Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Dear FAO Office of the Chief Scientist,

On behalf of Bayer, I would like to highlight some successful initiatives that have strengthened science-policy interfaces for agrifood systems by effectively connecting policymakers, academia, and the private sector to address critical environmental and agricultural challenges, promoting the nexus between scientific research and policy development to ensure the safety and sustainability of our food supply and environment.

  • Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC)
  • International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR)
  • Center of Excellence for Regulatory Science in Agriculture (CERSA) at North Carolina State University
  • Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN)
  • International Cooperation on Pesticide Poisoning Prevention and Education (ICPPE)
  • Biotechnology Regulatory Immersion Course (BRIC)
  • OECD Expert Group of Biopesticides
  • The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) - Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production


Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) 

After the mid-1940’s, a surge of academic and industrial research was concentrated on developing pesticides to improve agricultural production and feed a growing population. However, in the 1950s, large-scale use of certain pesticides resulted in unacceptable effects to wildlife. By the 1960s, citizen groups demanded advancing pesticide testing and assessment as well as stricter government regulations to help prevent effects of pesticides to wildlife. As an outcome of these issues and efforts, the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) was founded as a global, multi-partite, non-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing environmental science and environmental management. SETAC’s history is a story of the creation of science and policy forum that has been tailored to enable transparent, inclusive, effective, organized, and interdisciplinary dialogue among biologists, chemists, and wildlife toxicologists. SETAC’s legitimacy and success is its commitment to balanced scientific and policy interests of government, academia, and business. The society's by-laws mandate equal representation across these sectors for all activities.

SETAC’s multi-partite representation has worked collaboratively with many international organizations (e.g., UNEP, WHO, OECD) to advance the science and policy to assess pesticide safety, along with many other environmental issues. A prominent example of SETAC’s successful collaborations with UNEP was helping to provide guidance on the scientific basis for evaluating Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention. These collaborative efforts guided the development of science and policies that led to the phase out of many persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic pesticides. In addition, SETAC has had active and successful engagement with the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM) on several pesticide management capacity building projects. 

Another area where SETAC has impacted science and policy are the outputs from SETAC “Pellston” workshops. These workshops bring together experts to find solutions for important environmental issues and frequently focus on wildlife testing and assessment for pesticides that informs regulatory policies and decision making. An workshop to highlight was one that brought together 48 experts from government, industry, and academic and non-governmental organizations representing a range of expertise including toxicologists, biologists, beekeepers, and risk managers from North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Africa. Participants developed methods to measure exposure, identified methods to measure effects of pesticides to bees and other insect pollinators, and developed a risk assessment process for pollinators. This workshop led to the framework developed and adopted in North America for assessing pollinator safety in agroecosystems, is now being adopted by many countries outside of North America and is a model for scientific societies to follow. 


International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR)

The International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR) aims to promote scientifically sound research that supports biosafety assessment by improving communication among scientists who study plants, animals, and microbes with new characteristics due to altered DNA and produced using modern biotechnology. Its membership is international in scope and includes researchers from academia, government bodies, and technology developers, as well as risk assessors and regulators. Some are promoters of genetically modified organisms (GMOs); others are more neutral on this topic or even skeptical. However, they all share a demand for solid scientific data with which to conduct deliberations.  Specific activities designed to achieve these aims are:

  • Organizing an international symposium focused on the biosafety of GMOs.  Starting in 1990, the "International Symposium on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms" (ISBGMO) was the first initiative to alleviate the communication problem within the GMO biosafety research community.
  • Sponsoring scientific publications, including original work, that describe advances in the field of biosafety research.
  • Supporting a multidisciplinary approach to ensuring the safety of GMO products through a scientifically sound risk assessment that supports regulatory decision-making. ISBR aims to contribute to the specification of relevant issues such as the documentation of baselines and formulating scientific questions relevant to regulatory decision-making.

As an example, its most recent symposium in 2023 resulted in a publication on the topic of data transportability and saw representatives from regulatory agencies and companies attend from all over the world. Regulators who attend have also returned home with an updated knowledge of key scientific principles and have looked to organise local workshops to progress regulatory policy on key topics such as genome editing and stack regulation.


Center of Excellence for Regulatory Science in Agriculture (CERSA) at North Carolina State University

Regulatory Science is a field critical to the responsible advancement of agricultural-use technologies from concept, through research and development, to commercialization, and throughout the product life cycle. CERSA was created in 2018 to address the lack of university programs in specifically related to regulatory science in agriculture ( The three pillars of CERSA are Education, Research, and Engagement. Engagement and collaboration with other universities and with relevant US federal agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are an important focus, but the Center also engages international regulatory and research organizations, along with key U.S. stakeholders in industry and the non-profit sector. Since its inception, CERSA has hosted multi-stakeholder workshops to foster collaboration. Some workshop topics include “Incorporating Higher-Tier Data in Ecological Risk Assessments and Risk Management of Pesticides”; “Incorporating the Benefits of Vegetative Filter Strips into Risk Assessment and Risk Management of Pesticides”, “Regulatory Policy for Genome-Edited Microbial Products for Agricultural Use”, and “Precision Application of Pesticides”. These workshop support the formation of working groups to continue engagement and progress on key topics. CERSA has also collaborated with USDA Foreign Agriculture Service on training and capacity building around risk assessment and maximum residue limits (MRLs) in developing countries. 

