Brussels - 25 June 2013
Regulation must be product- rather than technology-focused
A new independent expert report from the European Academies Science Advisory Council warns of the grave scientific, economic and social consequences of current European Union policy towards GM crops. In the strongest terms, the report also argues that Europe must reassess the accumulated evidence and the new advances since EU policy affects not only Europe, but also the developing world and Africa in particular.
"The EU is falling behind international competitors in agricultural innovation and this has implications for EU goals for science and innovation, and for the environment as well as for agriculture. Moreover, EU policy actions have a significant knock-on effect in the developing world, not least the African continent. These wider consequences need to be taken into account when assessing EU strategic options" comments Professor Sir Brian Heap, President of EASAC.
The 40-page report examines new issues associated with the genetic modification of crops, and strongly recommends that the GM regulatory framework should be revised to focus on regulating a product or trait rather than a technology. "If we could have EU policies introduced that lead to greater uptake of crop genetic improvements there will be numerous desirable consequences. They would make food production in Europe more sustainable, increase EU competitiveness in agricultural innovation, increase non-food biomass production, and reduce the EU global footprint associated with a heavy reliance on imported agricultural products", continues Sir Brian.
The report calls for urgent EU action on the status and regulation of the latest advances in New Breeding Techniques (NBT), which are key new agricultural technologies. EASAC warns that this is essential if Europe is to avoid a repeat of delays in the adoption of new opportunities that have plagued EU policy over the years. Coinciding with the launch of this report, an EASAC article focusing on NBTs is being published in Nature World View.
Finally in line with previous reports on controversial areas, EASAC stresses that public awareness of the associated scientific, environmental, economic and strategic issues is crucial. "It will influence future individual choices, national political debate and EU priority-setting. EASAC stands ready to continue playing its part in this debate," concludes Sir Brian.
The full report, an executive summary and a lay summary can be downloaded from the EASAC website www.easac.eu (from 27 June 2013). The report will be launched during an official event on 27 June in Brussels (download invitation here).
Sofie Vanthournout, Head of EASAC Brussels Office
Sofie.vanthournouteasac.eu, +32 2 550 23 32