Earning Public Trust

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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We welcome the EU Transparency Regulation that came into force on the 27th of March

Court records, land deeds, company financial statements and now a wealth of scientific research are easily accessible to the public online. Society is increasingly interested in having access to information – which includes access to research and scientific data.

In my experience when it comes to our sector – the crop protection and biotechnology sector – this interest is generated mostly by concern or fear. People worry about the use of biotechnology to improve plants, they are concerned about pesticide residues in their food and about the health of bees and possible impact on the environment.

It is not a big step to understand that they want to know more about how the decisions to authorise these products are taken. We embrace, and have embraced already for a few years now, this trend towards sharing our industry science and data.

There is no doubt that our industry needs to talk more about the years of research it has to do before even one sustainable solution arrives to the market. We need to explain how innovative technologies can benefit consumers, how they help farmers in battling with pests and diseases and why they have a positive impact on the environment. Not enough is being said about how citizens are being protected through stringent regulatory frameworks and exhaustive research studies before any technology is placed on the market.

In fact to register a pesticide, biopesticide or a genetically modified plant, regulatory authorities require hundreds of complex tests and more than 150 safety studies following strict procedures and protocols.

On top of that, the generation of regulatory data continues even after product authorizations have been granted. This is particularly important as science evolves and more data might be required by the regulators – periodic requirements are a standard that we fully support.

Farming is too important to limit innovation

To address concerns around the development of our products we launched our transparency initiative in 2018. Our industry gave access to safety-related studies submitted as part of their product development process.

We realized back then that transparency, including transparency around our data, is key if we want to earn public trust in our technologies. Until now access to this data was provided unilaterally by individual companies.

As of the 27th March, under the EU Transparency Regulation, all of the data will be pulled into the same place. I believe this is a very timely development because knowledge, understanding and confidence in innovation have never been as important as it is now.

We are on a journey to transform the food production system and we believe that the key enabler for sustainability in food production is innovation and technology. The Farm to Fork strategy has the objective of reaching sustainability goals by 2030 – and only with the help of innovation will we get there.

The Potential of Transparency

We hope that this increased access to data will foster a better general understanding of food production and food safety matters. In a matter of a few clicks public researchers, scientists, NGOs and consumers will be able to view a wealth of information.

Currently, the EFSA platform dedicated to hosting all of this data is not fully operational but this does not detract from CropLife Europe reiterating its full commitment to the objectives of the Transparency Regulation. We welcome the extensive work which has been done by the European Commission and EFSA to try to get everything ready in time to fully harness the potential of transparency.

 

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