Picture source: seppi.over-blog.com

Bernhard Url is the executive director at the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). He gave an interesting interview to EURACTIV.com on different topics related with innovation and agriculture.

Speaking of farming practices and reducing the impact of pesticides in the environment, EFSA’s director suggested different strategies: replace higher risk pesticides with low-risk pesticides, but also a more targeted use of pesticides based on an integrated pest management that effectively reduces the use of chemicals. The latter would include means such as crop rotation, soil fertility or using cultivars that are resistant to certain pests.

Mr. Url calls for surveillance and monitoring services that monitor the growth of pathogens, weather conditions and climate, the pressure of pests and then advice the appropriate time to apply the pesticide. Mr. Url says the European Court of auditors also calls for greater emphasis on this topic.

Genomic crop-breeding techniques are also discussed in the interview as EFSA is currently evaluating the suitability of their tools for risk assessment of new techniques like genome editing, synthetic biology and gene drive. EFSA’s director says innovation will be needed in the form of technology, knowledge and data to assess the risks, maybe even the benefits of these new technologies. Mr. Url points that “one of the main challenges of EFSA is to keep up with industry, which innovates relentlessly”. EFSA needs to develop the right methods to assess the innovation and support new legal frameworks faster.

Regarding glyphosate renewal process EFSA’s director says that “European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will determine whether glyphosate is carcinogenic or not, and on the basis of that, EFSA will carry out the risk assessment, which looks at the risks on human health, the environment and biodiversity when exposed to the active substance”.

Finally, EFSA calls for a distinction to be made between scientific and political questions. Science can deliver an opinion on the use of herbicides based on evidence, then there is a political opinion based on each other’s values.

EUXDAT addresses the problems above mentioned contributing to the development of surveillance and monitoring services providing an advanced e-Infrastructure for the agricultural domain.

The full interview was published on the 20 and 21 February and is available from: