Life sciences
A strategy
for Europe
L-2985 Luxembourg
ISBN 92-894-3388-4
Life sciences
and biotechnology —
A strategy for Europe
Communication from the Commission to
the European Parliament, the Council,
the Economic and Social Committee and
the Committee of the Regions
COM(2002) 27
European Commission
A great deal of additional information on the European Union is available on the Internet.
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Cataloguing data can be found at the end of this publication.
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2002
ISBN 92-894-3388-4
© European Communities, 2002
Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.
Printed in Belgium
Part I: A strategy for Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The strategic challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.1. Technology revolution and policy response . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.2. A European strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The potential of life sciences and biotechnology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Harvesting the potential . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1. The knowledge base . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2. Europe’s capacity to offer scientific and technological solutions . . . . . . . . . .
A key element for responsible policy: governing life sciences and biotechnology . . .
4.1. Societal scrutiny and dialogue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2. Developing life sciences and biotechnology in harmony with ethical values
and societal goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.3. Demand-driven applications through informed choice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.4. Confidence in science-based regulatory oversight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.5. Regulatory principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Europe in the world — responding to global challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.1. A European agenda for international collaboration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2. Europe’s responsibilities towards the developing world . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Implementation and coherence across policies, sectors and actors . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A framework for dialogue and action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Part II: Action plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Harvesting the potential . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A key element for responsible policy: governing life sciences and biotechnology . . .
Europe in the world — responding to global challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Implementation and coherence across policies, sectors and actors . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1. The strategic challenges
Life sciences and biotechnology are widely recognised to be, after information technology, the next wave of the knowledge-based economy,
creating new opportunities for our societies and economies.
They also raise important policy and societal issues and have given rise
to a broad public debate, as confirmed in the comprehensive public consultation carried out by the European Commission during autumn
2001 (1). These issues must be addressed with great care and sensitivity.
In Europe, however, the relevant responsibilities fall across a broad range
of policies and actors. In the absence of a shared vision of what is at stake
and without common objectives and effective coordination, Europe has
therefore only slowly and with difficulty addressed the challenges and
opportunities of these new technologies.
Our democratic societies should offer the necessary safeguards and
channels of dialogue to ensure that the development and application of
life sciences and biotechnology take place respecting the fundamental
values recognised by the European Union in the Charter of Fundamental
Europe is faced with a major policy choice: either accept a passive and
reactive role, and bear the implications of the development of these technologies elsewhere, or develop proactive policies to exploit them in
a responsible manner, consistent with European values and standards.
The longer Europe hesitates, the less realistic this second option will be.
The Community is competent on important policy aspects of relevance,
and the Commission therefore has a particular responsibility to assist in
finding ways forward. The present initiative proposes a framework for this.
1.1. Technology revolution and policy response
A revolution is taking place in the knowledge base of life sciences and
biotechnology, opening up new applications in healthcare, agriculture
and food production, and environmental protection, as well as new scientific discoveries. This is happening globally. The common knowledge
base relating to living organisms and ecosystems is producing new
scientific disciplines such as genomics and bioinformatics and novel
(1) Commission communication ‘Towards a strategic vision of life sciences and biotechnology:
consultation document’, COM(2001) 454, 4.9.2001. The communication, public
web comments and results of a Commission stakeholder conference held on 27 and
28 September 2001 are available at:
Broad and
impacts which
need policy
applications, such as gene testing and regeneration of human organs or
tissues. These in turn offer the prospect of applications with profound
impacts throughout our societies and economies, far beyond uses such as
genetically modified plant crops.
The expansion of the knowledge base is accompanied by an unprecedented speed in transformation of frontier scientific inventions into
practical use and products and thus also represents a potential for new
wealth creation: old industries are being regenerated and new enterprises
are emerging, offering the kind of skill-based jobs that sustain
knowledge-based economies. As probably the most promising of the
frontier technologies, life sciences and biotechnology can provide a
major contribution to achieving the European Community’s Lisbon
Summit’s objective of becoming a leading knowledge-based economy.
The European Council in Stockholm in March 2001 confirmed this and
invited the Commission, together with the Council, to:
‘examine measures required to utilise the full potential of biotechnology
and strengthen the European biotechnology sector’s competitiveness in
order to match leading competitors while ensuring that those developments occur in a manner which is healthy and safe for consumers and the
environment, and consistent with common fundamental values and
ethical principles.’
Europe’s current performance in life sciences and biotechnology is not
facilitating the achievement of that objective.
Europe seems to be
In Europe and elsewhere, intensive public debate has emerged. While
the public debate has contributed to awareness and concrete improvements on important issues, it has also focused narrowly on genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) and specific ethical questions, on which
public opinion has become polarised. In the Community, like in other
regions and countries, the scientific and technological progress in these
areas raises difficult policy issues and complex regulatory challenges.
Uncertainty about societal acceptance has contributed to detracting
attention in Europe from the factors that determine our capacity for innovation and technology development and uptake. This has stifled our competitive position, weakened our research capability and could limit our
policy options in the longer term.
Europe is currently at a crossroads: we need to actively develop responsible policies in a forward-looking and global perspective, or we will be
confronted by policies shaped by others, in Europe and globally.
The technology and its applications are developing rapidly — the
Commission believes that Europe’s policy choice is, therefore, not whether
but how to deal with the challenges posed by the new knowledge and its
1.2. A European strategy
The European Commission wishes to contribute actively to the reflection on these issues and to address the challenges. In September 2001, it
launched a broad public consultation on the wide range of issues at stake (2).
These issues can only in part be addressed by the Community — most
depend on many other public and private actors. In some areas such as
product approvals, safeguarding the internal market, agricultural and
trade policies, the Community has exclusive competence. On other
aspects, the Community has no competence or shares it with Member
States. The ultimate responsibility for success or failure is therefore a
shared one.
responsibility —
but the Commission
can contribute
But respecting the subsidiarity principle should not prevent Europeans
from working together towards common goals. Within a shared vision of
the long-term and global opportunities and challenges, we can develop
clear strategic objectives and coherent and holistic approaches, relying
also on new forms of collaboration and monitoring, in particular through
open coordination and benchmarking which underpins the Lisbon strategy.
With the present initiative, the European Commission proposes a strategy
for Europe to develop sustainable and responsible policies to address the
following three broad questions:
• Life sciences and biotechnology offer opportunities to address many of
the global needs relating to health, ageing, food and the environment,
and to sustainable development. How can Europe best attract the
human, industrial and financial resources to develop and apply these
technologies to meet society’s needs and increase its competitiveness?
• Broad public support is essential, and ethical and societal implications
and concerns must be addressed. How can Europe deliver effective,
credible and responsible policies which enjoy the confidence and support of its citizens?
• The scientific and technological revolution is a global reality which creates new opportunities and challenges for all countries in the world,
rich or poor. How can Europe best respond to the global challenges,
(2) COM(2001) 454, 4.9.2001.
The strategic
develop its domestic policies with a clear international perspective and
act internationally to pursue its interests?
A strategy and an
action plan
The Commission proposes a strategy to respond with responsible, sciencebased, and people-centred policies on an ethical basis. This strategy aims
to allow Europe to benefit from the positive potential of life sciences and
biotechnology (Sections 2 and 3), to ensure proper governance (Section 4),
and to meet Europe’s global responsibilities (Section 5). This is a proposal for an integrated strategy — its different elements are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.
Implementing this strategy requires an open, collaborative and sustained
process to develop coherent and credible policies (Section 6). The
Commission also proposes an action plan for concrete measures by the
Commission and the Community, as well as recommendations for other
public and private actors, respecting the subsidiarity principle.
