Stay updated on the latest developments in plant science policy and EPSO activities!
The majority of Norwegian consumers are positive about sustainable and societally beneficial use of gene editing in Norwegian agriculture and aquaculture – this is the main conclusion from the population survey performed and published by the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board early April 2020. However, many consumers are concerned about risk, although they have fairly high confidence that gene edited products approved by the Norwegian authorities are safe for health and the environment. Consumers also want information about product traits that makes it easier for them to choose. The results also show that there is a need for knowledge building about genetic technology and food in the general population.
EPSO encourages scientists and ministries to work together to perform similar studies in more countries across Europe to engage with consumers, compare the attitudes towards gene editing and its use to address societal challenges. Sigrid Bratlie, one of the authors, is happy to share the methodology and preparatory work to help you.
- Sigrid Bratlie, Special Advisor on gene technology, The Norwegian Agricultural Cooperatives, [email protected]
- Odd Arne Rognli, EPSO Board
- Karin Metzlaff, EPSO
This science advice will inform the development of the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy to be published this year (originally in spring) and all actions related to sustainable food systems under the ‘European Green Deal’ and beyond.
The group ‘urges the European Commission to take the lead and drive change towards a sustainable food system in the EU and beyond. We specifically recommend that environmental, social and economic sustainability are made the central objectives of all policies relevant to the food system. Food must be viewed more as a common than a consumer good, as has been the tendency in the past. In more detail, we call on the European Commission to:
- Ensure a fully integrated approach to bring about a sustainable food system by adopting an active step-wise policy transition with responsive, learning-focused policy approaches and governance structures;
- Address power and information asymmetries in the food system by increasing the policy focus on food manufacturers and retailers, supporting a food environment that helps citizens to make healthy and sustainable food choices, and strengthening the more vulnerable actors in the food system;
- Use a well-balanced policy mix in an iterative, responsive and adaptive manner, considering binding policy measures as the main drivers.’
For plant scientists this is relevant as plant research and innovation can contribute as intrinsic part of crop improvement, crop management and crop processing towards sustainable food systems.
Contact for plant science contributions: Karin Metzlaff (EPSO Executive Director), Alan Schulman (EPSO President), Ulrich Schurr (EPSO Vice-President)
- Letter to Commissioner Gabriel by the Chair of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors – Rolf Heuer – Sustainable food system (March 2020)
- Scientific opinion – Sustainable food system (March 2020) informed by SAPEA Evidence Review Report (March 2020)
The European Commission has published a Question&Answer on Covid19 and food safety.
It presents answers on the following areas: Risk of infection through food; Food production; Food at home, Member States recommendations, and Other sources of information.
What is the risk of COVID-19 infection from food products?
Despite the large scale of the pandemic, there has been no report of transmission of COVID-19 via consumption of food to date. Therefore, as stated by the European Food Safety Authority1 , there is no evidence that food poses a risk to public health in relation to COVID-19. The main mode of transmission for COVID-19 is considered to be from person to person, mainly via respiratory droplets that infected people sneeze, cough or exhale.
Can I do something myself at home to minimise any potential risk from food conveying the virus responsible for COVID-19?
Yes. First, washing thoroughly your hands (See ECDC tutorial on Effective Hand-Washing8 ) with soap and warm water before and after shopping is particularly important as it will protect yourself as well as others. It is equally important to apply strictly the hygiene rules in your kitchen, that usually protect you from food poisoning. Store your food properly (any contact between the food consumed raw and cooked food must be avoided), discard outer packaging before storage (for example cardboard outers where there is an inner plastic package) while keeping track of key information such as maximum duration limits. Systematically wash fruits and vegetables with clean water, especially if they are not going to be cooked (COVID-19 will not survive cooking).
Avoid contamination by kitchenware (knifes, plates, etc.) by carefully washing them with detergent in between using them for different food ingredients. Respect cooking instructions (time, temperature) for food intended to be eaten cooked. Wash your hands with warm water and soap before you start preparing or cooking food, as well as after having prepared food. Fridge and kitchen surfaces should be cleaned routinely, though with increased frequency. The precautions against COVID-19 should not make you forget the classic rules to avoid food poisoning when you cook at home that still apply and which protect you from foodborne illnesses that would further burden the healthcare facilities.
The European Commission is reviewing its 2020 work programme in light of the coronavirus crisis and is expected to publish in the coming weeks, possibly on April 29, 2020 its updated work programme 2020.
According to Euractive, indications are that although climate policies remain broadly on track, it might include delays for some initiatives of the EU Green Deal such as the Farm to Fork Strategy and the biodiversity strategy because they are considered “less essential”.
Examples from the Euroactive article relevant to plant research and innovation are:
‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy (non-legislative, Q1 2020): Although this is considered “a very important initiative”, it should “also reflect the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to food security. This might make a postponement necessary,” the document states.
EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 (non-legislative, Q1 2020); “Adoption of the biodiversity strategy is envisaged for 29 April,” the document says. But the UN conference of the parties has been postponed and the UN ministerial will discuss biodiversity in September. “So while the absolute urgency may have receded current timing is desirable or shortly thereafter. It is closely related to the Farm to Fork initiative,” the document states.
Source : Euractiv, 15.04.2020
EFSA has launched a public consultation on the draft scientific opinion “Applicability of the EFSA opinion on site-directed nucleases type 3 for the safety assessment of plants developed using site-directed nucleases type 1 and 2 and oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis”.
The deadline for submitting comments is 27 May 2020. EFSA would appreciate if you could share this information with your contacts.
Find more information on EFSA’s work on new advances in biotechnology here:
- Editorial: Advances in genetic engineering – EFSA’s public consultations in 2020
- Topic “New advances in biotechnology” on EFSA website
Please contact [email protected] for any questions you may have.
EPSO will develop its submission with the EPSO Agricultural Technologies Working Group and the EPSO Representatives.
EPSO contacts: Ralf Wilhelm, Frank Hartung & Peter Rogowsky, AgT WG chairs