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Date: 30.12.2009 

This November was full of celebrations. It was the twenty-years´ anniversary of the end of communist regime in the Eastern and Central Europe. However, this November brings another less celebrated anniversary that we should remember – twenty years ago the “genetically modified organisms” were legally born and what is rather shameful - their regulation similar to that of poisons, explosives and narcotics is as a fossil still valid.

Negative impact of this situation was analysed and documented by Czech scientist in the White Book. Recently, the impact of it hit European animal production. Ships loaded by soybeans for feed were not accepted from regulatory reasons.

It is just natural that this problem stimulated discussions what to do. One of it is scheduled by the PRRI.

What is PRRI?

The Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) was established with the objective to offer public researchers involved in modern biotechnology a forum through which they are informed about and involved in relevant international discussions, such as the Meetings of the Parties to the CPB (MOPs). Goal of participation in such meetings is to inform the negotiators about the objectives and progress of public research in modern biotechnology, to bring science to the negotiations, and to inform the negotiators about concerns public researchers may have. PRRI participated in MOP2 and MOP3, as well as in the 8th Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with many public research scientists from all over the world. Since its establishment, PRRI has become a well recognised organisation in the international arena.

On 13 January 2010 PRRI and the Scientific Technology Options Assessment panel (STOA) of the European Parliament will organise a seminar to discuss with EU policy makers the impact of the current regulatory situation on public sector research in biotechnology. This meeting will be held in the European Parliament in Brussels.

On 2 –3 November 2009 PRRI organised a preparatory ‘fact finding‘ meeting held in the University of West-Hungary in Mosonmagyaróvár. It was supported by the Pannonian Plant Biotech Association, the Ag Biotech Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Zoltán Barabás Biotech Association, and the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. 40 participants came from Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine and the USA as well as representatives of the European Commission, FAO and the media.

The meeting started with presentations of examples of the impact of the regulatory situation on public research in participants’ countries. Further presentations were given on
FAO activities in the field of biotechnology and biosafety, communication needs and networking,
Regulation of GM crops and Science Communication,
The Program Biosafety Systems of IFPRI,
The White Book on biotechnology produced by Czech scientists, and
Regional networks such as PPBA and BSBA.

Outcome of the meeting

The world community is confronted with unprecedented, escalating developments, such as growing world population (+ 50% by 2050); increased consumption of food, feed, fibre and fuel; loss of agricultural land (– 50% by 2050), increasing shortage of fresh water, climate change, Increasing demand for renewable fuels, reduced agrobiodiversity, loss of natural habitats and biodiversity.
These developments create immense challenges to produce more crop per hectare, produce more crop per litre of water, produce on non-arable land, enhance the nutritional value of crops, enhance crop diversity, reduce dependence on pesticides and fertilisers, reduce post harvest losses, and reduce soil erosion.

No single technology can solve these complex challenges by itself.  The future of the agriculture is not a matter of “either this or that technology” but rather of combining the most suitable approaches of each available technology, tailored to specific needs and situations.
Modern biotechnology – although not a ‘silver bullet’ - can contribute significantly to finding solutions for these challenges. Consequently, Governments invest considerably in public research in modern biotechnology to strengthen sustainable agricultural production, to improve health care and environmental protection.

However, the current regulatory situation in many countries, and in the EU in particular, curtails public research in biotechnology.  Because of these challenges, important research in biotechnology for the public good becomes increasingly and unnecessarily: expensive, delayed or even impossible.

Recommendations for public researchers: strengthen communication:
Building on the Czech initiative, PRRI will produce a ‘European Black and White Book’ with an overview of ongoing public research in the EU and an overview of the impacts of current regulations and policies on public research based on detailed examples.
Strengthening the PRRI Working Group on communication – this working group will assist public researchers in communication. This working group will prepare a communication strategy and proposals for funding.

Strengthening collaboration with like minded organisations in Europe, such as EFB, PPBA, BSBA, and ScanBalt.

Author: Prof. Jaroslav Drobník


 

OPPI, MPO, EU

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