Europe is missing out on the agricultural biotech revolution, says agbiotech pioneering scientist

January 20, 2006

Brussels, 19 Jan 2006

Prof. Dr. Marc Van Montagu, Chairman International Plant Biotechnology Organisation (IPBO) University of Ghent, and president of the European Federation of Biotechnology, told journalists at a press conference in Brussels, today, that Europe is missing out on the biotech revolution in agriculture. Europe is lagging behind its worldwide competitors and European farmers are deprived of access to one of the fastest growing technologies in agriculture.

Marc Van Montagu is the inventor of the technology to create genetically modified (GM) plants and produced the first GM plant in Europe. He is convinced that technology transfer and plant biotechnology research oriented to the needs of the developing countries is important: "Fighting the vicious circle of hunger and poverty is the most urgent task that faces our society, and will require a reformulation of current models of agriculture," he said.

The European Union is far behind its competitors in terms of number of hectares under GM cultivation. The new figures published last week by ISAAA , The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, show that in 2005 the number of hectares globally cultivated with GM crops increased by 9.0 million hectares. Among the growing number of countries cultivating GM crops, five of them are EU Member States, which is encouraging for Europe but still remains low in global terms.

Two of Europe's leading Agro biotech companies - CropDesign and Devgen - are in the frontline in developing and working on agricultural biotechnologies. Both companies are strong advocates for these technologies. Their R&D activities are important for Europe in its quest towards a strong, knowledge based economy. "The fact that Europe is lagging behind in the commercialization of GM-crops doesn't make things easier for young R&D driven companies", says Johan Vanhemelrijck, EuropaBio Secretary General." The question is how many companies decided not to start up in this area in Europe, and how many opportunities have we lost to maintain our leadership?"

Dr Van Montagu praised the European Commission supported European stakeholder forum on plant genomics and biotechnology, "Plants for the Future , which sets out a 20 year vision and a Strategic Research Agenda for European agricultural development for the next two decades as being a good example of supporting the plant science research and industry community who want to reap the benefits of agricultural biotechnologies. All speakers hope that the implementation of the EU regulation concerning GM-crops is encouraging at the national level, which will open the way towards a sustainable use of a very useful technology. Alina Cornea
Tel: +32 2 735 0313 Direct: +32 2 739 1181 Mobile: +32 473 66 05 58
Email: a.cornea@europabio.org Simon Barber, Tel: +32 2 735 0313 Direct: +32 2 739 1172 Mobile: +32 476 44 24 20
Email: s.barber@europabio.org

Ann Van Gysel, Tel +32 9 244 66 11 Mobile: +32 9 475 33 66 00

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