Strengthening the scientific co-operation between EFSA and the EU Member States in the risk assessment of GMOs

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) convened today a meeting with scientific representatives from the 25 European Union (EU) Member States, Switzerland and Norway in Brussels to discuss how to strengthen scientific co-operation in the risk assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). EFSA gave a detailed overview of its present risk assessment and consultation process and discussed together with the delegates how the Member States could be further involved in the future. EFSA also expressed its continued commitment to clear communications on the scientific assumptions underlying its GMO risk assessments.

EFSA’s role with respect to the European legislative framework for GMOs is limited to carrying out scientific risk assessment and providing scientific advice on GMOs. EFSA invited the national experts to discuss concerns raised by some of the Member States recently about certain aspects of the GMO risk assessment process. At the meeting, EFSA explained how it takes Member States’ views into consideration and discussed how input from Member States could be addressed in a more visible way in its opinions. It was also agreed that EFSA would describe in more detail the scientific rationale underlying its risk assessments. Also covered during the meeting were the assessment of long-term effects, EFSA’s “own-initiative” work in the GMO area such as environmental risk assessment and post market environmental monitoring of GMOs[1] .

Dr Herman Koëter, Acting Executive Director of EFSA said: “We are very happy to meet with Member State experts, share views and receive input on the GMO risk assessment process. EFSA is already co-operating with Member States and since its establishment has developed specific tools and processes to maximize their input. We listened carefully to what Member States had to say today and I am glad that we agreed to meet on a regular basis and discuss GMO scientific issues, including long-term studies and the environmental safety aspects of GMOs.”

The Authority discussed with Member States the possibility of making stronger use of its Advisory Forum[2] (made up of Member State representatives) and using the procedure provided for in EFSA’s Founding Regulation[3] (Article 30) should any substantive divergences in opinion between EFSA and the Member States arise in the future. EFSA discussed with Member State experts the already existing co-operation in the risk assessment process[4] and offered to further strengthen collaboration and to look at new ways of involvement. EFSA was particularly interested in engaging more actively with scientific experts from advisory bodies at the national level.

[1] EFSA’s guidelines for applicants on the Post-market environmental monitoring plan of GMOs provide for the on-going monitoring of authorised GMOs to detect any unanticipated adverse effect on the environment.
[2] EFSA's Advisory Forum
[3] Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002
[4] Examples include: Input and direct consultation of all Member States on individual GMO dossiers via EFSAnet – a dedicated extranet between EFSA and Member States and the exchange of information related to Environmental Risk Assessment of GMOs to be cultivated which has to be carried out by a Member State.

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