It's time to provide a bit of guidance

September 14, 2001

The European Commission has begun a wide-ranging consultation exercise to prepare the ground for an important policy document that it will issue by the end of this year on the future of life sciences and biotechnology.

There is concern among governments of the European Union that although new technologies in these fields could bring many benefits, their introduction could have damaging social and environmental impacts.

The commission's planned policy document will be a launch pad for an action plan, which is likely to include concrete spending and legislative initiatives.

The first step was taken this week with the commission's call for comments from the science and research world. The call was issued on paper in a consultation document that will appear in full on the internet later this month.

  • It listed a number of issues on which the commission was seeking expert guidance. These included:
  • Who is likely to gain or lose from new biotechnologies?
  • What research is needed to support the development and any related public policies?
  • What are the ethical and societal implications and how should they be addressed?
  • How can the EU compete with the United States in biotechnological innovation?
  • How could developing countries benefit from these developments?
  • How should debates be staged on these questions?

The consultation document will be available from mid-September at .

The deadline for comments is November 23, by post to Biotechnology, BREY 7/329, European Commission, Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium; fax 00 32 2 295 76 37, or email The European Commission will hold a conference on the subject on September -28.

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