Brussels, 03 Feb 2003
EU Commissioner for Research, Philippe Busquin, stressed the need to recognise the international dimension of research in European policymaking as he outlined the new aspects of the Sixth Framework programme (FP6) and the European Research Area (ERA) at a conference on life sciences and biotechnology in sustainable agriculture on 31 January.
The European Union boasts more than twenty years' experience in international cooperation with developing countries and the framework programmes have been an integral part of the Union's ongoing policy to support scientific endeavour. In the last four years in particular, a total of 52 million euro in European research funding was allocated to 63 biotech related projects, which involved partners from developing countries.
Such initiatives ensure that developing countries have the opportunity to engage in the research and application of life sciences and biotechnology, claimed Commissioner Busquin.
'Scientific research is essentially an international activity [...] European research activities that concentrate on developing sustainable agriculture can benefit from the experiments carried out on agricultural systems in extreme conditions [of developing countries],' said Commissioner Busquin.
'I think I can say that the European Union [also] plays a proactive role in supporting the safe and responsible use of life sciences and biotechnology in Europe and the world.'
In particular, in the field of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), successive European research programmes have funded some 80 GMO safety related research projects amounting to 70 million euro in the last 15 years.
Commissioner Busquin also highlighted the work of networks, made up of more than 45 laboratories, set up to develop and validate methods for detecting and quantifying GMOs in food and feed. The Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) is coordinating the activities of such networks.
According to Mr Busquin, such practical initiatives are helping to harvest the potential of biotechnology in a responsible way, so that ' knowledge and know how can be networked for the greater good.'
The Commissioner underlined Europe's commitment to 'creating research capacity in local areas'. A total of 315 million euro has been earmarked for international cooperation in FP6, which focuses primarily on the work of international cooperation with the developing countries (INCO-DC). Such an initiative focuses on dynamic dialogue and promotes the development of long term sustainable research partnerships at bilateral, bi-regional and global levels.
Another 285 million euro of the FP6 budget is set aside to finance proposals under the specific calls dedicated to international scientific cooperation with developing countries and other targeted groups of countries, where the management of natural resources and food security are selected priorities.
Similarly, provisions have been made to fund research training for third-country researchers in Europe within the 'human resources and mobility' programme. Coupled with the European Research Area, Mr Busquin concluded by saying that such policies within Europe will help 'optimise research to provide a better response to what the world needs.'