The rapporteur, Miloslav Repaský, believes that the European Commission's initiative is a move in the right direction, but there are still doubts about whether the proposed changes will enable independent scientific scrutiny of the studies and data used in risk assessments
With an opinion drawn up by Miloslav Repaský (SK/EA), member of the regional parliament of the Prešov Self-Governing Region, the European Committee of the Regions supports the Commission's initiative that aims to increase the transparency and sustainability of EU risk assessment in the food chain. This initiative clarifies transparency rules, particularly regarding the scientific studies used by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in its risk assessments, improves EFSA management, bolsters scientific collaboration between the Member States and EFSA and their involvement in EFSA's scientific work, and develops a comprehensive and effective communication strategy in the area of risk.
The opinion, which was adopted at the plenary session on 10 October, underlines the need to remedy the lack of public trust with regard to food safety. It highlights the general decline in trust in policy-makers in Europe and points out that public trust is one of the most important variables explaining the public's perceptions of food-related risk. "If the public trusts policy-makers or regulators, they will perceive risks to be less than when they do not trust them," said rapporteur Miloslav Repaský. The rapporteur is also disappointed that "despite the uniform principles for evaluation and authorisation of regulated products, inconsistencies are apparent across Member States in relation to the regulation of certain substances, which may arise from different approaches to the concepts of hazard and risk and social acceptance of the level of risk involved".
Therefore, the CoR supports the call to raise the confidence of the public and interested parties in the transparency and sustainability of the EU's approach to food safety, especially in relation to risk assessment; it also maintains that for a risk communication strategy to be effective, it is necessary to engage with the public and other relevant stakeholders in a proactive and productive way, making sure that differences between 'danger' and 'risk' are understood and the different trade-offs between risks and benefits are accepted. The new food-related EU risk communication strategy must be inclusive and must ensure that all levels of government, from central government to local and regional authorities, as well as other relevant players, are duly involved in order to guarantee a coherent risk communication strategy that addresses risks associated with the food chain.
To this end, on the basis of the analysis and discussion of the proposal to date, account must be taken of the expected increased administrative burdens; greater demands on national experts in the context of their membership of the EFSA board and their activities on EFSA scientific panels; possible political influence on the nomination of national experts, with a resulting impact on EFSA's independence; and a significant financial impact on all Member States as a result of a considerable increase in the EFSA budget, as well as in view of the anticipated budgetary consequences of Brexit.
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