SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  17 January 2013
Volume 14 Issue 1

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First Meeting of the MODELINK Workshop Successfully Held in Le Croisic, France

Udo Hommen, Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology

Modelink Logo

On behalf of the MODELINK Organizing Committee: Anne Alix, Dow AgroSciences, UK; Patrice Carpentier, Ministry of Agriculture, FR; Peter Dohmen, BASF, DE; Virginie Ducrot, INRA, FR; Thomas G. Preuss, RWTH Aachen University, DE; Melissa Reed, HSE, UK; Walter Schmitt, Bayer CropScience, DE; Pernille Thorbek, Syngenta, UK and the workshop rapporteur (Volker Grimm, UFZ, DE).

Ecological modelling is increasingly seen as a promising tool to link the results of ecotoxicological studies to specific protection goals because it can facilitate extrapolation from standard test endpoints to higher levels of biological organization and can explore the influence of various kinds of ecological complexity on the degree of risk. However, currently there are no recommendations on which models are suitable or how to apply them to risk assessments. Therefore, the general objective of the SETAC Europe technical workshop MODELINK is to provide guidance for when and how to apply ecological models to regulatory risk assessment.

The focus of MODELINK is on the risk assessment of plant protection products in the European Union (EU). The workshop is divided into two meetings, each over three to four days and a homework period in between. The first meeting was organized by Virginie Ducrot and held in October 2012 in Le Croisic, France. Approximately 60 experts from diverse backgrounds (ecotoxicologists, modellers, regulatory scientists and policy makers) and representing the tripartite structure of SETAC (academia, business, government) participated.

Photo by Alpar Barsi

After a warm welcome by the vice president of SETAC Europe Laurent Lagadic, representing also the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) as the host institute of this meeting, keynotes were given by Volker Grimm, Valery Forbes, Chris Topping, Melissa Reed, Patrice Carpentier and Anne Alix to introduce the background and objectives of the workshop.

Thereafter, the participants worked in break-out groups on six case studies dealing with organism- and population-level effects in vertebrates, soil invertebrates, terrestrial arthropods, aquatic invertebrates and macrophytes. After presenting the available exposure and (experimental) effect data the "classical" risk assessments and options for refinements via ecological models were discussed. In total, 15 different models were introduced and made available for the participants to be used during the homework period. It was not the purpose of the workshop to select, evaluate and accept specific models for regulatory risk assessment. Instead, the task of the workshop was to explore, assuming we had accepted these models, how they could improve current risk assessment and to which relevant scales and environmental scenarios they should be applied. The first experience with handling the models and conducting simulations was gained in the breakout work.

MODELINK audience

Discussions in the plenary sessions revealed that there is a shared view on the potential of ecological modelling as a risk assessment tool. However, there was a general wish to clarify the risk assessment issues that modelling may actually address, to understand modelling data needs and to build confidence in the use of modelling to support decision-making. It was concluded that models can quantify toxicant impacts but cannot necessarily tell us what acceptable impacts are. Thus, there is still need to define specific protection goals in a way that they can guide the definition of model scenarios and outputs. Until then, the models should be used to support the analysis of scenarios related to different levels of protection. The models should be realistic while the scenarios should cover relevant, realistic worst-case situations. To increase confidence in mechanistic effect models and their use, the development of standardized models and scenarios, similar to the FOrum for Co-ordination of pesticide fate models and their USe (FOCUS) exposure models and scenarios used in the EU, was suggested. However, deviations from these standards should be possible when relevant and justified by the data, for example, for specific uses of the plant protection product or case-specific critical issues.

During the homework period the groups will prepare risk assessment reports on their case studies comparing "classical" risk assessments to those using ecological effect models. These reports will be discussed and refined during the second meeting and serve as the basis to derive general recommendations on the use of effect models in pesticide risk assessment. The second MODELINK workshop is organized by Thomas Preuss and will be held in April 2013 in Monschau, Germany.

We hope you will choose to join us for this timely special symposium!

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