EPTA – Genetically modified plants and food

November 1, 2007

The Danish Board of Technology was currently managing a project on genetically modified plants and food together with other technology assessment institutions in Europe. The project was carried out under the EPTA network (European Parliamentary Technology Assessment). The aim was to provide information on regulatory challenges, points of public debate in the future and approaches to technology assessment fitted to handle these issues.

Biotechnology, and especially genetic engineering, is one of the most controversially discussed modern technologies. This technology is seen on one side as an important key to economic competitiveness growth, and on the other hand provokes concerns about health and safety issues and about ecological impacts.

The first genetically modified organism was produced in 1973. In the last three decades, great progress was made in modern biotechnologies. Today, they play an important role first of all in medicine and agriculture.

Many citizens in the EU are opposed or sceptical about GM food. In the past fifteen years, heated debates about genetically modified plants and food have taken place in many European countries. These debates have common characteristics and specific national developments. Many technology assessment projects in Europe have reviewed and contributed to these debates. They have used different approaches, such as consensus conferences or citizen jury.

Based on the these studies, the EPTA project would provide information on

  • Regulatory challenges for the European system in the next years,
  • Points of public debate in the future,
  • Approaches for TA to handle the future issues.

The project concentrated on new questions and possible new answers, rather than to attempt to simply establish a mainstream view on contested issues in the past from comparing the findings of previous projects in the field.

The joint project results were be addressed to policy makers, TA practitioners and the general public.