Round table calls for research and innovation to boost agri-food sector

May 15, 2002

Brussels, 14 May 2002

A European round table on agriculture and food has concluded that innovative technologies and investment in research and development (R&D) are crucial to improving the competitiveness of the European agri-food sector.

The round table, the last in a series of debates launched by the European Commission in early 2001, drew together general principles on the development of EU agriculture and food policy in the years ahead. It was agreed that innovative technologies and R&D have a key role to play in maintaining the competitiveness of Europe's agri-food sector, and that food policy and legislation must support innovation in this area.

Public mistrust, however, remains a stumbling block in the application of new technologies such as genetic modification in European agriculture. A de facto moratorium on the authorisation of new GM products, which began in 1998 due to the concerns of some Member States, continues to stall EU progress in the area. The deadlock has also brought the threat of sanctions from the USA, whose firms are suffering a reduction in exports as a result of the moratorium.

A spokesperson for Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said, however, that the round table debates are a step in the right direction. The debates have brought people together to talk over the issues, she said, helping to break down barriers in public opinion.

'New technology and innovation doesn't necessarily need to be a bad thing,' as it can also be used to aid sustainable agriculture through, for example, a reduction in pesticide use, the spokesperson added.

Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said the year-long process of debate demonstrates that 'we need the whole food chain and its stakeholders to assist and support farmers to develop quality production.'

Commissioner Byrne commented that 'clear and unambiguous consumer information are essential to informed consumer choice and this message came across very clearly during our round tables. Policy and legislation will be developed to give effect to this clear consumer message.'

For further information, please consult the following web address: oodqual/index_en.htm

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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