Over 170 scientists have started their three-year term as experts for eight of EFSA’s scientific Panels and for the Scientific Committee.
Members of four panels gathered at EFSA this week for their inaugural meeting: the Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW), the Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM), the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA), and the Panel on Plant Health (PLH).
About half of all panel members are new to EFSA. Many of them come from universities and research institutes. These highly qualified scientists will help shape EFSA’s work in the next three years and make important contributions to ensuring that food remains safe for Europe’s 500 million consumers.
Member of the NDA Panel
So what motivates scientists to sign up as an EFSA expert? Prof Marco Vinceti, an epidemiologist from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, and a first-time panel expert for the NDA Panel, says: “I am a public health expert and in public health we are always interested in translating scientific knowledge in order to help change life styles and behaviour to prevent diseases.”
Prof Dominique Turck, a paediatrician from the University of Lille, France, is serving his second term as a scientific expert for the NDA Panel. He says: “I enjoyed being an expert during the first term, mostly because I was able to contribute to the scientific work of the Panel. But I also really enjoyed the atmosphere and the conviviality of the Panel.”
The opportunity to apply scientific knowledge to solve problems of general concern is one of the appealing aspects of working at EFSA. “My motivation for re-applying was my belief that science must be able to solve practical problems and not be restricted to a close circle of people,” says Prof Carlo Nebbia, a specialist of veterinary pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Turin, Italy, and an expert at the CONTAM Panel.
Wide range of expertise
Member of the AHAW Panel
EFSA’s mandate is to assess and communicate about all risks associated with the food chain. Its scientific Panels and Scientific Committee are made up of highly qualified specialists who deliver scientific advice across a wide range of fields.
Prof Heather Wallace is a pharmacologist from the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, and a first-time expert for the CONTAM Panel. “My expertise is in carcinogenesis and oncology,” she says. “I work at a Medical School and I have a background in biochemistry, toxicology and pharmacology. So I think I will be able to contribute with my knowledge in these areas.”
Dr Anette Bøtner is an EFSA-veteran, having worked for two previous terms as a scientific expert for the AHAW Panel. She is a virologist from the National Veterinary Institute of the Technical University of Denmark. She says: “I bring with me expertise on different viral infections. I have a broad experience regarding control and prevention of viral infections and that is important for all the risk assessments we are doing".
Gaining expertise and strengthening networks
Member of the AHAW Panel
While panel members contribute a huge amount to EFSA’s work, they also reap many rewards. The chance to gain knowledge, share expertise and expand academic networks is a benefit to all experts.
Member of the PLH Panel
“It is a great opportunity to share knowledge with other scientists and to use our knowledge to improve science in Europe,” says Dr Miguel Angel Miranda, who is an expert in zoology from the University of the Balearic Islands, Spain, and has been working with EFSA’s AHAW Panel before.
Dr Stephen Parnell, an epidemiologist from the University of Salford and first-time member of the PLH Panel, sees his engagement with EFSA also as a great opportunity for networking. Some panel members hope to be able to improve scientific cooperation between EFSA and their home country as, for example, Prof Vinceti who would like to contribute to fostering partnerships between Italy and EFSA in the fields of public health, epidemiology and nutrition.
The other four new scientific Panels of EFSA will meet for the first time next week. Experts for the Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ), the Panel on Additives and Products or Substances Used in Animal Feed (FEEDAP), the Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and the Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR) will gather for their inaugural sessions.
The Scientific Committee is scheduled to have its first plenary meeting on 23 July once all the Chairs of the eight scientific Panels have been elected.