage a further specific meeting in 2009. Furthermore, it was mentioned that the ongoing efforts of dialogue and consultations with the scientific community and with stakeholders will continue in the future.
During the meeting, participants were provided with an updated version of EFSA’s Frequently Asked Questions on GMOs