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Health and Consumer Protection

Speeches Commissioner Byrne

Opening address 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 summit’s 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 processes.

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 collaboration.

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.

Today’s meeting does not in anyway pre-empt the discussions in the Council or Parliament.

Indeed, the Commission’s proposal to have an Advisory Forum as one of the key components of the Authority has received overall support in these discussions.

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 Authority’s Advisory Forum, so that conflict and contradictions in scientific matters, on risk assessment methods and outcomes are clarified and if possible avoided.

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 year.

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 proposal.

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 consumers.

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. It’s an exciting prospect and I wish you every success with your important work.


Speeches Commissioner Byrne



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