Scientific Network for Plant Health Risk Assessment meets in Parma

EFSA’s Scientific Network for Risk Assessment in Plant Health met for the first time in October in Salsomaggiore Terme near Parma to discuss pertinent issues in pest risk assessment on a national and European level. The aim of the network, a new platform for cooperation between EFSA and national plant health authorities, is to exchange views on improving data collection and harmonising pest risk assessment across the European Union. The participants discussed possible areas for cooperation, including sharing on-going pest risk assessment activities, identifying emerging risks and other priorities in the area of plant health.

The meeting brought together plant health experts from EU Member States and Norway, observers from Turkey, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia and representatives of the European Commission, Plant Health Panel members and EFSA staff. It gave EFSA an opportunity to give an overview of its activities, including an update on current risk assessment work. The European Commission also presented the outcome of the recent evaluation study of the EU plant health legislation.

Network members agreed that environmental threats posed by exotic plants and plant pests were among the most pertinent issues in plant health and they welcomed EFSA’s initiative to create a plant health guidance document for environmental risk assessment. EFSA is developing new guidancewhich will help evaluate the impact of plant pests on biodiversity. The draft guidance will be published for public consultation in mid-2011 with the final document available by the end of 2011.

The Chair of the EFSA Plant Health Panel, Mike Jeger, and the Head of EFSA’s Emerging Risks Unit Tobin Robinson told the network that EFSA would begin regular screening for emerging issues in the area of plant health next year. An emerging issue to plant health is a risk resulting from a newly identified pest or a known plant pest that might spread in new areas . The screening process will include monitoring changes in exposure to known plant pests, changes in agricultural practices, spread of known pests to new countries or the introduction of new routes for movement of plants and plant products.

To explore this issue further EFSA will hold a scientific colloquium on emerging issues in plant health in June 2011 focusing on such factors as international trade in commodities and genetic variation in plants and plant pests.

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