EFSA invites NGOs to discuss welcomed draft GMO Environmental Risk Assessment Guidelines

Posted by Josette Dunn on 7th July 2010

As part of its on-going consultation with stakeholders, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) today announced its intention to call a meeting in September 2010 with environmental NGOs on its guidelines for the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).The revised draft ERA guidelines are the result of two years’ work by scientists from all over Europe and demonstrate EFSA’s commitment to staying at the forefront of recent developments in the field of GM plant environmental risk assessment.

In the current draft, the scientific experts have strengthened requirements for GM applications submitted to EFSA for evaluation with respect to data generation, collection and analysis. EFSA’s GMO Panel has in addition further developed specific guidance on the evaluation of possible effects of GM plants on non-target organisms.

In December 2008 the Environment Council concluded that the implementation of the EU legal framework for GMOs should be reinforced. Along with the other partners involved including the European Commission and Member States, EFSA is taking a number of relevant actions including the continual revision of its guidelines. To complement this work, already initiated in 2007, EFSA organised a series of technical discussions to bring together GMO Panel experts, stakeholders and technical experts from the EU Member States to exchange views on the scientific issues and various aspects of the guideline documents. Following this preparatory work, EFSA launched a public consultation on the draft guidance.

EFSA received 494 comments in response to its public consultation on GM plant ERA in March-April 2010. In addition, over 2,000 viewers have consulted the webstreamed meeting with Member State experts held in Berlin on 17 June where there was agreement amongst the 18 countries represented, that the draft guidelines represented a significant step forward in GM plant environmental risk assessment.

Following on from discussions with Member States and recognising the specific interests of environmental NGOs, an invitation will be extended for a consultation in September 2010.

Dr Riitta Maijala, Head of EFSA’s Risk Assessment Directorate explains: “EFSA aims to finalise the GM Environmental Risk Assessment guidelines by the end of the year and dialogue with the environmental NGOs forms an important part of our on-going consultation. We recognise that some environmental NGOs have questions about this complex scientific process and we are ready to listen, engage and exchange views with those actively involved in this field. Today in the European Parliament for example, Testbiotech will present a report on EFSA’s environmental risk assessment approach, which upon receipt, we will read with due consideration. We look forward to constructive discussions with environmental NGOs interested in our work.”

In line with EFSA’s commitment to regular stakeholder dialogue, EFSA annually invites NGOs to a meeting to discuss the latest scientific issues regarding genetically modified organisms. This year, the environmental NGO consultation will take place in September and will focus on the draft GM plant ERA guidelines.

Organisations interested in attending this meeting are invited to indicate their area(s) of expertise in order to be considered for participation. Participants will be selected on a basis of their expertise in ERA, as well as their representing an organisation with a broad base of grassroots organisations across Europe such as EFSA’s longstanding NGO environmental stakeholder representatives.

To express interest in participation, interested NGOs are asked to please send an email to: gmo@efsa.europa.eu by 6 September 2010.