Fera Symposium event summary

Last week, Enviresearch’s Scott Watson and Alice Tagliati attended Fera’s Symposium, on the theme of ‘Creating Better Outcomes for a Sustainable Future – Advances in Environmental Risk Assessments.’ The event brought together individuals from industry, academia, and regulators to discuss developments and challenges in environmental risk assessment to support sustainable crop protection practices. For those unable to attend, here’s a summary of the event from Alice and Scott.  

Day one of the Symposium started with a series of talks focusing on the theme of ecotoxicology. To start the day, Dan Pickford from Syngenta and Enviresearch’s Alice respectively explored the use of species sensitivity distributions (SSD) and fish population models as techniques available in the risk assessor’s toolbox towards risk assessing pesticide use. Judith Turner from Fera discussed current and future approaches to soil organism risk assessments, while Mark Miles of Bayer examined EFSA’s recent revisions to the bee guidance for risk assessment, outlining the complexity introduced across each tier of risk assessment and the implications for higher tier studies. Representing academia, Colin Brown presented work undertaken at the University of York investigating the impact of chemical mixtures on river biodiversity. 

In the afternoon, the focus turned to the role of biopesticides in crop protection. Dave Bench from CropLifeUK outlined the regulatory landscape for pesticides in the UK and its associated challenges, noting the potential value of blending the best of traditional and innovative approaches in crop protection to support food production. Anne Alix of Corteva and Johan Bremmer from Wageningen University & Research considered the need for innovation in crop protection, including referring to the role that biotechnologies and natural sciences can play. The afternoon was wrapped with a talk from Mark Whittaker of APIS, who discussed the current ecotoxicological data requirements for biopesticides in the EU and UK and their relevance and fitness-for-purpose for meaningful environmental risk assessment of many biopesticides. 

Day two of the symposium explored environmental chemistry in the morning session. Victoria Pratt from Fera shared experiences with aged absorption laboratory studies for refining Predicted Environmental Concentration (PEC) estimates in groundwater. The theme of experimental design was continued with talks by Fera’s Phil Lamond on stopflow radiochemistry HPLC analysis and Carmel Ramwell on passive samplers for environmental monitoring. Martin Hilton of Exponent concluded the sessions with insights into the CLP Regulation and hazard classification with a particular focus around PBT/vPvB and PMT/vPvM substances. 

The Symposium drew to a close with an afternoon session on endocrine disruptors (ED) and their assessment under EU regulatory frameworks. Dan Pickford from Syngenta returned to the stage to provide an insightful perspective on the EU assessment process for ED from a notifier’s viewpoint, discussing appropriate and relevant approaches for performing hazard characterization. Karen Thorpe from Fera and Steve Ruckman and Nicola Dennis from tsg shared examples of ED assessments performed within the EU regulatory frameworks, highlighting the particular challenges in ‘proving the negative’ for acceptance by regulatory authorities. 

The presentations over both days highlight impressive contributions from across industry and academia, that help further our understanding of environmental risk assessment and drive innovation to support sustainable crop protection practices. The discussions also raised important questions about the future of pesticide assessment and regulation. How regulatory frameworks are continued to be shaped, interpreted and implemented by regulatory bodies going forward will be key when it comes to supporting sustainable agriculture. It is important to ensure that appropriate and relevant data is being asked for to support hazard characterisation and risk assessment, and that this information is appropriately understood and used by industry and regulators to ensure robust science-based regulatory decisions are made concerning pesticide registrations. These ongoing conversations promise to unfold further, and we eagerly anticipate updates and continued discussions at future Symposia.