Title: Risk-assessment Policies: Differences across Jurisdictions
Publisher: European Commission
Publication Year: 2008
JRC N°: JRC37719
ISBN: 978-92-79-07738-8
ISSN: 1018:5593
Other Identifiers: EUR 23259 EN
URI: http://ipts.jrc.ec.europa.eu/publications/pub.cfm?id=1562
DOI: 10.2791/11094
Type: EUR - Scientific and Technical Research Reports
Abstract: This project has examined food safety risk assessment policy (RAP)-making at the global level (in the Codex Alimentarius Commission and its joint FAO/WHO expert advisory committees) in the USA, the UK, Germany, Japan and Argentina, in relation to chemical risks and to risks from GM foods and crops. Our research shows that RAP can be understood as comprising 3 considerations that condition the ways in which risk assessments (RAs) are framed, conducted and reported. Procedural RAPs are concerned with the responsibilities of risk assessors (RA) and the processes by which risk RAs are conducted. Substantive RAP issues are concerned with delineating which potential changes and effects are included within or outside their scope. Interpretative RAP issues are concerned with the ways in which data are interpreted. Data and documents do not interpret themselves; interpretation often involves judgements and assumptions. Often, when different RA reach different conclusions, they do so because they are adopting distinct RAPs rather than because some committees provide more or less scientific answers than others. They do not provide conflicting answers to common and agreed sets of questions concerning shared and agreed bodies of evidence. Often they are answering different questions because they make different RAP assumptions and are considering different sets of data. Even when the sets of questions and data coincide, different RAP assumptions may entail interpretation in different ways. Making a wider range of RAP issues explicit, and deciding them in transparent ways, can provide resources to address disputes, both within and across jurisdictions. Some RAP issues have been explicitly addressed in all jurisdictions studied but only rarely they are fully acknowledged, and decided by risk managers (RM) in consultation with all relevant stakeholders previous to the conduct of RAs. Only sometimes are they addressed in transparent or accountable ways. Though over time, they are becoming increasingly explicit. All settings studied have at least some RAP guidelines, but none comprehensive and explicit, or covering all 3 procedural, substantive and interpretative issues. While some maintain that scientists should be left to decide the agenda for scientific deliberations, others argue that there should be more opportunities for all stakeholders to contribute to articulating the questions that the scientists are requested to address. That task has often previously been referred to as risk identification or hazard identification, which sets the agenda for the subsequent deliberations of RA. Within the policy literature, there are disputes between those who assert that risk identification is a scientific task and others who argue that it is a risk management responsibility. Our findings suggest that it is a discussion to which RA, RM, other stakeholders and individual citizens can helpfully contribute. Similar arguments apply to procedural and interpretative RAP issues too. Making RAP decisions explicit might be seen, by some RM, as an unwelcome extra burden, and by some RA as an unwelcome intrusion into matters over which traditionally they were able to exercise autonomy and discretion. However, if RM took greater explicit responsibility for RAP-making they could more readily justify and sustain regulatory decisions and policy differences, allowing comparison across jurisdictions, clarifying the basis for their differences and possibly overcoming them.
JRC Directorate:Growth and Innovation

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