EFSA Stakeholder Platform considers plans to bolster public consultations

Members of the European Food Safety Authority’s Stakeholder Consultative Platform met to discuss, amongst other issues, the strengthening of EFSA’s approach to public consultation on its scientific outputs. This is in order to continue to enhance transparency, effectiveness and the contribution of public consultation to EFSA’s scientific work.

The importance of public consultation to EFSA is set out in EFSA’s Founding Regulation[1] and was reaffirmed in 2006 by EFSA’s Management Board[2] and EFSA’s Scientific Committee[3]. The document tabled reflects the experiences gained in more than 33 public consultations and major events EFSA has held so far in areas such as risk assessment in the EU, GMOs, nutrition, plant protection products, nanotechnologies, and animal cloning.

Public consultations can be launched at the start of a risk assessment or before it is finalised. Clear criteria need to be defined to determine when public consultation should be considered; for instance, when EFSA initiates a new area of work and input is sought in particular regarding the development of guidance for future applicants (e.g. nutrition and health claims). Consultation may also be required for complex, emerging scientific issues where information and data are rare (e.g. animal cloning), or in areas where science has made substantial progress and where risk assessment approaches are still being developed (e.g. nanotechnology). In addition to publishing consultations on its website, EFSA may follow a more targeted approach to reach all interested parties such as: engagement on key issues with the Stakeholder Consultative Platform; organisation of technical meetings or hearings; and use of specialised media to reach specific interest groups.

In order to fully engage members in the development of the document, a working group will continue to provide further input to EFSA and assist in the finalisation of the document. The revised document will be submitted to all members for further comment and review at the next Stakeholder Platform meeting in June 2009.

Members also discussed the terms of reference of the Platform in view of the renewal of the mandate of the Platform due in September 2009. In addition, stakeholders had the opportunity to comment on EFSA’s International Strategy endorsed by EFSA’s Management Board in January 2009.

[1] See recitals 55 and 56 of EFSA’s Founding Regulation (EC) n° 178/2002.
[2] Recommendations arising from the Report of the Management Board “Proposal for Management Board Conclusions of the External Evaluation of EFSA and recommendations arising from the Report”
[3] Transparency in risk assessment carried out by EFSA: Guidance Document on procedural aspects, EFSA’s Scientific Committee April 2006