2. The potential of life sciences and
New solutions to real
Life sciences and biotechnology are widely regarded as one of the most
promising frontier technologies for the coming decades. Life sciences
and biotechnology are enabling technologies — like information technology, they may be applied for a wide range of purposes for private and
public benefits. On the basis of scientific breakthroughs in recent years,
the explosion in the knowledge on living systems is set to deliver a continuous stream of new applications.
There is a huge need in global healthcare for novel and innovative
approaches to meet the needs of ageing populations and poor countries.
There are still no known cures for half of the world’s diseases, and even
existing cures such as antibiotics are becoming less effective due to
resistance to treatments. Biotechnology already enables cheaper, safer
and more ethical production of a growing number of traditional as well
as new drugs and medical services (e.g. human growth hormone without
risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, treatment for haemophiliacs with
unlimited sources of coagulation factors free from AIDS and hepatitis C
virus, human insulin, and vaccines against hepatitis B and rabies).
Biotechnology is behind the paradigm shift in disease management
towards both personalised and preventive medicine based on genetic
predisposition, targeted screening, diagnosis, and innovative drug treatments. Pharmacogenomics, which applies information about the human
genome to drug design, discovery and development, will further support
this radical change. Stem cell research and xenotransplantation offer the
prospect of replacement tissues and organs to treat degenerative diseases
and injury resulting from strokes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases,
burns and spinal-cord injuries.
In the agro-food area, biotechnology has the potential to deliver
improved food quality and environmental benefits through agronomically improved crops. Since 1998, the area cultivated with genetically
modified (GM) crops worldwide has nearly doubled to reach some
50 million hectares in 2001 (in comparison with about 12 000 hectares in
Europe). Food and feed quality may be linked to disease prevention and
reduced health risks. Foods with enhanced qualities (‘functional foods’)
are likely to become increasingly important as part of lifestyle and nutritional benefits. Plant genome analysis, supported by a FAIR research
project, has already led to the genetic improvement of a traditional
European cereal crop (called ‘spelt’) with an increased protein yield
(18 %) which may be used as an alternative source of protein for animal
feed (3). Considerable reductions in pesticide use have been recorded in
crops with modified resistance. The enhancement of natural resistance to
disease or stress in plants and animals can lead to reduced use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers and drugs, and increased use of conservation
tillage — and hence more sustainable agricultural practices, reducing
soil erosion and benefiting the environment. Life sciences and biotechnology are likely to be one of the important tools in fighting hunger and
malnutrition and feeding an increasing human population on the
currently cultivated land area, with reduced environmental impact.
Biotechnology also has the potential to improve non-food uses of crops
as sources of industrial feedstocks or new materials such as biodegradable plastics. Plant-based materials can provide both molecular building
blocks and more complex molecules for the manufacturing, energy and
pharmaceutical industries. Modifications under development include
alterations to carbohydrates, oils, fats and proteins, fibre and new polymer production. Under the appropriate economic and fiscal conditions,
biomass could contribute to alternative energy with both liquid and solid
biofuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol as well as to processes such as
bio-desulphurisation. Plant genomics also contributes to conventional
improvements through the use of marker-assisted breeding.
New ways to protect and improve the environment are offered by
biotechnology including bioremediation of polluted air, soil, water and
waste as well as development of cleaner industrial products and processes,
for example based on use of enzymes (biocatalysis).
3. Harvesting the potential
The economic
The potential of life sciences and biotechnology is being exploited at an
accelerating rate and is likely to engender a new economy with the
creation of wealth and skilled jobs. Less certain is the time profile
and orientations of this development and whether Europe will fully
Some estimates suggest that by the year 2005 the European biotechnology market could be worth over EUR 100 billion. By the end of the
decade, global markets, including sectors where life sciences and
biotechnology constitute a major portion of the new technology applied,
could amount to over EUR 2 000 billion.
Direct and indirect market potential of life sciences and biotechnology (1)
Industrial: EUR 1 500 billion market globally in 2010 in sustainable industrial and environmental technology (only partly biotech) with environmental technology estimated at
EUR 90–120 billion (2).
Pharmaceutical: EUR 506 billion world market in 2004 (EUR 818 billion in 2010 assuming
constant increase) (3).
Agricultural: Although there is a steady increase in the area sown with genetically modified
seeds, the future market value is difficult to predict, as it would depend on the possible
development of a non-GM feed market.
Million hectares worldwide (4):
Allowing for the uncertainty of estimates from different sources, the above would imply that
in 2010 there would be a total world market (excluding agriculture) of above EUR 2 000 billion in sectors where a major portion of the new technology and a substantial part of the total
technology comes from biotechnology companies.
(1) Beyond quoted figures, comparative data on international competitiveness in biotechnology are difficult to establish: the
main value factor is knowledge, and the usual statistical data on turnover/sales/exports do not reveal the location where
value in terms of intellectual property has been added.
(2) UK Government data: from the DTI’s bio-wise programme launched in 1999: OECD: POST report 136, April 2000.
(3) IMS Health (
(4) ISAAA: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.
Europeans are also likely to become major beneficiaries of solutions
offered by life sciences and biotechnology — in the form of products and
services for consumers, for public benefits and throughout the production
system. But to manage this development, to give us options, to project our
values and policy choices internationally, and to reap the benefits of a new
emerging economy, Europe should also command the knowledge base and
its transformation into new products, processes and services.
3.1. The knowledge base
The life sciences revolution was born in, and is fed and nurtured by,
research. Public research laboratories and institutions of higher education are at the core of the science base interacting also with enterprisebased research and that of other private bodies.
Mastering the
knowledge base
through …
The success of any knowledge-based economy rests upon the generation,
diffusion and application of new knowledge. Investments in research
and development, education and training and new managerial approaches are therefore of key importance in meeting the challenges posed by life
sciences and biotechnology.
One of Europe’s main strengths is its science base; centres of scientific
excellence in specific technologies exist and are at the core of regional
clusters of biotechnology development. However, total European investment in R & D is lagging behind the United States. Moreover, Europe
suffers from fragmentation of public research support, and from the low
level of interregional cooperation in R & D, among companies and institutions from different regions of several States.
The Commission aims to restore European leadership in life sciences and
biotechnology research. The sixth Community framework programme
for research, technological development and demonstration activities
(2002–06) proposes this area as the first priority and will provide a solid
platform for constructing, in collaboration with the Member States, a
European research area. This should reinforce R & D capacity and help
overcome existing fragmentation of research policies and efforts. When
Europeans work together, maximising collaboration and minimising
duplication, we can better meet major challenges such as the handling of
the ever-increasing volumes of data and information and ensuring full
participation in global scientific initiatives.
Moreover, European research efforts should focus on the new prospects
that are opening up through multidisciplinary research. New discoveries
are most often made when biological research is carried out in conjunction with other sciences and disciplines such as information technology,
chemistry and process engineering. For example, human genome analysis
into so-called ‘gluten allergy’ may ultimately lead to the development of
allergen-reduced cereals. A first fully integrated Community project has
recently been launched to ensure leadership at the genomes–medicine
... effective and
innovative research
interface where biotechnology is yielding innovative approaches to treatments of human and animal diseases.
... research to meet
society’s needs
Europe’s research agenda for life sciences should be based on the needs
of its citizens and attuned to our particular requirements. This calls for
an approach which actively identifies the needs and opportunities presented by European societies and seeks to address them through innovative research. We need to strengthen further the links between
research and other Community policies, including the scientific basis for
health and safety regulations. Within the same logic, it is also of utmost
importance to involve scientists and researchers as closely as possible in
societal consensus-building. New research partnerships should also be
encouraged amongst developed and developing nations to take full
advantage of promising technologies and biodiversity potential, the basis
for future progress.
