Risk Analysis for Agriculture and the Environment

Module summary

Module code: AGRI1140
Level: 7
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): Linda Nicolaides



This module introduces the principles of risk analysis that underpin decision-making in the regulation of agricultural technology and consequent health and environmental protection. A robust and coherent approach to risk analysis is necessary for a number of reasons. First, decisions in these fields are usually very difficult to make in that they must balance the risks that given technology or processes may cause harm with the potential economic and social benefits from the technology. Adoption of formal risk assessment approaches allows the scientific underpinnings and objectivity of measures taken to be maximised and so avoid if possible political manipulation e.g. trade barriers. Second, according to international trade agreements (World Trade Organisation), any measures taken to prohibit or restrict trade must be based on risk analysis if they are not based strictly on agreed international standards. Third, there is the emerging link between risk assessment and legal liability in the event that harm actually results from adopted technology.

In the context of this rationale, the module aims:
• To provide in-depth understanding of the need for and principles of risk analysis in the context of:
o international trade and globalisation
o national control programmes for health and environmental protection
o development, testing and use of biotechnology
• To evaluate and systematically formulate information sources for specific risk analysis exercises
• To use and evaluate critically a variety of methodologies for risk analysis
• To provide systematic understanding of the legal, regulatory and socio-economic affecting risk assessment and the relationship between risk analysis and decision-making applied to
o Food safety
o Agricultural chemicals and biotechnology
o Environmental protection, especially protection of habitats and biodiversity from non-native species
o Zoonoses (animal diseases transmissible to man)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:
1. critically evaluate the nature and importance risk analysis in the context of international trade agreements and national obligations to protect health and the environment;
2. critically evaluate methodology for risk analysis and carry out analyses in areas appropriate to the students’ interest;
3. using critical insight gained from a synthesis of sources, acquire an adequate information base for a risk analysis exercise;
4. deal with and communicate complex issues by presenting risk analyses through verbal presentations and written reports.

Indicative content

1. Risk analysis in practice and Introduction to risk analysis and its legal context
2. Approaches to and methodology for risk analysis
3. Administration and implementation of risk analysis