The first goal of the panel will be to define what is known and unknown.
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“At the end of this panel, our goal is to identify all the major unknowns we have to answer and we’ll explore these questions,” Dr. Osterholm says. “Plus, we will look at what we can do in the meantime to put another level of safety for good agricultural practices and good manufacturing processes for these products.”
Prevention, he adds, is the most important thing right now, and the panel of experts will review what can be done and what has worked in the past. Something as simple as safe water practices can help.
“We know in some areas of the world, particularly parts of South America and Central Asia, it’s likely contaminated water with feces from humans or animals may be involved,” Dr. Osterholm says. “We can surely put into place barriers relative to workers in a field in terms of sampling and we believe an extensive sampling program that could give us early warnings if there’s issues is important.”
The first meeting of the panel is expected to convene in October. A public report with findings and next steps is expected to released early 2019, well in time to be used for the next growing season.
“We will look at every possibility and this is information that will be shared across the industry,” Dr. Osterholm says. “We don’t view this as one company’s advantage over another to have more information or better information, this is an industry-wide issue that has to be dealt with as an industry as a whole.”