3.2. Europe’s capacity to offer scientific and
technological solutions
Transforming science
into applications
The potential for applications of life sciences and biotechnology promises
to be a growing source of wealth creation in the future, leading to the
creation of jobs, many of which will be highly skilled, and new opportunities for investment in further research.
If Europe is to benefit from this, excellence in the science base is not
enough: it is essential to have the capacity to translate knowledge into
new products, processes and services, that in turn will generate benefits
to society, skilled jobs and prosperity. The development of new capacity
involves the encouragement of the entire research and innovation
process to attract and train researchers, to attract investment and
resources, and to provide a balanced and responsible legal, regulatory
and policy framework.
Europe's fragile
biotechnology sector
During the 1980s, biotechnology in Europe developed primarily within
large companies whereas, unlike the United States, the small company
sector remained mostly stagnant. While large companies in the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors continue to exploit the technology to provide innovative products, we have seen a rapid expansion of the small
company sector in Europe in the recent past. There are now more dedicated biotechnology companies in Europe (1 570), than in the United
States (1 273). This is an encouraging demonstration of entrepreneurial
potential in Europe.
Biotechnology industry in Europe compared
with the United States
1 800
1 600
1 400
1 000
Billion EUR
1 200
Number of companies, United States
Number of companies, Europe
Revenue, United States
Revenue, Europe
Revenue Europe (adjusted)
NB: European data for 2000 and 2001 are adjusted by the inclusion of the Swiss biotech
company Serono.
However, the European SMEs are relatively small companies, whereas
the US biotechnology industry started earlier, produces more than three
times the revenues of the European industry, employs many more people
(162 000 against around 60 000), is much more strongly capitalised and,
in particular, has many more products in the pipeline.
Comparison of employment
200 000
160 000
140 000
120 000
Number of employees, United States
Number of employees, Europe
100 000
Number of employees, Europe (adjusted)
80 000
60 000
40 000
20 000
The Commission’s 2001 report on competitiveness (Chapter V) analysed
in detail why commercial development of EU industry currently lags
behind that of the United States in the biotechnology sector. Intellectual
property rights were identified as a relevant factor to be taken into
Structurally, biotechnology SMEs are very capital-intensive, and investments have long payback periods. Risk capital funding has been increasingly available, but does not appear to be sufficient at all stages of the
long company development process. Insufficient supply of skilled personnel may develop into a major constraint for industry development.
Action for Europe’s
biotechnology sector
Eliminating such bottlenecks is as important as fostering an entrepreneurial Europe with sufficient incentives for innovation and economic
risk-taking to create the necessary dynamics. Europe’s competitiveness
should be enhanced through three main pillars for action: the resource
base, networks and a proactive role for public authorities.
• Reinforcing the resource base is of prime importance for this
knowledge-based industry; this calls first of all for enhancing life sciences education (lifelong learning for scientists, general awareness of
the public). We also need training across disciplines and specialisation,
including the potential for take-up of information and communication
technologies in biotechnology; new ideas tend to emerge at the junction of specialisation. Scientific and engineering knowledge has to be
matched with entrepreneurial management skills for successful company operation. This action pillar contributes directly to Europe’s education (4) and employment (5) objectives. Comprehensive, up-to-date
and publicly and freely available bioinformatics data are the basis for
advances in biotechnology. In order to flourish, companies need access
to high-quality public and private databases and tools. While maintaining strong public research, public support and intellectual property
rules should encourage collaborations, especially public/private ones,
that mobilise resources and support innovation. In the border region
between research and application, the conditions for exploitation of
knowledge, in particular well-managed risk capital and Europe-wide
rules for intellectual property rights, make all the difference. The full
implementation of Directive 98/44/EC on the legal protection of
biotechnological inventions will considerably improve legal certainty
for industry. The clarification of the legislative environment within the
(4) Ten-year objectives in education and lifelong learning.
(5) Employment policy guidelines for 2002: improving employability; developing entrepreneurship and job creation; encouraging adaptability of businesses and their employees.
European Community (EC) will provide innovative firms in the various industries using biotechnology with an incentive to continue or
even increase their investments in research. In addition, the adoption
of the Community patent would promote the competitiveness of the
EC companies.
• We need to network Europe’s biotechnology communities to facilitate
open access to knowledge, skills and best practices, and to create a
close community of actors and institutions involved in biotechnology.
Europe-wide intellectual property protection must be completed to
provide an affordable basis for technology transfer and cooperation.
Links between the university and the industry spheres need to be
strengthened. Research cooperation and technology transfer among
regions and Member States must be enhanced. There is a need to promote and facilitate different forms of networking and linking-up to
overcome current fragmentation. Benchmarking allows the sharing of
knowledge of good practices (e.g. on business clusters and incubators).
An intelligent management of diversity may exploit the network benefits of regional clusters that are specialised in specific technologies.
• The fast development of biotechnology and the broad range of potential applications require a proactive role for public authorities to monitor the impact on competitiveness of the existing policy framework
and to anticipate emerging issues and proactively adapt policies. This
will need a pooling of the knowledge available to public decision-makers,
through information exchange and networking.
4. A key element for responsible policy:
governing life sciences and
The public debate on life sciences and biotechnology and the fundamental values affected highlight the need for responsible and coherent
policies to govern these fast-moving technologies. All key stakeholders
have stressed the importance of governance, i.e. attention to the way
public authorities prepare, decide, implement and explain policies and
The Commission proposes to apply the highest standards of governance
of life sciences and biotechnology along five main action lines:
• societal scrutiny and dialogue should accompany and guide the development of life sciences and biotechnology;
The technology
revolution calls
for governance
through …
• life sciences and biotechnology should be developed in a responsible
way in harmony with ethical values and societal goals;
• informed choice should facilitate demand-driven applications;
• science-based regulatory oversight should enhance public confidence;
• basic regulatory principles and legal obligations should be respected to
safeguard the Community single market and international obligations.
4.1. Societal scrutiny and dialogue
... inclusive,
informed and
structured dialogue
Life sciences and biotechnology have given rise to significant public
attention and debate. The Commission welcomes this public debate as a
sign of civic responsibility and involvement. Life sciences and biotechnology should continue to be accompanied and guided by societal
Dialogue in our democratic societies should be inclusive, comprehensive,
well informed and structured. Constructive dialogue requires mutual
respect between participants, innovative approaches, and time. It should
be structured in agreement with stakeholders to allow progress, for
example in the provision of better information and mutual understanding.
Experience also shows how important it is that dialogue takes place at
the local and national levels, as well as internationally, and the
Commission invites Member States and local actors to take relevant
Dialogue should be open for all stakeholders. Public authorities should
help to ensure participation by stakeholders with limited resources.
Economic operators, industry and users, who have economic interests at
stake, as well as the scientific community bear a particular responsibility
for active participation. The Commission invites these parties to respond
to public concerns, for example through transparency of their visions,
policies and ethical standards.
Relevant public information is essential for meaningful dialogue.
Providing it requires focused and proactive efforts. It is especially
important that the information needs formulated by the broad public are
taken seriously and responded to. We shall also strive for a balanced and
rational approach, distinguishing between real issues, on which we must
act, and false claims.
4.2. Developing life sciences and
biotechnology in harmony with
ethical values and societal goals
Without broad public acceptance and support, the development and use
of life sciences and biotechnology in Europe will be contentious, benefits will be delayed and competitiveness will be likely to suffer.
