EFSA conference opens with call to harness the ‘power of collaboration’
More than 1,000 representatives of national food safety agencies, research institutes, international organisations, EU bodies, consumer groups and other stakeholder organisations arrived in Parma today for the start of the EFSA conference Science, Food, Society.
Welcoming delegates to the four-day event, Bernhard Url, EFSA’s Executive Director, said: “We are here to share views on how we can better give citizens the answers and the protection that they ask and deserve. We are also here to reflect on the complex relationship between science and society and on how to ensure trust in our work.”
Dr Url said that the conference had brought together an impressive mix of scientific disciplines, backgrounds and affiliations alongside social scientists, data scientists, and communication scientists.
He added: “Our theme for the next four days is Science, Food and Society. This triangle is full of energy, expectations and sometimes also of tensions… Obviously, there is no magic bullet for the scientific challenges and opportunities we face. However, one, almost magic, enabler is available and it’s in our hands to apply it: the power of collaboration.”
He expressed the hope that the conference would be the crucible and the catalyst for many more “successful collaborations”.
A key theme of the conference is the context in which scientists carry out their work: how scientists interact with citizens and take account of societal concerns. Dr Url said: “The emotional power of food catapults our cool, dispassionate opinions into the centre of a heated value debate. It is a debate about the food production system, the environment, health, waste management, sustainability, even equality: issues strongly associated with our core European values, you might say.”
Intertwined with this debate are key issues related to engagement, trust and transparency, he added.
Dr Url concluded: “I am confident that together, through our interactions this week, through the contributions from all our distinguished speakers and experts, through hearing many different points of view and through your diverse expertise, EFSA will be able to collect new insights and integrate them into our future strategies.”