CERSA serves as the focal point of a multi-disciplinary study track for undergraduates to receive a minor in Regulatory Science. Students in majors such as Agronomy, Environmental Assessment, Political Science, or Fisheries and Wildlife participate in courses from each respective discipline to gain insight into the many fields involved in the risk assessment of agricultural technologies. Additionally, the Center offers a resident scholars program for graduate students in related degree programs. Continuing education is an additional benefit of the Center, offering government and industry professionals the opportunity to become knowledgeable with new developments in Regulatory Science such as emerging issues, policies, and new risk assessment tools. Paid internship programs are also available for students interested in gaining real-world experience in regulatory science. 


Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN)

The Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) is a unique partnership between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the University of Maryland. Established in 1996, JIFSAN's mission is to improve the safety of the food supply through research, education, and outreach. The institute focuses on addressing food safety issues both domestically and internationally, working to develop innovative solutions and provide training and resources to food safety professionals.

JIFSAN's research efforts are aimed at understanding and addressing emerging food safety challenges, such as the impact of globalization on food supply chains, the rise of foodborne illnesses, and the development of new technologies for food safety monitoring and control. By collaborating with scientists, industry experts, and regulatory agencies, JIFSAN is at the forefront of food safety research and innovation.

In addition to research, JIFSAN is committed to providing education and training programs to food safety professionals. Through workshops, seminars, and online resources, the institute equips individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to ensure the safety of the food supply. JIFSAN also offers international training programs, partnering with organizations and governments around the world to improve food safety practices globally.

JIFSAN's outreach efforts extend beyond the research and education community, aiming to engage with industry stakeholders, policymakers, and the public. By fostering collaboration and communication, JIFSAN works to promote a comprehensive and holistic approach to food safety, addressing the needs of all parties involved in the food supply chain.

Overall, the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition plays a vital role in advancing food safety through its multidisciplinary approach to research, education, and outreach. By leveraging the expertise of its partners and stakeholders, JIFSAN continues to make significant contributions to the field of food safety, ultimately benefiting consumers and the food industry worldwide.


International Cooperation on Pesticide Poisoning Prevention and Education (ICPPE)

In low-regulated regions, pesticide application safety remains a pivotal concern. Traditional methods used for operator risk assessment often derive from European or U.S. standards, which may not align with agronomic conditions in these areas. Recognizing this gap, the ICPPE project emerged as a collaborative endeavor, uniting global regulators (Europe, USA, Africa, Latin America), industry experts within CropLife International, and academic professionals (University of Maryland Eastern Shore).

Kickstarted in 2001, the ICPPE initiative has already achieved significant milestones. Central to these is the successful alignment on a shared goal and the establishment of a trust-driven environment among all stakeholders. The project team collated extensive data, and currently transitioning towards model development. The ICPPE initiative builds on five pillars and a common goal: Improving operator safety globally by lowering the hurdles for regulators to transition to risk-based decisions!

The project’s robust structure includes a foundational Steering Committee, backed by observers from the FAO and WHO. 

Four working groups drive the project:

  • Working Group 1: This group focuses on compiling global data for handset application user exposure, and is crucially working towards a model to best estimate operator exposure. Chairperson from German BfR.
  • Working Group 2: Addresses dermal absorption, a significant source of pesticide exposure. The group aims to determine default values for dermal absorption to refine risk assessments. Chairperson from Syngenta.
  • Working Group 3: Tackles Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), striving to identify realistic and effective PPE suitable for conditions in low- and middle-income countries. Chairperson from University Maryland.
  • Working Group 4: Using outcomes from the first three groups, this group is crafting a user-friendly assessment tool, emphasizing an intuitive interface and straightforward PPE recommendations. Chairperson from Bayer.

In each of the four working groups, the ICPPE project anticipates a balanced contribution from industry professionals, global regulators, and individuals from academia or independent organizations. The steering committee offers general guidance and is accountable for strategic decisions. Here too, representatives from industry (CLI, Bayer), regulatory bodies (BfR, BVL) and academia/third-party entities (UMES, FAO as observer) are equally represented.

Transparency remains at the heart of the ICPPE initiative. Decisions are consensus-based, and there's a strong commitment to keeping the entire process open. The eventual aim is to incorporate this assessment tool into the FAO pesticide registration toolkit, promoting a risk-based approach globally.


