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[SANET-MG] EU plans for plant biotechnology
The article bellow indicates that EU is afraid of being inferior to
China and India. However, EU was wrong in ignoring the input of
organic agriculture science and from NGOs. They seem determined to
follow the path of North America and serve as the sycophants of
June 24, 2004 the scientist
Plants for the future in Europe
The EU makes long-term plans for plant biotechnology | By Andrew Scott
Europe took a big step toward coordinating the long-term development of
plant science research today (June 24) with the launch in Brussels of a
"vision paper" prepared by the new Technology Platform on Plant Genomics
and Biotechnology, which is being supported by the European Commission.
The document, "Plants for the future: a European vision for plant
biotechnology towards 2025," has been developed by leading
representatives from the research community, the food and biotech
industry, the farming community, and consumer organizations.
It addresses three key challenges: "Securing a high-quality, safe, and
diverse food supply through sustainable agriculture; replacing
fossil-fuel based non-renewable products with bio-products from
renewable plant resources; and maintaining the competitiveness of
European agri-food industries."
Chris Lamb, director of the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom,
told The Scientist that the vision paper and the work of the technology
platform will be vital to ensure that European research can meet these
challenges in a way that maximizes the continent's scientific and
economic competitiveness in this field.
"If we don't have a concerted joined-up forward look and strategic plan
for this sector, we will bit-by-bit lose economic competitiveness, not
only relative to the US and Japan, but also to emerging giants in plant
genetics like China and India," Lamb said.
Some key players in the technology platform are the European Plant
Science Organisation (EPSO), the European Association for BioIndustries
(EuropaBio), the Committee of Agricultural Organisations in the European
Union (COPA), and the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC).
The recommendations in the vision paper are very general at this early
stage. They emphasize the need for the technology platform to broaden,
to include all key stakeholders, and for it to work to ensure that
European research avoids fragmentation and exploits the possibilities
for international collaboration. The need for political and legislative
coherence is also identified as a key part of keeping European plant
science research on the right track.
One challenge in broadening the technology platform is the desire to
include environmental groups, which are largely very critical of plant
biotechnology, especially in the area of genetically modified crops.
"We haven't really succeeded in getting environmental groups involved
right now," Waldemar Kütt of the European Commission told The Scientist,
"but that opportunity is open to them." All stakeholders are invited to
participate in the advisory council and working groups of the platform,
which become fully operational in the second half of 2004.
Pete Riley, a food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FoE)
was unenthusiastic. He told The Scientist: "This initiative is in great
danger of repeating the mistakes the biotechnology industry has been
making since 1998 of trying to dress up GM crops as an essential part of
a sustainable agricultural economy in Europe."
Riley expressed FoE's general wariness about joining initiatives that
they feel may be dominated by the biotech industry's agenda, but he said
they will carefully consider any invitation they receive.
Karin Metzlaff, executive director of EPSO, explained to The Scientist
that EPSO and EuropaBio "will now produce a long-term strategic research
agenda, first of all working together with [the key stakeholders] in all
member states to establish some consensus."
Metzlaff hopes that by establishing broad consensus before making
definite proposals, they will avoid the problems typically experienced
in the European Union when groups suggest a way forward only to run into
a range of different objections in various member states.
The detailed strategic research agenda and an accompanying action plan
should be ready by the end of this year.
Links for this article
Plant Genomics and Biotechnology Technology Platform
"Plants for the future: a European vision for plant biotechnology
towards 2025," European Commission, June 24, 2004.
John Innes Centre
European Plant Science Organisation
Committee of Agricultural Organisations in the European Union
The European Consumers' Organisation
A. Scott, "EU GM moratorium ends," The Scientist, May 21, 2004.
Friends of the Earth
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