The debate and the public consultation carried out by the Commission (6)
indicate that the European public is quite prepared and capable to enter
into complex weighting of benefits against disadvantages, guided by fundamental values. Although sometimes polarised, the public debate
demonstrates many points of converging views.
Public opinion depends crucially on the perceived benefits of life sciences and biotechnology. Eurobarometer surveys reveal that public
expectations of biotechnology, apart from medical advances, are moderate.
There is also considerable public uncertainty about some applications,
and aversion towards their distributional impacts and the risks involved.
There is broad support for many guiding values and goals. Some of
these, such as the freedom of research, intrinsic value of new knowledge
and the moral obligations to help alleviate illness or hunger, tend to
favour the development and application of these new technologies.
Others help to clarify the criteria and conditions for the development
and applications of life sciences and biotechnology, in particular the
need to take into account the ethical and societal implications, and the
importance of transparency and accountability in decision-making, minimising risk, and freedom of choice.
It is therefore of key importance to support information and dialogue to
help the public and stakeholders better understand and appreciate these
complex issues and to develop methods and criteria for assessing benefits against disadvantages or risks, including the distribution of impacts
among different parts of society.
Our democratic societies should offer the necessary safeguards to ensure
that the development and application of life sciences and biotechnology
take place respecting the fundamental values recognised by the EU in the
Charter of Fundamental Rights, in particular by confirming the respect
for human life and dignity. The Community has also banned funding of
research into human reproductive cloning. Support should be given to
(6) The Commission intends to publish these comments on the Internet.
... balancing
benefits against
the Franco-German initiative, addressed to the UN, for a worldwide
convention on the prohibition of human reproductive cloning. Other
issues such as stem cell research clearly require attention and further
debate. Europe has also taken clear positions on the importance of freedom of choice for consumers as well as for economic operators with
respect to GM foods, and we have established broad societal agreement
on the need to safeguard European agricultural practices.
However, scientific and technological progress will continue to give rise
to new ethical or societal implications. The Commission considers that
these issues should be addressed proactively and with a broad perspective, taking into account the moral obligations towards present and
future generations and the rest of the world. We should not content
ourselves with acting defensively only when our core values are being
These issues cannot be adequately addressed within the narrow context
of regulatory product approvals but require more flexible and forwardlooking approaches. Europe needs an active and ongoing public dialogue, accompanied by focused fact-finding on both benefits and disadvantages to allow the public to contribute to the complex process of setting priorities. In the context of its science and society initiative (7), the
Commission has already proposed a series of actions intended to
strengthen the ethical dimension in sciences and new technologies.
To be at the front of developments, Europe should have the capacity for
foresight/prospective analysis and the necessary expertise to help clarify
the often complex issues for policy-makers and the public, and to place
them in their scientific and socioeconomic context. The Commission
welcomes the key role played by the European Group on Ethics in
Science and New Technologies since its creation in the early 1990s and
proposes, as part of the present strategy, to enhance its role and to
reinforce the networking with and between national ethical bodies. To
this end, an additional targeted consultation of the other Community
institutions is envisaged.
Moreover, transparency, accountability and participatory approaches in
public policy-making need to be reinforced. These objectives coincide
with those of the Commission’s White Paper on European governance (8)
and will be pursued through the actions proposed therein.
(7) COM(2001) 714, 4.12.2001.
(8) COM(2001) 428 final, 25.7.2001.
4.3. Demand-driven applications through
informed choice
The regulatory oversight applied to the development and use of life
sciences and biotechnology is the expression of societal choices.
Regulation and other public policy measures set the rules and conditions
under which life sciences and biotechnology may be developed and
applied. Regulation should therefore ensure that market mechanisms
function effectively to obtain the stated objectives. This is the purpose of
Europe’s policy of mandatory labelling which aims to ensure that consumers’ preferences are translated into incentives for producers to adapt
As far back as 1990 and after lengthy discussions, the Community opted
for a science-based regulatory approach that subjects all commercial uses
of genetically modified organisms to ex ante public scrutiny and safety
approval on a case-by-case basis, prior to any application, release into the
environment or marketing. As a result of this approach, a revised framework legislation on GMOs has been adopted and will enter into force in
October 2002. The new legislation provides a sound basis to overcome
the present standstill in authorising new products.
• Under the Community’s regulatory approach in sectors where premarketing authorisation is required, authorisation is granted after a
scientific evaluation of the risks which the product may present to
human and animal health or to the environment, taking into account
other factors legitimate to the matter under consideration. In the logic
of this approach, it is for the markets to determine whether products
survive. But it is essential to ensure that the market mechanisms work
effectively so that consumers can exercise choice and thus send clear
signals to suppliers. Over the last five years, Europe has pioneered
solutions to ensure informed consumer choice through labelling —
these need urgently to be completed and put into application.
• In order to apply fully the principle of freedom of choice for economic
operators and to safeguard sustainability and diversity of agriculture in
Europe, public authorities in partnership with farmers and other private operators need to develop agronomical and other measures to
facilitate the coexistence of different agricultural practices without
excluding GM crops.
... giving consumers
and economic
operators informed
4.4. Confidence in science-based regulatory
... fostering public
confidence in
science and
Where safety is an issue, Community legislation is science-based and its
application with respect to specific decisions will be in accordance with
the precautionary principle (9). The European Agency for the Evaluation
of Medicinal Products (EMEA) is a successful example of setting high
standards of scientific advice and effective risk communication. With the
creation of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the already
high standards of excellence, independence and transparency of scientific advice in that field will be taken further and new emphasis will be
placed on risk communication. EFSA will be responsible for scientific
assessments of environmental, human and animal health effects of
GMOs and GM food and feed, and will have a forward-looking responsibility for identifying emerging risks, including those which may arise
from the application of biotechnology in agri-food production. These are
essential contributions to public trust in the scientific basis for regulatory
oversight for the safety of existing foods and medicines as well as new
applications. Building public confidence and understanding must be a
permanent concern.
• There is a general need to enhance public trust in the role of science in
our societies. The Commission has proposed an action plan on science
and society to promote scientific culture, to better take into account
public needs in setting the scientific agenda, and to place science at the
heart of European policies. Public authorities, economic operators and
the scientific community should actively present relevant knowledge
and facilitate understanding on key issues, including that scientific
knowledge is always advancing and therefore regularly improves our
reference points. Moreover, it is an essential part of the process of public
understanding and policy formulation to also evaluate the risks of
not taking action, for example against the evolution of new or drugresistant diseases and in areas where current agricultural practices are
• Biotechnological inventions require high capital investment, long
development cycles and comprehensive regulatory approval. Effective
patent protection is a crucial incentive to R & D and innovation and
an essential means of guaranteeing return on investment. Moreover,
the disclosure of information in patent publication has been important
in contributing to the overall development of biotechnology. In view of
the rapid scientific progress, legislation on intellectual property needs
(9) Commission communication on the precautionary principle, COM(2000) 1 final,
2.2.2000, and the Nice European Council conclusions.
to be monitored very closely. Regular assessments need to be made on
whether the patent regime satisfies the needs of researchers and companies. In this respect, the EC and its Member States should ensure
that the interpretation of the essential criteria of novelty, invention and
utility in the field of life sciences is not left exclusively to courts and
patent offices. As regards the international context, there is a need to
work towards a level playing field in patent protection in industrialised
countries. Steps need to be taken with a view to promoting international dialogue on this issue.
