Members of the European Food Safety Authority’s Management Board have adopted a number of recommendations following EFSA’s second independent external evaluation to ensure EFSA continues to improve the way it fulfils its responsibilities in providing independent, high quality scientific advice to policymakers across the European Union.
Meeting in Parma, the Board adopted EFSA’s draft Management Plan for 2013 and its draft budget of €78.05 million. EFSA will review planning of its scientific co-operation activities aiming to adopt a more strategic and multiannual approach in line with its Science Strategy. The part of the budget allocated to scientific grants and procurement contracts will increase by €1.3 million to €10.5 million in 2013 to further support EFSA’s cooperation with scientific organisations in Member States. The Board also discussed proposals following an impact indicator review, including for EFSA to work more closely with key stakeholders to better measure the impact on public health in the EU.
After the presentation of EFSA’s Progress Report by Executive Director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, the Board discussed the issue of long-term feeding trials on GMOs and EFSA proposed to further discuss with the European Commission possible solutions to fill research gaps in this area.
“EFSA encourages the European Commission to dedicate research project funding through its DG Research framework programme addressing risk assessment needs, including long-term feeding trials. As part of our on-going commitment to the advancement of research, EFSA is taking the lead in liaison with the relevant directorates-general of the European Commision to ensure this initiative goes forward,” Ms Geslain-Lanéelle said.
Turning to the external evaluation carried out by international consultants Ernst and Young, the Board noted that the report found EFSA to be fulfilling its mandate and acting in an independent and transparent manner, providing high quality scientific advice to underpin European food and feed legislation .
The Board took into account views drawn from a consultation with EFSA’s Scientific Committee, Member State representation on its Advisory Board, EFSA’s Stakeholder Consultative Platform and EFSA staff, as well as discussions on the evaluation held during the High-Level Conference co-organised by EFSA and the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers on 13 November 2012.
The Board identified four priority areas for further action, adopting a number of recommendations, including:
- To ensure long-term sustainability of EFSA’s operations by, for example, optimising the roles of experts, staff and other partner/organisations within the risk assessment process;
- To increase trust by continuing to ensure independence and enhance transparency and openness of its scientific work, for example, through opening up panel meetings; the Board also recommends that the European Commission should consider more involvement of other EU institutions and stakeholders in the framing and formulation of requests for scientific advice from EFSA;
- To further enhance EU risk assessment capacity through strengthened cooperation with Member States, the European Commission and other EU agencies in planning EU work, better priority setting and more efficient use of resources; to this end, EFSA will identify strategic multiannual investment areas for scientific co-operation based on the scientific requirements of both Member States and the Authority;
- To strengthen clarity and accessibility of EFSA communication and seek to better understand public perception of the independence of EFSA’s scientific advice and strengthen dialogue with interested parties on measures undertaken to guarantee the independence of its scientific work.
“Of course, EFSA cannot address some of these recommendations on its own and will need to work with the European Commission, EU institutions, including EU agencies, Member States and other key stakeholders,” Management Board chair Sue Davies said.
“The Management Board is conscious of EFSA’s evolving role since its previous evaluation. It is now a more mature organisation and requests for its advice have become more complex, often requiring multi-disciplinary work across several scientific areas,”
“With this in mind, EFSA will need to place greater emphasis on prioritisation and forward planning with its partners while making sure that it remains committed as ever to ensuring independence and to enhancing the transparency of the scientific risk assessment process,” she added.
The Board said it will monitor the progress of the implementation of the recommendations over the planning and management cycle.
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