Biotechnology Regulatory Immersion Course (BRIC)

The Biotechnology Regulatory Immersion Course (BRIC) has been hosted by the University of Missouri and co-organized with the University of Ghent from 2009 through 2022. Given the ongoing need for public and government scientists, especially in less developed countries, that are well trained in the technical and societal issues associated with the evaluation of genetically modified (GM) crops, the program served a valuable capacity building function.  

The course consisted of a two-week in-person training program on global issues and impacts related to GM crop adoption and the associated international regulatory frameworks. The course had two blocks: The first week offered an introduction to biotechnology, to relevant national and international regulations, training in complying with biosafety regulations and impact assessment of regulations, as well as socioeconomic impacts of various biosafety regulations.  The importance of science communication as part of the regulatory process was also a key theme.  The second week included tours of biotech laboratories, field trials, farmers’ fields, and various segments of the grain supply chain. Instructors for the course were experienced scientific and legal experts coming from a wide range of institutions including government agencies, public and private sector product developers, academia and non-profit organizations.  

Participants from more than 40 countries have attended the course and included regulators, policy makers and stakeholders from the private and public sectors that were invited to the course to provide a diversity of perspectives, and ample opportunities to challenge instructors and ask wide-ranging questions.  The program was constructed to encourage dialogue and an exchange of experiences to foster trust building and community amongst the annual cohorts of program participants resulting in long-lasting connections. These connections and shared learning enabled course attendees to return to their home countries to help develop, implement and improve science-based biosafety regulatory systems that can facilitate the safe deployment of new biotechnology products. 


OECD Expert Group of Biopesticides 

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization that works to build better policies for better lives. Its goal is to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all. 

Together with governments, policy makers and citizens, OECD works on establishing evidence-based international standards and finding solutions to a range of social, economic and environmental challenges. From improving economic performance and creating jobs to fostering strong education and fighting international tax evasion, it provides a unique forum and knowledge hub for data and analysis, exchange of experiences, best-practice sharing, and advice on public policies and international standard-setting.

Specifically, the Working Party of Pesticides, in which the Expert Group of Biopesticides is a subgroup, was created in 1992 to help OECD governments share the work of pesticide registration and re-registration, harmonize the data and methods used to test and assess pesticide risk and to help OECD governments reduce the risks associated with pesticide use. 

[…] The Innovating Microbial Testing Guideline Conference, sponsored by the OECD Expert Group of Biopesticides brought together OECD Member countries, Academia, Non-Governmental Organizations, and Industry to discuss innovations needed for hazard testing of Biopesticides, specifically hazards concerning microbial pesticides as the current testing guidelines were developed for chemical pesticides. The outcome of the conference is to move towards efficient and tailored regulatory process for microbial pesticide products by increasing reliability of hazard data that supports microbial pesticide registration dossiers and subsequently the review of these dossiers by regulators. A recent success of the conference was the acceptance of a project proposal by the OECD Working Party of the National Coordinators for the testing guideline program that would adapt US EPA OPPTS mammalian toxicity and infectivity/pathogenicity guidelines to an OECD Test Guideline.


The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)  - Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent, intergovernmental organization to strengthen the interface between science and policy on topics related to biodiversity and ecosystem services. It has a focus on sustainable development, conservation, and sustainable use of nature resources, and shares independent, reliable, and credible information with policy and decision makers. In these terms, IPBES provides governments, UN institutions, international nature conservation convention, and other decision makers with consolidated scientific information on topics related to biodiversity and ecosystem services. IPBES has been established in 2012 and currently has 136 member states. 

Activities of IPBES include the following focal areas:

  • Capacity building, prioritization of capacity needs, and the demand of data and knowledge with member states, experts, and other stakeholders
  • Provision of policy support and identification of suitable approaches, tools, and methodologies to support definition and implementation of policy measures, and facilitation of the development and the application of these approaches
  • Identification and prioritization of relevant scientific information for political decision-makers, and support of scientific knowledge gain 
  • Comprehensive, systematic assessments on key topics and methodologies on global and regional level
  • Stakeholder outreach and communication

In 2016, the IPBES Assessment Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production was published. It is a fundamental, comprehensive, detailed evaluation of pollination as an ecosystem services, its importance for food production, status and trends of native and managed pollinators and plant-pollinator networks, the drivers of change to these systems and their impact, and possible policy responses to existing and emerging threats. The assessment was conducted over circa two years by a team of experts from all regions, comprising two Chairs, 19 Coordinating Lead Authors, 41 Lead Authors, 35 Contributing Authors, and 14 Review Editors. Much emphasis was put on the balanced composition of the authors’ team. Two of the Lead Authors were scientists from crop protection industry, in order to make sure that agronomic environmental safety perspective is covered. The authors analyzed a huge body of data, information, and knowledge, including circa 3,000 scientific publication. The Assessment Report has become the leading scientific standard reference on the topic of pollination and pollinators.