RECIPES Citizen meeting in Sofia
The half-day citizen meeting in Sofia brought together 27 participants representing different social groups, professions, cities, and age. Similar meetings were organised in four other countries – Norway, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands. The aim of the meetings was to learn how EU citizens perceive fairness, risk and safety in relation to research, precaution, and innovation.
Prior to the event in Sofia, participants received information material that aimed to assist them in their reflections before and during the citizen meeting. The material briefly presented the essence of the precautionary principle, its implementation in the EU and the relationship between precaution and innovation. It also presented the topics of GMOs, nanotechnology, and pesticides in order to exemplify precaution and innovation.
During the meeting, the participants expressed their opinions on precaution and innovation through a questionnaire and group interviews. Although the discussions showed that the precautionary principle is still a new topic for participants, they were eager to share their thoughts on questions such as: which of the two – precaution or innovation – should have a higher priority; what are the ethical and moral aspects of the precautionary principle, and who should be involved in its application and further development. They also discussed their trust in politicians regulating technologies and provided their insights about what should be required to ban a certain product/technology.
Main findings and conclusions from the discussions during the citizen meeting in Bulgaria:
- - Participants were mostly motivated by their desire to learn more about precaution and innovation, as well as by their concerns about the potential risks posed by emerging technologies.
- - Genetically modified organisms: strict control measures should be introduced in order to avoid harm on the environment; a case-by-case assessment of the potential effects of GMOs on environment, people’s health and consumers’ safety should be conducted before permitting their release on the market.
- - Nanotechnologies: participants expressed concerns similar to the ones related to GMOs but, at the same time, they recognised the enormous potential of nanotechnologies to improve health and prosperity in the future.
- - Pesticides: the participants had deep concerns about the current and future use of pesticides. The dominating opinion was that stringent control measures should be introduced to avoid the harmful effects on environment and public health.
- - Decisions on banning a product/technology should be based on scientific evidence, and experts and scientists should have the leading role in decision-making.
- - Ethical and moral aspects, as well as assessments of possible negative effects on society at large, should be considered when applying the precautionary principle.
- - All relevant stakeholders should be involved when the precautionary principle is invoked, as well as in the further development of the principle to ensure that all interested parties receive a fair opportunity to present their arguments.
- - The burden of proof of safety of products/technologies should be on the manufacturers, while the role of the state is to develop the legal framework.
- - The precautionary principle was almost universally recognised as an appropriate and effective tool to regulate uncertainties arising from the development of technologies.
The results of the citizen meeting in Bulgaria were summarised in a national report and will feed into an analytical report covering the information from all five national reports. The concluding report will be presented to policy-makers and the EU Commission.
The meeting in Sofia was held as part of the RECIPES project, which is a Horizon 2020 project that ARC Fund participates in together with ten other partners from Europe.