by David Byrne, European Commissioner for Health and
Consumer Protection to the Interim Scientific Advisory
Forum, Brussels, 7 May 2001
I am delighted to have the opportunity
this morning to welcome you to the inaugural meeting of the
interim scientific advisory forum. You will of course be
aware of the proposal that the Commission adopted in
November on general food law and the establishment of the
European Food Authority.
As the Commissioner responsible for this
initiative I was very keen to start an early dialogue with
those organisations in the Member States which have a
similar remit at the national level to the European Food
Authority. The Nice summits conclusions have clearly
outlined our timetable - to ensure that we have a
functional Food Authority early in 2002. I am determined
that we meet this deadline.
It is clear that we all have a shared
interest in ensuring that food safety matters are given the
highest priority. Not only do Member States, the
Commission, Council and Parliament have to work closely on
finding risk management solutions to food safety problems
but also we need to collaborate closely on identifying and
assessing risks that may exist in the food supply.
And we face common food safety problems
they respect no national borders. Recent food safety
scares show clearly how a food safety concern in one Member
State very quickly becomes a concern in another, and has
implications for all the Community. Therefore we must
ensure that we build mechanisms for close collaboration and
co-operation on the examination of scientific issues that
underpin our risk management decision-making
With this in mind I was keen to ensure
that we waste no time in enabling such dialogue to begin.
Through this meeting today and subsequent meetings which I
intend to hold during the rest of this year, I hope that we
can start to examine how we best achieve such
Of course you will be aware of the
progress being made in Council and Parliament on the
proposal on general food law and the establishment of the
European Food Authority. The Swedish Presidency with the
Member States have made extraordinary efforts to bring the
text close to political agreement and we will hopefully
reap the fruits of this hard work in the next few weeks.
Moreover, 6 Parliamentary Committees have made tremendous
efforts to find a joint basis for their report on the
proposal and we anticipate that a report will be voted on
in early June.
Todays meeting does not in anyway
pre-empt the discussions in the Council or
Indeed, the Commissions proposal to
have an Advisory Forum as one of the key components of the
Authority has received overall support in these
And I would like to enable the Food
Authority to get off to a flying start.
It is high time we started to pool
scientific and technical information to avoid needless
duplication of effort and set up an integrated scientific
network between European and national authorities.
We need to get the top national
scientists on food issues around the table. From next year,
this will be through the Authoritys Advisory Forum, so
that conflict and contradictions in scientific matters, on
risk assessment methods and outcomes are clarified and if
I have taken the initiative to instigate
this Interim group as a forerunner of the EFA's Advisory
Forum because I want to see EFA operational as soon as
possible, and this group will enable discussions and plans
to be mature by the time the EFA starts early next
Of course, the Executive Director cannot
be nominated until the legislation setting up the Authority
is adopted, and a new legal entity constituted. But at a
scientific and technical level we can already move forward,
and we should do so.
During today my colleagues will
elaborate on how this interim group will work and how it
relates to the Advisory Forum foreseen in the
I would also like to stress our
commitment to addressing food safety matters from farm to
fork. Let us be clear, scientific risk assessments must not
be piece meal.
It is for this reason that the
Commission proposed a wide remit for the Authority. In
parallel with the concepts in the general principles of
food law, the Authority will cover all scientific matters
which may have a direct or indirect effect on the safety of
the food supply.
It will cover all stages of production
and supply whether this is at the level of primary
production including assessing the safety of animal feeds,
pesticides, GMOs right through to the supply of food to
I would ask you therefore to consider
how greater collaboration can been achieved on scientific
matters throughout the food supply chain continuum.
In closing I would like to encourage you
to concentrate on three key words in your discussions today
and in future meetings of this interim group.
These three words are - collaboration,
co-operation and trust. In Europe we have some of the top
scientists and experts in the world working in the field of
food safety. Today we have the opportunity to start to
build upon this in a concrete manner. Its an exciting
prospect and I wish you every success with your important
FOOD SAFETY |
DIRECTORATE GENERAL "HEALTH
& CONSUMER PROTECTION"