• The basis for Community regulation of these new technologies should
be more transparent and better communicated. For example, we should
be clearer about how regulators deal with risk — potential risk, scientific uncertainty (e.g. the absence of zero risk, the application of the precautionary principle), weighing of comparative risks, the role of the different stages of risk analysis, the role of risk management measures such
as monitoring and safeguards, and their proportionality with risk. In
addition, whilst underlining the importance of legal certainty and predictability, we need to stress the reversibility of regulatory decisions
when justified and highlight the ongoing work on international convergence of risk analysis methodologies and development of anticipatory
risk analysis methodologies. Publicly funded research in support of
regulatory oversight is of particular importance for public confidence.
• Specific initiatives proposed in the Commission’s White Paper on
European governance are particularly relevant for enhancing public
confidence, in particular the planned improvements for openness and
accountability in risk governance and in use of expertise.
• Confidence in our regulatory oversight is a responsibility of public
authorities but also requires the responsible participation of other
stakeholders such as the biotechnology industry, other economic operators, the scientific community, NGOs and the media.
4.5. Regulatory principles
Community regulation currently governs such diverse aspects as the
patenting of biotechnological inventions, the authorisation of pharmaceutical products, contained use of genetically modified microorganisms, and release and marketing of products consisting of or
derived from GMOs, including foods, feeds and seeds. This regulatory
framework has evolved gradually over the last 25 years, with major
developments in recent years.
... reconciling policy
objectives in the
regulation of life
In order to improve the coherence, transparency and efficiency of
Community regulation, the Commission suggests that Community regulatory activity should respect the following principles.
• Risk governance and product authorisation: Products of biotechnology
should, in accordance with the established regulatory principles and
frameworks, be authorised on the basis of a comprehensive scientific
risk assessment if found to be safe for human, animal or plant life and
health and the environment. In cases where scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain, and where possible risks are judged
to be unacceptable, risk management measures should be based on the
precautionary principle. Risk management should take into account
the results of risk assessment and other factors legitimate to the matter
under consideration in order to achieve the chosen level of protection.
Procedures for authorisation should be transparent, and risk assessments should be published and made available for public comment as
part of the authorisation procedures. Communication needs to be an
integral part of risk assessment and risk management activity.
• Safeguarding the internal market: To secure the functioning of the
internal market and legal certainty, Community legislation should be
drafted and periodically reviewed to ensure coherence and efficiency,
including with regard to its practical feasibility and enforceability.
Implementation of and compliance with Community law should be
carefully monitored, and any problem of compliance should be
addressed and resolved among the parties concerned according to
existing procedures in a transparent and predictable manner.
• Proportionality and consumer choice: Community regulatory requirements should be proportionate to the degree of identified risk and
should conform with the Community’s international obligations. As
proposed by the Commission, Community legislation should facilitate
consumer choice through ensuring that consumers/users are informed
in cases where a food, feed or seed is genetically modified or derived
from GMOs.
• Predictability, modernisation and impact assessment: The Commission
should periodically publish a rolling regulatory work programme (see
Section 6) to improve predictability, transparency and quality of
regulation. Regulation should continue to be regularly reviewed in
order to be up-to-date with scientific and technological progress, for
evaluation of impacts and for conformity with the present principles.
5. Europe in the world — responding
to global challenges
The revolution in life sciences and biotechnology is global. Research is
fundamentally international — knowledge and experts circulate
throughout the world. A growing number of countries are actively
pursuing biotechnologies, and the resulting products and services will
increasingly be traded on global markets, with a premium for first
A global reality ...
It is also clear that great diversity exists between countries and regions
with respect to their capacities to develop, regulate and apply the new
products and services. Even greater diversity may emerge with respect to
the priorities and societal values that will shape the approaches and
choices to developing and using these new technologies.
European policies should not be developed in isolation. We need to
embrace the wider international context which shapes both challenges and
opportunities for Europe, and we must respond with responsible and
proactive policies at the global level. A main objective must be to ensure
that the EU maintains competitiveness vis-à-vis major industrialised countries such as the United States and Japan. Moreover, whatever policies
Europe will decide regarding life sciences and biotechnology, they will
have important international impacts, in particular for developing countries. The interests of these countries must also be taken into account. We
must integrate the international dimension into all relevant policies, and
we need to develop an international agenda, based on our fundamental values and long-term objectives, to actively promote balanced and responsible
policies globally, in particular towards the developing world.
… which should
be reflected in our
policies and priorities
5.1. A European agenda for
international collaboration
International collaboration is required to manage the novel issues raised
by life sciences and biotechnology and the diversity of capacities and
policies in different countries and regions towards their applications.
Trade in goods and services is already being affected due to divergent
product approval rates. International trade friction may also emerge if
countries and regions adopt divergent regulatory frameworks. There is a
need for international dialogue on regulatory issues to develop mutual
understanding of basic principles and values underlying regulatory
developments in different countries.
The Community is committed to open, multilateral, and rule-based
trading systems. We should therefore promote respect and implementation of existing international agreements. Given the particular issues
raised by life sciences and biotechnology, the Community should promote
solutions and dialogue at international level that:
• ensure mutual supportiveness between relevant international agreements and, in particular, between the WTO agreements and the
Biosafety Protocol;
• support a coherent, comprehensive, effective, transparent and inclusive approach to biotechnology across the relevant international
forums in order to avoid overlaps and make the best use of their
respective expertise (including the FAO, UNEP, CBD, WTO, WHO
and Unctad (10)). Europe should continue to play a full part, in particular in the OECD and the Codex Alimentarius, and notably its ad hoc
intergovernmental task force on biotechnology, to promote within
these organisations the development and periodic review of harmonised guidelines with respect to the risk analysis, the labelling and
the traceability of products derived from modern biotechnology. The
role and efficiency of EU participation in international discussions
should be enhanced, including through discussions with developed
and developing countries. Dialogue should promote mutual understanding of concerns and objectives of different countries and regions,
such as the EU/US Biotechnology Forum which delivered its final
report in December 2000 (11). Early policy dialogue about forthcoming
legislation may reduce the potential for international friction.
5.2. Europe’s responsibilities towards the
developing world
Potential to meet the
urgent needs of the
developing world
Life sciences and biotechnology hold the promise of meeting some of the
fundamental needs for food and health facing the developing world. The
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in its 2001 Human
Development Report, highlights the potential of biotechnology for the
developing world (12). Some emerging economies such as China, India
and Mexico have already initiated ambitious national development programmes.
(10) Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations Environment Programme,
Convention on Biological Diversity, World Trade Organisation, World Health
Organisation, United Nations Convention on Trade and Development.
Life sciences and biotechnology are not a panacea and will not resolve
the distributional problems of the developing world — but they will be
one of the important tools. New capacities should help developing countries reconcile yield increases, sustainable use of natural resources, economic efficiency and social acceptability. Potential applications must be
adequately researched and assessed, taking full account of both the environmental safety issues and the needs expressed by the populations concerned to reduce poverty and strengthen food security and nutritional
As a major actor in life sciences and technologies, Europe has a particular
responsibility to help the developing world deal with the risks, challenges and opportunities, and to facilitate the safe and orderly development of these technologies at the global level. Europe already holds an
influential position in international deliberations on life sciences and
biotechnology. This needs to be taken forward with responsible policies
to achieve our strategic objectives and to allow the safe and efficient use
of life sciences and biotechnology in developing countries.
• Europe should continue to promote protection of biodiversity and the
implementation of the Biosafety Protocol for international trade in living modified organisms. Moreover, Europe should continue to support
negotiated multilateral frameworks such as the Convention on
Biological Diversity and the FAO international undertaking on plant
genetic resources. These international instruments regulate access to
genetic resources and the sharing of the benefits arising from their use,
with a view to providing compensation to the centres of origin of
genetic resources and the holders of traditional knowledge used in
biotechnological inventions. The EC should contribute to ensure that
the benefits generated by biotechnological inventions, including
intellectual property income, are properly shared with the providers of
genetic resources or traditional knowledge.
