Report on the Commission communication on Life sciences and biotechnology - A Strategy for Europe

November 6, 2002

Brussels, 05 Nov 2002

FINAL A5-0359/2002 23 October 2002
REPORT on the Commission communication on Life sciences and biotechnology - A Strategy for Europe
Full text

[...] What is the action plan?

The Action Plan has been drawn up by the Commission as a follow-up of the Lisbon summit - at the request of the Council - and as a consequence of the European Parliament's own initiative report on the future of the biotechnology industry . The Action Plan contains 30 actions (see annex) that cover all areas of importance in developing the social and economic potential of the industry. The final goal is to reap its benefits in a shared European vision, achievable, only, by policy coherence between all areas affecting and affected by biotechnology..

Is the Action plan improving the situation?

The action plan is a good initiative and it should be welcomed. However, two questions remain: Will it be enough? And in the long term, can we afford not to have a European biotechnology?

Societal scrutiny and ethics:

Promoting dialogue among stakeholders and organising public debates are necessary to accompany the development of Biotechnology and insure it is in harmony with societal values. In this respect, the action plan initiates an essential European debate about biotechnology in order not to lose more ground to competitors - if it is lost in the short term, it may be so forever.

Support for the biotechnology community:

The biotechnology community urgently needs a predictable and supportive legal and policy framework. It also needs a better access to venture capital and overall co-ordination (both public and private) that unifies research and investment efforts for international and regional mutual benefit, therefore aiming both at competitiveness and quality benchmarking.

According to the European biotechnology industry itself, companies are suffering from massive under-funding since Basel-II. The Commission urgently needs to examine public financing mechanisms, which might assist the industry during the current economic conditions.

Patenting should be connected with product development and testing; A EU centralised co-ordination body is needed with public and private support, especially for SME's, to minimise repetition of testing costs and offering conditions for patent holders to develop and test their products in Europe.

Consumer protection:

The need for a high level of consumer safety, a rigorous risk assessment and extensive, clear information is paramount for any product under EU's legislation. Scientists, companies, the European Commission and Member States should be able to provide consumers with an informed choice concerning biotech products, keeping consumers from falling into misinformation and producers from market ostracism.

Protection of personal data should be enforced by the prohibition of genetic testing results for non-therapeutic and non-research uses.

Legislation and enforcement of existing legislation:

It is important that a knowledge-based legal framework for biotechnology is created promptly, limiting administrative burdens for researchers and industry, with enforceable requirements.

The Commission should initiate infringement procedures at an earlier stage. The European Parliament could regularly monitor enforcement of important directives, e.g. during its plenary meetings. The EP itself must discuss biotechnology thoroughly to overcome the schizophrenic situation of half supporting it and half condemning it.

The flight of inventions and researchers implies the need of a supported European patent with minimal bureaucracy, achievable through the harmonisation of National Legislations.

[...]

Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy - Rapporteur: Elisa Maria Damião

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