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New EFSA body to coordinate pesticide risk assessment

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is setting up a new committee to further strengthen its role in reviewing the safety of active substances used in pesticides together with the European Commission and EU member states.

Meeting in Paris, EFSA’s Advisory Forum – which brings together representatives of national food safety authorities from across the EU – approved a proposal to create a Pesticide Steering Committee with effect from October 2008.

Hubert Deluyker, Director of Scientific Cooperation and Assistance at EFSA, explained: “The committee will provide a platform for cooperation and consultation between the different actors involved in pesticide risk assessment in the EU.

“It will be responsible for planning and monitoring the safety review process from beginning to end – in other words, from the initial application for a certain active substance to be authorised through to the publication of an opinion by EFSA on the safety of that substance.

“The main aim is to further streamline the peer review process and clearly define priorities in the face of an ever-growing workload and a changing regulatory environment. In 2007, for example, EFSA published opinions on 20 different active substances but in 2008 that figure is due to rise to 60 – in other words a three-fold increase year-on-year,” Deluyker said. “At the same time, challenging new deadlines are being discussed which would put further pressure on the peer review system.”

The Pesticide Steering Committee, which will be fully operational from 1 January 2009, will be made up of experts responsible for the pesticide risk assessment process at national level as well as representatives of EFSA and the European Commission.

By facilitating the planning process, helping to prevent duplication and promoting the exchange of information between EFSA, the Commission and member states at every stage – for example through the development of common IT tools enabling file sharing and online access to data across the EU – the committee will help to ensure the best possible use of resources, increase efficiency and further strengthen consumer protection.

EFSA is playing an increasingly important role in the field of pesticide risk assessment. A significant body of work carried out in 2007 provided the scientific basis for the recent revision of Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for a wide range of pesticides by the European Commission. Furthermore, EFSA is currently reviewing the MRLs for a further 15 pesticides considered to be of concern, as well as reviewing risk assessments of existing pesticides carried out by member states in view of setting new MRLs.

The establishment of the Pesticides Steering Committee was the main recommendation contained in the report " Evaluation of the European Union Pesticide Safety Review Process ", which was adopted by EFSA's Advisory Forum in September 2008.

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