A pilot project to enhance participation of stakeholders in EFSA’s scientific work has been launched successfully at a workshop on allergenicity. The workshop, held in Brussels in June, marked the start of the development of a guidance document to clarify the allergenicity assessment of proteins in genetically modified (GM) plants.
As part of this pilot project, a newly created stakeholder focus group will contribute to the development of the guidance document. The group is made up of four representatives of the EFSA stakeholder platform and four representatives of Member States who all have expertise in relevant scientific areas.
The pilot focus group is a consultative body. It will provide input on the development of the allergenicity guidance document, but not participate in the drafting, which remains the responsibility of the Panel of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). It is the first time that stakeholders’ feedback is being solicited this early in the process, and comes even before EFSA experts have started writing the guidance document. The group will provide its contributions throughout the entire drafting process. The creation and engagement of the focus group is part of EFSA’s commitment to further develop its approaches towards transparency and engagement in risk assessment.
Both EFSA and its stakeholders believe this new approach will result in a guidance document that is of high quality, enhanced clarity and easier to use. The pilot focus group will share its feedback with EFSA at the end of the project to help the organisation draw lessons for future engagement with its stakeholders.
Updated guidance on allergenicity
The allergenicity assessment of proteins is a key area of the risk assessment of GM plants. It is also relevant for other areas of EFSA’s work such as food enzymes, feed enzymes and novel food.
The guidance document will consider new scientific findings and technical advances in the area of allergenicity assessment since the current guidance was published in 2011. Participants at the workshop discussed new methodologies in allergenicity assessment processes; the need to further standardise and harmonise test conditions in studies on these evaluations; and requirements to assess changes in the inherent allergenicity of a GM plant.
Positive reactions to pilot project
The pilot project was well-received by EFSA stakeholders. Discussions at the workshop were lively and participants welcomed more opportunities to exchange views on the various topics of interest.
No decisions were taken at the meeting as it was just the start of the work on the allergenicity guidance, said the member of EFSA’s allergenicity working group Martinus Lovik. He added, “The working group feels it is a very good beginning because of all the valuable information, ideas and opinions that we shared."
The guidance document on allergenicity is planned to be finalised by the end of 2016.
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