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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Forward Thinking Exercise 2020

In 2012, ANSES conducted a forward-thinking exercise involving some of its staff members, its Scientific Board and two leading authorities from outside the Agency. The purpose was to think in advance about what the main priorities for our work programme might be by 2020. The time horizonof 2020 was chosen as representing an intermediate timescale between “short-term” planning as might be expressed in “goals and performance” contracts, and more conventional long-term projections that usually look forward to 2050. This is the right timescale to think in terms of planning research or developing skills within the Agency. The 2012 exercise dealt principally with health and safety, meaning human health in the general population and at the workplace, based on a “products/environment” approach, and also animal and plant health.

Such an exercise mainly takes the form of an extrapolation from the current situation, based on an analysis of the variables that lead to changes in the health risk landscape. An exercise in longer term forward thinking would have led to a distinction between different scenarios. Considering the variables described below, these could have been entitled “successful ecological transition”, “a global economic crisis”, or “a globalised world and intensive production”. Since the timescale chosen was short, the exercise essentially consisted in composing a probable scenario incorporating several coexisting trends, similar to those pertaining at present.

The work involved several phases including methodological framing and drafting of a preparatory document. It contained an initial view of the variables governing the changing challenges facing the Agency, divided into four groups (risks related to technological developments, risks related to social changes, changing disease patterns, and new possibilities for investigation) together with a list of useful references. A symposium centred on four issues: the factors determining change in the risks to be dealt with; a “2020” work plan for ANSES; future political agendas; and changing working methods within the Agency. Following the symposium, a summary was drafted and presented at the Scientific Board session on 19 November 2012.

The conclusions of this work highlight several elements that influence risk change (environmental pressure, global organisational developments, societal evolutions, technologies). These elements will have an impact on the Agency’s activities, especially as concerns chemical agents (with improved understanding of the complexity of exposures), non-infectious diseases and their origin, new technologies, new agricultural production methods, resistance phenomena (especially for pesticides and antibiotics), various “crises” linked, for example, to infectious diseases or food habits, and antimicrobial resistance.