EFSA discusses environmental impact of GM plants with stakeholders

As part of its commitment to regular open dialogue, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) held a series of meetings with representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and GM applicants on 28 and 29 September in order to discuss draft updated guidelines for the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) of Genetically Modified (GM) plants.

Recognising the specific interests of NGOs and GM applicants in the field of environmental safety assessment, EFSA will take into consideration their comments in the finalisation of the guidelines, which will be published together with a report on the public consultation by the end of 2010.

In order to assess the safety of a GM plant submitted for authorisation in the EU, EFSA requires applicants to follow a set of mandatory guidelines which specify the type of data and information they should submit. The ERA guidelines, which are the result of more than two years’ work by scientists from all over Europe, cover specifically data requirements to assess the safety of GM plants for the environment. The guidelines also include a specific section on possible effects of GM plants on the so-called non-target organisms, those insects which are not meant to be the target of the toxin produced by some GM plants.

EFSA holds regular open dialogue with its stakeholders on the development of its scientific work. In December 2008, the Environment Council concluded that the implementation of the EU legal framework for GMOs should be reinforced. In line with these conclusions, EFSA had already initiated in 2007 a series of technical discussions to bring together EFSA’s GMO experts, stakeholders and technical experts from the EU Member States.

The draft version of the ERA guidelines was launched for public consultation earlier this year and received 494 comments. Further discussions with Member States were held in Berlin in June this year to ensure that their views would also be taken into consideration. Representatives of the 18 countries at the meeting agreed that EFSA’s updated ERA guidelines represented a significant step forward in GM plant environmental risk assessment.

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