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Can systematic reviews inform environmental risk assessments? SHTAC contributes to new research publications

Published: 25 January 2016
Maize field
Can systematic reviews inform environmental risk assessments?

SHTAC has contributed to two new research papers which explore how systematic reviews could be applied to improve the identification, analysis and communication of evidence in environmental research and risk assessment, in the areas of food and feed safety and the safety of genetically modified organisms.

Systematic reviews are a robust scientific method for identifying, collecting, analysing and communicating evidence to answer specific questions in a way that ensures transparency and minimises bias. Systematic reviews are increasingly being applied in environmental research, but there are uncertainties about whether they could be suitable for informing environmental risk assessments, which are highly structured analyses based on multi-parameter models involving numerous questions.

Geoff Frampton from SHTAC has contributed to a paper published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition which presents a framework for prioritising risk assessment questions for systematic review. Geoff has also contributed to a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology which explores the pros and cons of systematic reviews for informing risk assessments for genetically modified organisms (GMO).

These papers are contributing to a debate about how to achieve best practice in synthesis of evidence for environmental risk assessments, particularly for contentious topics such as GMO research. They suggest that systematic reviews would not be appropriate for all risk assessment questions, but priority questions should include those which would have the strongest influence on the overall risk assessment conclusion.

For more information on SHTAC’s biology and environmental research please visit our Research page.


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