• Europe should contribute to technical assistance, capacity-building
and technology transfer to allow developing countries to participate in
negotiating and implementing international agreements and standards,
notably on risk governance, and to develop and apply safely these new
technologies if they so wish. Europe should support local initiatives for
dialogue on biotechnology among public and private stakeholders and
civil society in partner countries.
• Europe should encourage equitable and balanced north–south partnerships and public research for demand-driven applications of life
sciences and biotechnology.
Putting European
capacities to the
service of developing
• Domestic European policies with regard to life sciences and biotechnology are bound to have major impacts on developing countries.
Whilst not compromising EU food safety requirements or consumer
information policies, we should provide technical assistance and
capacity-building to ensure that our policies do not, unwittingly, prevent developing countries from harvesting desired benefits. In particular, we should guard against regulatory requirements that may be
manageable only in the industrial world but are unachievable by developing countries, thereby either upsetting existing trade or effectively
blocking developing countries from developing life sciences and
biotechnology at their own wish and pace.
6. Implementation and coherence
across policies, sectors and actors
Europe does not have a single policy for life sciences and biotechnology
but a patchwork of specific regulation, overlaid by many sectoral and
horizontal policies at international, Community, Member State and local
levels. If, with so many actors and policies involved, Europe is to successfully manage life sciences and biotechnology and reap the benefits
for society, we should proceed on the basis of a shared vision for a cooperative approach and with effective implementing mechanisms to compensate for absence of overall responsibility and control. Without such
mechanisms, life sciences and biotechnology risk continuing to suffer
indecision or short-sighted and local solutions.
through …
The Commission proposes to structure and support implementation of
the present strategy and the enclosed action plan through the following
... monitoring
• To monitor progress in policy development and on the ground, and to
anticipate emerging issues in this fast-developing area, the Commission
will, starting in 2002 and ending in 2010, present a regular life sciences
and biotechnology report, including a rolling work programme for
... coherence of EU
• We need to ensure coherence across Community legislation and policies directly regulating, or indirectly impacting on, the development
and application of life sciences and biotechnology. The Commission
will, as part of its life sciences and biotechnology reports, review the
coherence of Community policies and legislation affecting life sciences
and biotechnology and launch initiatives and proposals as appropriate.
Particular attention will be given to ensure that regulation on life
sciences and biotechnology adequately integrates our international
objectives and facilitates innovation and international competitiveness,
that Community research contributes coherently and effectively to
Community objectives, and that other Community policies and objectives (e.g. in environment, public health and consumer protection,
education, employment, agriculture, trade and development policies)
adequately reflect the long-term and global importance of life sciences
and biotechnology. The Commission will evaluate whether existing
international forums and bilateral dialogues are sufficiently effective
and provide an adequate flow of information, and whether the domestic coordination mechanisms can be improved.
• Where different levels of competence apply, the strategy should be a
reference for collaboration between different actors (Community,
national and local public authorities, economic operators, the scientific
community, etc.). As part of the Lisbon strategy, coherent action for
life sciences and biotechnology should be pursued through the established methods of coordination and benchmarking. In addition, new
forms of collaboration and partnerships between stakeholders should
be encouraged. Together with Member States, the Commission will
also assess whether current patterns of competence and mechanisms of
cooperation allow the effective achievement of the strategic objectives,
including to reassess whether there is a need for reinforcing
Community competence in accordance with the EC Treaty.
... coordination and
• The Commission invites all institutions and public actors to strive for
better coherence in their action. For its own part, it will seek to provide
the vigilance and political impetus to keep momentum in implementing
the present strategy, through its own action or through recommendations and invitations to other parties. The Commission intends to hold
more regular orientation debates, coinciding with the adoption of the
abovementioned Commission life sciences and biotechnology report.
... political attention
• In order to facilitate transparency and structured dialogue on the further development and implementation of the proposed strategy for life
sciences and biotechnology, the Commission will organise a broadly
based stakeholders’ forum, including representatives of the candidate
countries and third countries.
7. A framework for dialogue and action
A framework for
action now and for
developing future
It is time to clarify the strategic opportunities and challenges facing
Europe. Life sciences and biotechnology are a global reality and essential for the objective of developing dynamic and innovative knowledgebased economies. We have to face the difficult questions and identify our
strategic objectives to avoid the pitfalls of short-term solutions to longterm challenges and of local solutions to global challenges.
Recognising that life sciences and biotechnology raise particular challenges, the Commission undertook to propose a strategy and concrete
actions. It now presents this initiative for a coherent, collaborative and
sustained effort.
The present initiative draws on a thorough analysis (13) of the strengths
and weaknesses of European biotechnology, and a broad public debate
and the specific public consultation launched by the Commission in
September 2001. The initiative should, in turn, itself inspire further dialogue. The attached action plan suggests a broad scope of measures
according to the orientations set out in Sections 3 to 6 of this communication. It constitutes a framework, within which some actions can be
launched in the short term while other actions for the medium and
longer term are identified and suggested for further development in collaboration with Member States and stakeholders.
The Commission now invites the Community institutions and bodies, the
Member States, protagonists and the public to contribute to refining and
implementing the proposed strategy by defining detailed measures
under both short- and medium-term actions and the time-plan for their
deliverables, as a first decisive step towards an effective and coherent
European biotechnology policy.
(13) European competitiveness report 2001, Luxembourg, 2001; ‘Innovation and competitiveness in European biotechnology’, Enterprise Papers No 7, 2002, European
1. Harvesting the potential
The resource base
Investing in people
Action 1
The Commission will, together with competent authorities in Member States (1), identify the
education needs in life sciences within the ‘Ten-year objectives for learning in the knowledge
society’ (2) and:
(a) strengthen a broad education and understanding of life sciences;
(b) develop and train a skilled workforce in life sciences;
by issuing recommendations for curricula and teacher training. Community support can be
provided under the Comenius and Erasmus programmes.
As set out in its communication on the European area of lifelong learning (3), the Commission
will work with Member States, industry, academia and others to identify measures to promote
continuing education and refresh the current competence of the scientific workforce.
Community support can be provided under the Leonardo programme.
The Commission and Member States should support discussion forums for specialist scientists,
with the objective of stimulating an exchange across disciplines. Vital discoveries frequently
happen at the point where disciplines intersect. Community support can be provided under
the Erasmus programme.
Implementer: Member States, Commission, private sector
Timeframe: 2003–10
(1) Where reference is being made to the Member States in the action plan, the Commission will examine with
interested candidate countries their participation.
(2) Education Council report to the European Council 5980/01.
(3) COM(2001) 678, 21.11.2001.
Action 2
The Commission will explore with Member States:
(a) the opportunity and best way to establish efficient methods to match a skilled workforce
with job opportunities, involving effective communication of open positions, collaboration with established companies and a labour force aware of available employment
(b) possible measures to attract and retain scientists and avoid brain drain. In achieving this,
specific reference will be paid to the initiatives launched under the communication
‘A mobility strategy for the research area’ (4), which aims at improving the overall environment of researchers and their families in the EU. Due attention will also be paid to the
increased mobility opportunities offered by the forthcoming sixth framework programme
(2002–06), and more particularly to the measures aimed at attracting foreign researchers
and supporting the return of EU researchers established in other parts of the world.
Implementer: Member States, Commission
Timeframe: 2003 onwards
(4) COM(2001) 331 final, of 20 June 2001, as supplemented by the Council resolution of 20 December 2001 concerning
the reinforcement of the mobility strategy within the European research area.
