DG Sanco debates consumer reception of new technologies

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety authority Cloning

A conference taking place in Brussels is examining how best to deal with emerging technologies like cloning and nanotechnology, and to ensure that consumer confidence is addressed.

Called Delivering forTomorrow’s European Consumers​, the Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG Sanco) conference sets out to map future challenges for consumer health and protection, and will be used to finalise a strategic paper on action areas before the new Commission.

DG Sanco has just published a draft paper 'Future Challenges: 2009-2014​’, setting out the most important challenges it expects to face in the coming years. The paper​, which gives a basis for the broad topics at the conference, is the result of two years’ of discussions, and takes account of wide-ranging stakeholder comments.

This morning’s session took case studies of technologies that have already elicited some response from consumers. In addition to the questions over the use of animals for meat and other derivatives, and whether the safety nanotechnology has been established, it also looked at consumer views of genetically modified foods.

The panelists were asked to draw from these case studies some recommendations. Amongst the include Catherine Geslain-Laneelle, executive director of the Europe Food Safety Authority, and Dr Bernward Garthoff, chairman of EuropaBio.

Latest on cloning

A new Eurobarometer survey that has revealed consumers’ views on animal cloning for food production to be overwhelmingly negative. It found that there was a good (80 per cent of respondents) understanding of what cloning is.

But an overwhelming 86 per cent were sceptical about who had the most to gain for cloning animals for food – saying the food industry would be in line for the greatest gains.

Fifty-four per cent said cloning would not ultimately benefit consumers; and 44 said it would not ultimately benefit farmers.

Some 43 per cent said they would not buy produce from cloned animals; and 41 per cent would not buy produce from the offspring of cloned animals.

Latest on nanotechnology

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) this month issued a draft opinion that there are broad uncertainties over the safe use of nanotechnology for foodstuffs, and more research is recommended.

The conclusion of the draft, which is open for comment until December 1 2008, is that existing risk assessment methods can be applied. However it goes further by drawing attention to considerable limitations and uncertainties on characterizing, detecting, and measuring ENM, and on their toxicity, distribution, metabolism, absorption and excretion.

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