Towards a SYstems-Based, holistic Environmental Risk Assessment of Chemicals

Biodiversity is key to modern society, sustaining natural resources and providing essential ecosystem services. According to the UN United Nations  (United Nations ) Sustainable Development goals, the European Green Deal, the EU European Union (European Union) Biodiversity strategy and other European and national level Directives and strategic regulations, pollution is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss. The risks resulting from the use, release and effects of chemical on the environment is addressed in a plethora of EU-level Directives and regulatory strategies, each with specific (chemical) targets and protection aims. There is, however, concern that such a fragmented approach does not alleviate the threats of chemicals to biodiversity and ecosystem services. To protect genetic and functional biodiversity from pollution impacts, a paradigm shift is needed. This transformation should move beyond the current fragmented Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) performed in specific regulatory silos, e.g., Plant Protection Products (PPPs)regulation for pesticides, REACH for industrial chemicals and Biocides framework for Biocidal chemicals, towards a harmonised and systems-based ERA applicable to all chemicals, species and land use functions. SYBERAC runs from January 2024 until December 2027.


To make this advance, SYBERAC will provide ways forward to rationalise the current silo-based Protection Goals into high-level system-based Protection Goals and to operationalise their use within systems-based ERA robust and broadly applicable ERA structures. Six case studies, overarching different silos of current ERA will provide proof-of-concepts of the developed approaches. Based on targeted stakeholder engagement, in close cooperation with other relevant projects on the topic, results and outcomes will be disseminated towards a wide audience, including national and EU level regulatory institutions, industrial partners but also land managers, farmers and conservation bodies. 
The project focuses mainly on crop protection products and 'chemicals of emerging concern' (CECs) such as veterinary medicines and hormone disrupting substances. Industrial pollution falls outside the scope of the project.


•    Wageningen University, the Netherlands (coordinator)
•    Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal (partner)
•    Aarhus Universitet, Denmark (partner)
•    Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Spain (partner)
•    Yordas Gmbh, Germany (partner, communication)
•    Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain (partner)
•    Stichting Wageningen Research, the Netherlands (partner)
•    Universität Osnabrück, Germany (partner)
•    National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, RIVM , the Netherlands (partner)
•    Umweltbundesamt, Germany (partner)
•    Kemikalieninspektionen, Sweden (associated partner)
•    Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, United Kingdom (associated partner)

Role of RIVM

RIVM contributes in many ways to method development and implementation in the field of risk assessment of chemical substances. SYBERAC aims to contribute to a crucial 'paradigm shift' in this area that will emerge in the coming years, namely from a risk assessment in 'silos' (separately for different types of substances, separately for different environmental compartments, separately for different groups of organisms) to a more 'systems-based' holistic assessment with the principle of 'one substance, one assessment'. Within a few years, this change will have major consequences for the risk assessment of substances by RIVM for our Dutch and European clients. It is therefore useful to think about this transition at an early stage and to gain knowledge and experience with it. In line with the European Green Deal and in particular with the objectives of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, the EU zero pollution action plan and the EU pollinators initiative.

RIVM is participating in two parts of the project, namely:
•    Work Package 1 - Stakeholder Consultation (contact at RIVM: Mark Montforts, VSP).
•    Work Package 2 – Case studies. Case study by RIVM: atmospheric deposition of contaminants in nature conservation areas (contact at RIVM: Joost Lahr, MIL)
Joost Lahr is coordinator for SYBERAC at RIVM. 


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101135213. The project concerns a Research and Innovation Action (RIA).