Generating and exploiting knowledge
Action 3
The Commission will enhance its support for life sciences and biotechnology research, technological development, demonstration and training activities under the next framework programme 2002–06 aimed at contributing towards the creation of the European research area.
Biotechnology research will be supported under the thematic priorities, including:
1. Genomics and biotechnology for health
3. Nanotechnologies
5. Food quality and safety
6. Sustainable development
7. Citizens and governance.
Specific measures will be provided to encourage SME participation, international cooperation
and mobility and training of researchers.
The new instruments of networks of excellence and integrated projects will facilitate the
objectives of Europe-wide collaborations, attaining critical mass and simplification of administrative procedures.
The Commission and the Member States should also in collaboration with the European
Investment Fund (EIF) develop a competitive bioinformatics infrastructure in support of
biotechnology research and focus support for the development of research in computational
biology and biomedical informatics.
Implementer: Member States, EIF, Commission
Timeframe: 2002–06
Management and legal services
Action 4
(a) Member States and national biotechnology associations should examine the opportunity
of creating self-sustained networks of biotechnology company managers at the national
(b) Member States and the Commission should promote collaboration between law schools,
law firms and companies for the development of specific legal competence needed by
biotechnology companies.
Implementer: Member States, academia, professional associations, Commission
Timeframe: 2003 onwards
Exploitation of intellectual property
Action 5
A strong, harmonised and affordable European intellectual property protection system, functioning as an incentive to R & D and innovation will be finalised by:
(a) Member States urgently transposing into national laws Directive 98/44/EC on the legal
protection of biotechnological inventions;
(b) the Council adopting the Community patent regulation;
(c) Member States and the Commission clarifying rules on ownership of intellectual property
stemming from public research and monitoring the effect of implementation of patent
legislation on research and innovation;
(d) encouraging awareness training in the strategic use of IPR during the entire research and
innovation process and raising awareness among academics of the commercial potential
of their research, encouraging entrepreneurship and movement between academia and
(e) taking steps to promote international dialogue and cooperation with a view to working
towards a level playing field with industrialised countries on patent protection on biotechnology inventions, ensuring an effective level of protection for innovation in this field.
Implementer: Member States, Council, Commission
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Capital base
Action 6
The Commission should, together with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European
Investment Fund (EIF), strengthen the capital base for the biotechnology industry by:
(a) seeking to stimulate investments in research and technological innovation via complementary financing on the basis of the cooperation agreement, signed in June 2001,
between the Commission and the EIB group;
(b) seeking to stimulate investments in business incubators through the EIF start-up facility;
(c) studying measures to support technology transfer mechanisms, such as financing of
patent pools or other methods for patent exploitation;
(d) studying measures to encourage commercial financing of companies based on a mediumterm investment perspective.
Implementer: EIB group, Commission
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Action 7
The Commission will strengthen the work of the Biotechnology and Finance Forum by the
inclusion of relevant major stakeholders to provide advice in policy development in the field
of capital supply.
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2002
Networking Europe’s biotechnology communities
Networks in Europe
Action 8
The Commission will:
(a) support the creation of a commercial biotechnology web portal for Europe that will help
free access to information and networking of available Internet platforms. The content of
such a portal will have to be defined based on the requirement of economic viability and
sustained demand;
(b) develop its newly created Commission web site to provide a broad entry platform into
the Commission’s work on biotechnology.
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2002–03
Action 9
Member States, their regions, the Commission and the EIB should support:
(a) stronger interregional cooperation, for example, through a network of biotechnology
regions. Cross-border and interregional cooperation can receive funding from the
Interreg programmes (notably Interreg IIIB and IIIC);
(b) networks of biotechnology clusters — in addition, the Commission will organise a
European competition between biotechnology innovation clusters, to highlight their
capability to develop a cluster with a focus of excellence in a specific scientific field.
Implementer: Member States, regions, EIB, Commission
Timeframe: 2003–06
A proactive role for public authorities
Action 10
The Commission will establish:
(a) a competitiveness monitoring function and a contact network with Member States’ ministries with responsibility for competitiveness in biotechnology. Monitoring should
include the impact on European competitiveness of legislation and policy measures;
(b) a competitiveness in biotechnology advisory group with industry and academia to assist
in identification of issues affecting European competitiveness. The group will provide
input into the Commission’s regular reports on life sciences and biotechnology.
Implementer: Member States, Commission
Timeframe: 2002
Action 11
Transparency in the administrative process:
(a) The Commission and Member States, as regulatory authorities, should aid applicants,
especially from start-up companies and SMEs, requesting approval through the regulatory
(b) The Commission will issue a guide to Community regulation for users and for entrepreneurs who have limited staff and expertise in the regulatory and legal fields. Such a guide
should also benefit non-EU (e.g. developing world) applicants and the general public.
Implementer: (a) Member States, Commission; (b) Commission
Timeframe: 2003 onwards
Action 12
In collaboration with the involved actors, the Commission will benchmark good practices in
clustering biotechnology companies and in the work of business incubators and disseminate
results. The Commission will also establish with Member States a programme for benchmarking relevant elements of biotechnology policies, in addition to existing benchmarking
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2003 onwards
2. A key element for responsible policy:
governing life sciences and biotechnology
Societal scrutiny and dialogue
Action 13
The Commission, Member States, organisations, institutions and other actors should engage
in a structured dialogue at various levels to develop an understanding and information
exchange on life sciences and biotechnology. The Commission will, in particular, help
mobilise all key actors in the public debate and facilitate participation of stakeholders with limited resources.
In particular:
(a) the Commission will propose a framework for a process of dialogue and follow-up with
stakeholders as a result of the European strategy for life sciences and biotechnology. The
framework will notably include a broadly based stakeholders’ forum. In this process, the
Commission will take the initiative to explain better Europe’s regulatory approach (including
the application of the precautionary principle, the role of risk management, monitoring,
safeguards and reversibility of regulatory decisions);
(b) the Commission will take initiatives, and invites the scientific community and other stakeholders to assist, to promote awareness of key scientific paradigms underlying regulatory oversight such as scientific uncertainty, absence of zero risk, comparative risks, that science is continuously evolving and therefore continuously improves our reference points,
and the articulation between the steps in the risk analysis process. Within their respective
fields, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Agency for the Evaluation
of Medicinal Products will play an important role in general risk communication, including the scientific background for their conclusions on risk assessments;
(c) beyond these two specific initiatives, the Commission will also encourage public debates
on biotechnology between scientists, industry and civil society, including specific interest
groups, such as patients’ groups, farmers and consumers, focusing on specific technological developments, to raise public interest in such developments and offer early information on potential benefits and risks. Developers in the scientific community and in
industry have a specific responsibility in actively explaining the background and the benefits of their products.
Implementer: Member States, industry, academia, civil society, EFSA, EMEA,
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Developing life sciences and biotechnology in harmony
with ethical values and societal goals
Action 14
The Commission will strengthen and focus Community support for research into socioeconomic and ethical issues and dissemination of results, including criteria for assessing the
benefits of using biotechnology in agri-food production, to facilitate future reporting and
to provide a good basis for societal decisions on the application of life sciences and
biotechnology. The Commission will programme research support to a more systematic
mapping of benefits and disadvantages/risks which should include a strong component for
dissemination of information and debate.
The Commission will ensure that ethical, legal and social implications are taken into account
at the earliest possible stages of Community-supported research by means of funding
bioethics research and of providing an ethical review of research proposals received.
