"There is no doubt about the enormous potential of biotechnology," declared David Byrne, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, speaking on Tuesday at an informal meeting on the theme of new technologies in agriculture. The European consumer currently holds a distrustful view of biotechnology. Byrne, while recognising this collective anxious state of mind, stressed yesterday that he was keen to dispel fears surrounding biotechnology. He maintained that the secret to consumer acceptance lay in advantages for the consumer. "I believe that the public attitude towards GM food can change once products with clear benefit to consumers are marketed." Byrne stressed that the key to building benefits lay in a strong legal structure. "We must ensure that the optimal regulatory environment is in place. Consumers, whether they be farmers or shoppers, must have confidence in the regulatory framework." , According to Byrne two new proposals on biotechnology, adopted by the Commission in July, have taken strong steps towards ensuring, "high level of protection, consumer choice and transparent, uniform and efficient authorisation procedures are key elements in fostering social acceptance and trust in the application of biotechnology to food and feed." The first legislative proposal, which concerns GM food and feed, aims to ensure a high level of protection requiring genetically modified food and feed, including food and feed produced from GMO's, to undergo a scientific risk assessment prior to placement on the market. Stronger labelling requirements "will help the consumer exercise a freedom of choice," Byrne continued. He added that the new legislation also provides for improved, transparent and streamlined community level procedures for authorisation involving the soon to be established European Food Authority. Will this be enough to build up consumer confidence in biotechnology? Only time will tell, but, they are surely the first tentative steps towards creating a safe approach to biotechnology and sowing the seeds of consumer trust.