Jeroen P. van der Sluijs is professor at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities at the University of Bergen, Norway. His work focusses on the process of co-creation of actionable knowledge that inform societal responses to pressing issues such as the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis. Originally trained as a natural scientist (MSc in chemistry with major in theoretical ecology form Leiden University 1990, and PhD on uncertainty in climate risk assessment form Utrecht University, 1997) he developed a research interest in actionable knowledge for risk governance in a context of scientific uncertainty and controversy. Over the past 15 years he has been studying amongst other the emerging science-policy interface around pollinator decline, insect decline and insect conservation, as well as risk assessment and risk governance of neonicotinoid insecticides. He leads the case-study on bees and pesticides of the European H2020 project "REconciling sCience, Innovation and Precaution through the Engagement of Stakeholders (RECIPES)". He (co-)authored more than 100 peer reviewed publications and is in the top 2% of the most cited scientists in the world (Stanford list). He ranked regularly high in "The Sustainable 100", a list of the most influential Netherlands persons contributing to sustainable development, by daily newspaper Trouw.
Environmental risk assessment of pesticides: transitioning to a systems-based approachSee more
22/06 - 14:00Visit the agenda
Title of talk
Broadening the scope of future ERAs of pesticides: lessons from the neonicotinoids case
22/06 - 14:05
Abstract of talk
For the last 65 years we have been on a pesticide merry-go-round: successive generations of pesticides are released and subsequently banned a decade or two later once the environmental harm they cause becomes evident. While pesticides are typically replaced by new ones, this new generation of chemicals often raises new and unanticipated risk concerns.
Risks that in retrospect required precautionary action have been systematically overlooked as a result of blind spots in overly reductionist risk assessment protocols. Knowledge about risks that do not fit into such protocols (e.g. academic scientific studies in the peer-reviewed literature and knowledge regarding end-points not covered by the protocols) is often downplayed, marginalised or ignored. Too often, coalitions of concerned scientists and societal actors have needed to step in and ‘break the script’ of routinised assessment and management processes in order to recognise key uncertainties and the potential for serious harm to human, animal and environmental health. Based on the results of the EU-funded project ‘REconciling sCience, Innovation and Precaution through the Engagement of Stakeholders’ (RECIPES), we can learn important lessons for the necessary reforms of environmental risk assessment frameworks and beyond.
The case of the re-evaluation of neonicotinoids in the EU is illustrative of how different bodies of knowledge were taken into account, enabling the implementation of precautionary measures. It shows the need for a reform of the regulatory system, so that it becomes more agile and responsive and allows externally-produced knowledge to influence and modify routinised assessment processes. Explicit and transparent problem scoping in risk assessment is essential to address the right questions, to avoid overlooking relevant aspects and dimensions of the issue and to define problem boundaries in the assessment of uncertain risks as widely as possible to include the concerns of those affected by risks and risk regulation. A further lesson from ongoing debates on Europe's pesticide regulation and risks to bees is that the precautionary principle can be undermined if it is replaced by a limited set of overly specific protection goals. A broader knowledge base that includes knowledge from ‘non-standardised’ studies and involves non-standard knowledge holders in a more open and holistic way (less restricted by pre-defined end-points) is strongly recommended in risk assessment.