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2002–06
Action 15
The Commission proposes to enhance the role of the European Group on Ethics in Science
and New Technologies. In addition, the Commission will launch a separate consultation of the
other Community institutions on possible structural improvements. The Commission will also
promote collaboration between Community, national and local levels by promoting
networking of national and local ethical bodies and elected representatives. The Commission
will organise a network of academic and professional experts for ad hoc advice on specific
socioeconomic aspects.
Implementer: ethical bodies, legislatures, Commission
Timeframe: 2002
Action 16
The Commission will develop, jointly with the European Parliament, outreach measures to
inform about the analysis of ethical issues at the EU level.
While respecting cultural pluralism, the Commission will work with public and private partners to identify areas where it is possible to establish consensus on ethical guidelines/
standards or best practice. Areas might include stem cell research, biobanks, xenotransplantation, genetic testing and use of animals in research. Such guidelines could, when appropriate, take the form of self-regulatory initiatives in the scientific community and industry.
Implementer: European Parliament, Member States, regions, industry, institutions,
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Demand-driven applications through informed choice
Action 17
The Commission will take the initiative to develop, in partnership with Member States, farmers and other private operators, research and pilot projects to clarify the need, and possible
options, for agronomic and other measures to ensure the viability of conventional and organic
farming and their sustainable coexistence with genetically modified crops. Moreover, the
Commission recognises the importance of safeguarding the existing genetic resources in agriculture. It will launch a new action programme for the conservation, characterisation, collection and utilisation of genetic resources in agriculture in the Community.
Implementer: Member States, professional associations, other operators, Commission
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Confidence in science-based regulatory oversight
Pharmaceutical legislation
Action 18
The Parliament and the Council are invited to speed up the adoption of the three legislative
proposals, revising the Community pharmaceutical legislation, including measures:
(a) to develop and reinforce the system of giving scientific advice and to increase the access
of the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products’ scientific committees
to high-level expertise through the creation of expert panels and permanent working
groups. The increased level of expertise will also help the revision and development
of European guidelines on the quality, safety and efficacy aspects of biotechnological
medicinal products;
(b) to introduce an accelerated procedure for products with a major public health interest
that will allow the assessment and authorisation of a medicinal product within a shortened timescale;
(c) to introduce a procedure allowing a conditional authorisation valid for one year, but
renewable. This will allow products of major public health interest but for which certain
studies are still in progress to be given a conditional access to the market during the finalisation of the studies.
Implementer: European Parliament, Council
Timeframe: 2002
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) legislation
Short-term regulatory actions
Action 19
The Parliament and the Council are invited to speed up the adoption of the two following
legislative proposals:
(a) proposal for a European Parliament and Council regulation on traceability and labelling
of genetically modified organisms and traceability of food and feed derivatives from
genetically modified organisms;
(b) proposal for a European Parliament and Council regulation on genetically modified food
and feed.
Implementer: European Parliament, Council
Timeframe: 2002
Action 20
The Commission will continue its work with a view to finalising the legislative proposals which
have already been announced, such as initiatives concerning GM plant propagating material,
environmental liability and the implementation of the Biosafety Protocol.
Implementer: European Parliament, Council, Commission
Timeframe: 2002–03
Implementation and enforcement activities
Action 21
The Commission will ensure that legislation is enforced in a uniform and effective way across
the Community and adopt appropriate implementing measures required under relevant legislation, including the necessary guidance for detection and sampling methodology.
The Commission will also establish a molecular register that is accessible to the public,
containing information on events of genetic modification.
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2002–03
Specific long-term regulatory actions
Action 22
The Commission will report on the feasibility of options to improve further the consistency
and efficiency of the framework for authorising GMOs for deliberate release into the environment, including a centralised Community authorisation procedure.
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2003
Action 23
The Commission will support the development of methodologies for monitoring potential
long-term environmental impacts of GMOs as compared with conventional crops, and
methodologies for the monitoring of effects of genetically modified food and feed as compared with conventional food and feed. With the establishment of the European Food Safety
Authority, the work on the early identification of emerging risks will be reinforced and upgraded.
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
3. Europe in the world — responding to global
A European agenda for international collaboration
Action 24
The Commission should continue to play a leading role in developing international guidelines,
standards and recommendations in relevant sectors, based on international scientific consensus and, in particular, push for the development of a consistent, science-based, focused, transparent, inclusive and integrated international system dealing with food safety issues.
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Europe’s responsibilities towards the developing world
Action 25
The Commission will in cooperation with Member States support:
(a) the redefining of national research towards an appropriate mix of traditional techniques
and new technologies, based on priorities developed with local farmers;
(b) the establishment of effective research partnerships between public and private research
organisations in developing countries and in the EU, and the adequate capacity and infrastructure for developing countries to enter into such partnerships, in accordance with
international commitments under the conventions;
(c) sub-regional, regional and international organisations, in particular the international agricultural research centres.
Implementer: Member States, Commission
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Genetic resources
Action 26
The Commission and the Member States will support the conservation and sustainable use of
genetic resources in developing countries and their equitable sharing of benefits arising from
their use by:
(a) supporting the development and enforcement of effective measures to conserve, to use
sustainably and to provide access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge, as well
as to share equitably the benefits arising from them, including income generated by intellectual property protection. Support for local communities is vital to conserve indigenous
knowledge and genetic resources;
(b) supporting the participation of delegates from developing countries in the negotiations
of relevant international conventions;
(c) supporting measures to promote greater regional coordination in legislation to minimise
disparities in access, benefits and also trade in products derived from genetic resources,
in accordance with international commitments.
Implementer: Member States, Commission
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Action 27
The Commission and the Member States should work with the international community to
concretise the commitment to research to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and other main
poverty-related diseases and also to identify effective measures to support developing countries in establishing the structures needed to deploy a health policy.
Implementer: Member States, Commission
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Responsible and careful use
Action 28
The Commission should support:
(a) the safe and effective use of modern biotechnologies in developing countries, based on
their autonomous choice and on their national development strategies;
(b) measures to increase the capacity of developing countries to assess and manage risk for
man and the environment, under conditions prevailing in the country;
(c) the development of appropriate administrative, legislative and regulatory measures in the
developing countries, for the proper implementation of the Cartagena Protocol;
(d) that international research on social, economic and environmental impacts is effectively
adapted to take into account conditions prevailing in developing countries and that the
findings are subsequently disseminated to them in an appropriate format;
(e) that the international regulatory requirements remain manageable by developing countries, so as not to impede their trade and production prospects.
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
4. Implementation and coherence across policies,
sectors and actors
Action 29
The Commission will enhance:
(a) the general foresight function across Commission services, and, in particular, its role in
technology foresight through its Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), for
early identification of newly emerging issues and of elements of a policy response;
(b) its monitoring and review function to assess:
• the relevance, coherence and effectiveness of legislation and policy,
• the extent to which policy objectives are achieved and legislation enforced,
• the societal and economic impact of legislation and policy measures.
In pursuit of these objectives and to further strengthen policy coherence, the Commission:
(a) will reinforce continuous coordination between its services and calls upon Member States
to provide also enhanced foresight/review functions and a coordinated interface for a dialogue on these issues.
Implementer: Commission, Member States
Timeframe: 2002 onwards
Action 30
The Commission will present a regular report on life sciences and biotechnology to monitor
progress and indicate possible specific proposals to ensure policy and legislative coherence.
The report will draw on the conclusions under Actions 10 and 29.
Implementer: Commission
Timeframe: 2003 onwards
European Commission
Life sciences and biotechnology — A strategy for Europe
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities
2002 — 46 pp. — 17.6 x 25 cm
ISBN 92-894-3388-4
Life sciences
A strategy
for Europe
L-2985 Luxembourg
ISBN 92-894-3388-4
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