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Summary on the discussion on how to proceed with respect to the development of further guidance on specific topics of risk assessment [#5728]

Dear participants of the Online Forum,

In accordance with our mandate to develop

           “A recommendation on how to proceed with respect to the development of further
            guidance on specific topics of risk assessment, selected on the basis of the priorities and
            needs indicated by the Parties with the view of moving toward the operational objectives
            1.3. and 1.4 of the Strategic Plan and its outcomes” (decision BS-VI/12, annex
            paragraph 3(c)),

the forum was invited to provide the “what, how and when” of a relevant and feasible mechanism for the development of further guidance on a set of topics previously identified by the AHTEG and Online Forum.

The discussions partially centered on the guiding questions, but diverged quite a lot during the two week duration of the forum. As much as possible, this summary is aimed at highlighting the main points in a neutral manner.

In spite of diverging views, the interventions could be grouped into three main categories that:

    (a) suggested the development of further guidance and identified on which topics the guidance could be developed;

    (b) suggested processes to establish if the existing Roadmap and specific guidance are being used effectively, as a method of identifying for which topics additional guidance is needed, and to assess how such guidance should be developed; and

    (c) do not support the development of additional guidance at this point in time and under the current online/AHTEG process.

Under category (a) above, participants recommended extending the mandates of the Online Forum and AHTEG and their current working method, which relies primarily on online discussions to provide input to face-to-face meetings. Participants who supported this view suggested a set of topics for the consideration of the Parties for the development of further guidance. These topics are listed in an annex to this summary.

Under category (b) above, participants were of the view that it is premature to develop further guidance before analyzing the results of the current testing of the Roadmap and specific guidance on their practicality and usefulness. Some participants suggested that i) the priority for further work should be placed on improving the existing Roadmap and guidance before developing further guidance; ii) if gaps in the existing Guidance remain, a process should be put in place to define criteria for the identification of topics that are relevant to filling these gaps on which additional guidance is needed and to assess how to best develop such guidance. In the event that further guidance is needed, participants supported a two-step approach where: in a first step, experts, who are specialized in the particular topic for which the guidance is being developed, would present their views on elements to be considered in the development of the guidance and, in a second step, experts in environmental risk assessment would draft the guidance on the basis of the proposals and questions raised in the first step. It was further noted that the Open-ended Online forum and AHTEG may not have participants of the necessary expertise to develop guidance on specific topics of risk assessment. Lastly it was proposed that the benefits of developing further guidance must be weighed against the costs involved in this process. 

Under category (c) above, some participants recommended that further guidance should not be developed at this time. Instead they propose, for instance, that time and resources could be used to better disseminate and raise awareness of the existing guidance. It was also pointed out that the process that has been operating in the Online Forum and AHTEG is not likely to produce useful guidance based on a lack of consensus among participants and a lack of expertise in specific topics.

Finally, in my opinion as the moderator, I note that there are multiple interpretations from the participants on several of the issues discussed. I would recommend that these multiple interpretations are brought to the attention of the AHTEG in its upcoming face-to-face meeting for further discussions and clarification in order to achieve a fruitful outcome as was requested by COP-MOP-6. Again, in my opinion, participants to the forum have very different views as to what is meant by risk assessment, what is meant by “case by case” and therefore the various approaches.

I hope this summary covers the main issues discussed and most of you who participated feel comfortable enough with it.

Kind regards to all ¡y un abrazo!

Annex:  List of topics identified by participants who support the development of further guidance:

       • Risk assessment of living modified organisms introduced in centers of origin and genetic diversity;
       • Risk assessment of living modified organisms produced through synthetic biology;
       • Risk assessment of living modified microorganisms and viruses;
       • Risk assessment of living modified organisms created through use of dsRNA techniques, engineered to produce dsRNA or exposed to dsRNA;
       • Risk assessment of living modified organisms produced through cisgenetics;
       • Risk assessment of living modified animals, including fish Risk assessment and management of LMOs intended for introduction into unmanaged ecosystems;
       • Risk assessment of pharmaceutical and industrial products;
       • Risk assessment of nutritionally altered living modified plant;
       • Socio-economic considerations in the context of environmental risk assessment and in the context of the decision making process;
       • Co-existence between LMOs and non-LMOs in the context of small scale farming;
       • Co-existence between LMOs and non-LMOs and Channel of LMOs Distribution;
       • Guidance on integrating human health into the environmental risk assessment;
       • Guidance on health impacts of GMOs and pesticides that are part of the technology package that accompanies them;
       • Guidance on the synergistic impacts of different herbicides.

Note: Some participants in the online forum expressed concern over the inclusion of some of the topics above, such as co-existence, socio-economic considerations and human health noting that these topics are outside the scope of environmental risk assessment and are issues that are dealt with under other provisions of the Protocol or by other specialized international organizations.
posted on 2014-03-31 20:09 UTC by Ms. Manoela Miranda, UNEP/SCBD