Brussels, 16 Oct 2002
EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin has called for the creation of a European platform on plant science through the networking of national research programmes.
The changing attitude of society to research in food and agriculture demands that researchers pay increasing attention to the concerns of the public and other stakeholders. Speaking at the Euragri conference in Brussels on 15 October, Mr Busquin called on researchers and the general public not to shy away from new technologies relevant to this field.
'New technologies, that can bring real benefits to citizens and improve the competitiveness of European agriculture, should not be discarded through ignorance and prejudice. Instead, we must work to balance governance and freedom of research to allow the advance of science, and adopt a level headed approach to evaluate the risks, costs and benefits of each new development,' said the Commissioner.
The Commission would like to see more dialogue between various stakeholders, and in particular between researchers and the general public. This should lead to an appreciation of society's concerns and sensitivities by researchers, and a better understanding of the benefits offered by new agricultural technologies by citizens.
The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) demonstrates the lack of dialogue. The use and development of GM crops is increasing in many countries, but is still subject to increasingly stringent regulation in the EU. Several GMO research field trials have been vandalised across Europe, leading to research facilities being relocated to other countries.
This loss is likely to have serious consequences for European competitiveness, according to the Commission. Agricultural production is currently worth 220 billion euro per year in the EU, and employs around 7.5 million people. The food industry meanwhile employs 2.6 million workers and is valued at 600 billion euro.
The Commission is tackling the communication deficit with a series of round table meetings on GMO safety research, bringing together researchers with consumer organisations, environmental non governmental organisations (NGOs), national administrations and industry. The Commission has also supported 81 bio-safety research projects with 70 million euro over the last 15 years and is devoting 685 million euro to food quality and safety under the Sixth Framework Programme.
To see a report on 15 years of EU-funded GMO safety research, please visit: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/quali ty-of-life/gmo/index.html For information on the GMO safety round tables: http://biosociety.cordis.lu