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Course Information Undergraduate prospectus

Risk Analysis for Agriculture and the Environment

Course summary

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


Pre and co requisites



This course provides an introduction to 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 course 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 completing this course successfully 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;
3 using critical insight gained from a synthesis of sources, acquire an adequate information base for a risk analysis exercise;
4 carry out risk analysis in fields appropriate to the students’ interests;
5 deal with and communicate complex issues by presenting risk analyses through verbal presentations and written reports.

Indicative content

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

Teaching and learning activity

Students will be taught by a combination of lectures, discussion-based workshops and practical sessions. In addition, a supporting tutorial system will operate parallel to the course (but not part of it) to permit further follow-up on key skills development.

Contact Hours lectures 28
practical sessions 6
tutorials 6
Private Study 50
Assignments: course work and other forms of assessment coursework 60
laboratory work


Presentation - 50% weighting, 50% pass mark.
20 minute presentation with visual aids as 'work-in-progress'.
Learning outcomes 1, 3, 5, 4.

Written Report - 50% weighting, 50% pass mark.
2500 words.
Final report on case study.
Learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4,5

Students are not required to pass all components in order to pass the course.

Formative Assessments (0% weighting)

Group exercise on risk analysis.
Identify specific hazards and associated risk described in case studies.

Quiz based upon case studies.
20 questions on issues looked at case studies.