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EFSA holds fifth GMO meeting with environmental and consumer NGOs

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) held its fifth meeting with environmental and consumer non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the subject of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The meeting gave NGOs involved in this area the opportunity to engage and exchange views with EFSA and to hear in more detail about the work it carries out on GMO risk assessment. Members from the EFSA GMO Panel as well as EFSA staff joined NGO representatives to discuss issues such as the general principles for GMO risk assessment, the specific strategy for risk assessment of stacked GM events and Post-Market Environmental Monitoring of GM plants.  

Per Bergman, Acting Director of Scientific Evaluation of Regulated Products, commented: “EFSA’s annual GMO meeting with NGOs is a good example of the approach we take to ensure stakeholder involvement and engagement in our work. The debate was constructive and I hope the NGOs benefitted as much as EFSA did from the opportunity to exchange views on GMO risk assessment.” 

At the beginning of the meeting, EFSA explained the importance it attaches to consultation and communication with stakeholders, including NGOs, and set out the various ways in which external organisations can engage with the Authority on scientific issues related to its work. There followed a broad discussion on effective risk communications with EFSA outlining the steps it takes to ensure that all its target audiences are able to understand the scientific advice it delivers.

After a brief overview of the ongoing activities of the EFSA GMO Panel, a detailed presentation was given on the strategy adopted by the Panel to assess risks associated with stacked events in GM plants. Stacked events, as opposed to single events, refer to GM plants where more than one new trait, for example both insect and herbicide resistance, are combined, usually by conventional crossing techniques.

The afternoon session was dedicated to a presentation and discussion on the PMEM of GM plants cultivated in Europe. EFSA presented its updated guidance on PMEM (2011) and, in this context, referred to its recent assessment of the 2009 PMEM report for maize MON810. NGO representatives raised questions about aspects of the guidance related to case-specific monitoring and general surveillance. The meeting ended with a general discussion about statistical analysis and biological relevance and a short introduction by EFSA to a project it has initiated to build a fauna database in support of environmental risk assessment and PMEM.

Several NGOs, including members of EFSA’s Stakeholder Platform, were invited to attend the meeting. EFSA had also made a small number of places available through web registration for additional consumer organisations and environmental NGOs actively involved in the area of GMOs and/or those who had contributed directly to previous GMO-related public consultations launched by EFSA. Two organizations registered accordingly and attended the meeting. 

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