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Risk assessment in support of plant health

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Note: This article is part of the Special Issue: Scientific achievements, challenges and perspectives of the European Food Safety Authority: Taking stock of the 10 years activities and looking ahead


With the establishment of the Plant Health Panel in 2006, EFSA became the body responsible for risk assessment in the plant health area for the European Union (EU). Since then more than 70 outputs have been produced dealing with the full range of organisms harmful to plant health across all crop types and plants in the environment. There has been an increasing trend towards producing scientific opinions which are full pest risk assessments for the whole EU territory. In its work, and as a contribution to the wider development of risk assessment methodology, the Panel has developed a series of guidance documents. These deal with the peer review of existing pest risk assessments, a framework for conducting risk assessments which harmonise standards set by the International Plant Protection Convention and the legislative requirements of the EU, and extension of this framework to include environmental risk assessment and the evaluation of risk reducing options. Quantitative approaches have become increasingly important during this time. The Panel has developed such methods in climatic mapping (in association with the Joint Research Councils), application of spatial spread models, re-evaluation of quantitative pathway analyses, and in statistical modelling of experimental data. A Plant Health Network has been established to facilitate interaction with EU Member States, especially in relation to data collection and co-ordination of risk assessment activities. At the current time a revision of the EU Plant Health Regime is being formulated. The legislative consequences of the revision will be of considerable significance for the work of the Plant Health Panel.