Speaking at an event hosted by EuropaBio yesterday, John Dalli said that industry needs to step up its efforts to deliver technologies and products that are being demanded.
“Innovation needs to be in tune with the broad values of society and adequately match the demands of EU citizens…
“It is clear that our society will only accept biotechnologies – and in particular their new applications – when their benefits, or potential benefits, are plain for all to see, clearly expressed and readily understandable”.
In the area of nanotech, he said that there is potential to deliver big advances in food and medicine, still needs to convince consumers of the benefits of this rapidly emerging field.
As for genetic modification, a highly controversial technology in Europe, “responsible innovation leading to products with clear perceived benefits for the consumer and society would certainly make a difference,” Dalli said.
For example, he said drought-resistant and crop-resistant crops “have been awaited for many years now”, and some applications have been submitted recently: GM maize varieties with improved fatty acid profiles; and a drought-tolerant GM maize variety.
“Industry should continue to deliver on its promises and prioritise the development of this type of genetic modification,” he said – and look to replace antibiotic-resistant marker genes by other mechanisms.
A fundamental question is how to support innovation and capture its potential.
Dalli gave three main areas for reflection:
He said that industry efforts must be underpinned by a predictable regulatory environment and legal certainty – and that the Commission and companies should meet regularly to figure out what is working and what improvements may be needed.
However voluntary standards by industry “should go hand-in-hand with the respect of the most stringent safety and control measures.”
Secondly, he said that the science behind risk assessment – for GM, nanotech, or other biotechnologies – needs to be “made more credible”.
And thirdly, reflection is needed on improving transparency and dialogue with the public. “Biotech companies should seize the opportunity to facilitate and promote better understanding by the whole of society,” he said.
Commissioner Dalli was speaking at an event hosted by EuropaBio on The role of biotechnology in Europe’s responsible innovation.