David Byrne, Renate Künast and Miguel Arias Cañete to open EU conference on risk perception

November 28, 2003

Brussels, November 2003

Senior figures from the worlds of politics, science and food will meet in Brussels on 4-5 December for an EU sponsored conference on risk perception.

Keynote speakers will include Spain's Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Miguel Arias Cañete and Germany's Minister for Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture, Renate Künast and the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, David Byrne.

The conference will explore how the public's perceptions of risk are formed, and what this means in a complex democracy such as the European Union. Building on previous European Commission conferences on risk management and European governance, the event incorporates a stakeholder forum on risk perception of genetically modified food. Several hundred delegates from across Europe are expected to attend.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Commissioner David Byrne said: "I know, from my own experience, the difficulties politicians and scientific experts face in talking to the media about risk. When I speak about food safety or public health issues it is often a real struggle to put the risks in context to give "the facts" without sounding either alarmist or complacent. Even when the politicians and experts are sure they have given the facts in a balanced way, public and media reaction can still take them by surprise."

Conference on 4-5 December 2003, Brussels

Entitled "Risk Perception: Science, Public Debate and Policy Making", the conference is being hosted by the European Commission at its Charlemagne Conference Centre in Brussels. Details of the conference have been advertised on the Commission's website and some 600 delegates have registered to attend.

As well as Commissioner Byrne and the two ministers, the conference programme includes:

  • International perspectives from Dr. Angelika Tritscher of the World Health Organisation, Anne Sergeant of the US Environmental Protection Agency

  • EU regulators and experts such as Geoffery Podger of the European Food Safety Authority, Dirk Sterckx MEP and Jean Russotto of law firm Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly

  • Food producers and retailers' views from Peter Gaemelke of CopaCocega and Gordon Maddan of ASDA Stores Ltd

  • Biotechnology sector perspectives from Dr. Simon Barber of EuropBio

  • Views from civil society: Eric Gall of GreenPeace European Policy and Anna Bartolini, of the European Consumer Consultative Group

  • Academic experts: Dr. Robert Coleman of Queens University in Belfast, Professor George Gaskell of the London School of Economics, Dr. Gabrielle Persley of the Doyle Foundation and Professor Ortwin Renn of the University of Stuttgart
Press programme

A press conference will be held on Thursday 4 December at the Charlemagne Building at 12.30 with David Byrne and Ministers Arias Cañete and Künast. Journalists wishing to attend the entire conference or journalists not accredited with the European institutions should e-mail Beate Gminder ( beate.gminder@cec.eu.int ) to register as conference participants. Press facilities will be available to accredited journalists at the conference centre.

Further information

For more details about the conference and the programme of speakers see:


To register your interest in watching a live "webcast" of the conference email:


DN: IP/03/1620 Date: /11/2003

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