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EFSA Scientific Colloquium N°10: Pest risk assessment - Science in support of phytosanitary decision making in the European Community

On 6-7 December 2007, the 10th Scientific Colloquium organised by EFSA welcomed more than 80 experts in Parma to debate the assessment of risks posed by organisms harmful to plants and plant products.
The Colloquium, organized by the EFSA’s Plant Health Panel, provided a forum for discussing the different scientific approaches to pest risk assessment, the availability of data, the assessment of the potential impact of new plant pests following their introduction to the EU and possible joint efforts with EU Member States, third countries and international organisations to further develop harmonised approaches Scientists and risk managers from 22 EU Member States, plus Canada, Croatia, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the USA, also discussed the influence of climate change and global trade on the potential for entry, establishment and spread in the EU.
Some key recommendations emerging from the discussion include:
  • Methods and terminology can and have to be harmonized, especially when using qualitative approaches and expert judgement.
  • Models are valuable to deal with biological complexity, but critical assumptions and the level of accuracy must be made clear.
  • Quantitative approaches are more consistent and suggest precision, but uncertainty still exists which also must be made explicit.
  • In pest risk assessment, Type I errors (false positive, a shipment is declared infested when it is not) may lead to prohibiting the import of a harmless commodity. A Type II error (false negative, failure to detect an infestation) may allow a new pest to enter the PRA area. Ideally, both types of errors should be avoided. Minimising type I errors will minimise inappropriate trade barriers, while minimising type II errors will minimise the risks to crops and biodiversity.
  • The economic impact is a key determinant, together with the likelihood of introduction and spread, of the risk posed by a pest. More articulated definitions of economic, social and environmental consequences are needed.
  • The relevant time frame to be considered when assessing the risk of invading pests will also depend upon the pest and its impact, as the environmental consequences could unfold over a long period.
  • To respond to threats of new pest introductions and consequences which may arise due to the globalisation of trade and climate change, a more generic approach to the characterisation and assessment of risks was suggested, including a greater emphasis on the analysis of pathways, rather than on individual pests.
  • Considering that climate changes are predicted over long periods of at least 30-50 years, the pest risk assessor may not be able to include such long-term predicted scenarios, but must always consider the climatic changes which have already occurred.
  • Communication among risk assessors and risk managers is important and needs to be enhanced.
A full report of this Colloquium, including recommendations to the PLH Panel, will be published on the EFSA website as well as in the EFSA Scientific Colloquium Series.

Summary report

EFSA's 10th Scientific Colloquium - Pest risk assessment

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