News archives - Year 2007
The future of food
Recent years have seen major changes in the food industry. Globalisation has seen the spread of fast food outlets worldwide, while many consumers have responded with slow food movements. In the midst of all this, farmers and retailers have been trying to keep pace with advancements in technology as well as meeting changing consumer demand. The recent Perspectives for Food 2030 conference was convened to discuss these issues and to assess how industry and consumer demands may evolve in the future.
Europe tackles brain disorders by linking industry with academia
The effects of mental illness were recognised by the Romans and Ancient Greeks. In the Medieval period the cause was believed to be demonic possession or phases of the moon. Since the turn of the 20th century European researchers have followed in the tradition of Sigmund Freud and Alois Alzheimer in studying and understanding disorders of the brain. A new European proposal now brings together industry and academia to create new therapies and push back the frontiers of scientific and medical knowledge.
Europe's fight against obesity
Obesity, in which the body's natural energy reserve, stored in a person's fatty tissue, increases to the point where it may become associated with certain disorders and even increased mortality, has been identified as a growing problem. It is looked upon as a cause for concern since excessive body weight may lead to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus type 2, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.
Local scientists need to be in the front line against aids
In the fight against HIV, the need for the development of an effective preventative vaccine is compelling. However, questions regarding the utility and feasibility of transferring modern scientific and medical technology should be addressed. Why is technology transfer necessary, who should make the transfer and what are the eventual benefits to the recipients in the developed and developing world?
Researching alternatives to animal testing
Since the 1980s the EU's Framework Programmes have supported the development of alternative testing strategies in order to reduce, refine and replace animal experiments. This has also been a goal of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) which provides independent scientific and technical advice to the Commission. Substantial progress has been achieved and generally accepted and validated alternative tests are now available. Alternative methods promise to provide the required information with quality controlled state-of-the-art tests that are both faster and cheaper than using animals.
European scientists develop artificial cornea
Every year, in Germany alone, around 7 000 people must wait for a new cornea to preserve their eyesight, but unfortunately donors are in short supply. In order to resolve this problem, research was successfully carried out by European scientists to provide alternatives to cornea transplantations. It is hoped that patients will soon no longer have to wait for human donor tissue.
The vision of Europe's food industry
A cornerstone of Europe's research policy is ensuring that the EU becomes a world leader in key technology areas, and several initiatives have been developed to make that goal a reality. European Technology Platforms (ETP), one such initiative, are industry led platforms aimed at aligning EU research priorities with the needs of industry. The importance of Europe's agro-food industry, both in terms of size and stature, easily lent itself to the establishment of an ETP, resulting in the launch of the Food for Life ETP in 2005. Food for Life recently released its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) meant to guide technology development in Europe's agro-industries.
Commission: prevention, not cure, key to animal health
Stung by recent episodes of devastating outbreaks among Europe's livestock, public officials have drafted a comprehensive policy aimed at avoiding disease before it starts. The recently signed Community Animal Health Policy places citizen safety first whilst ensuring that the market remains strong. One important aspect of the policy is an emphasis on biosecurity measures for early detection.
Biofuel targets not possible without biotech, says EuropaBio
EuropaBio, the EU association for bioindustries, which represents 25 national biotechnology associations and some 1800 small and medium sized biotech companies in Europe, has published a position paper on the EU's energy and climate change proposal saying that the biofuel targets contained in the package are indeed attainable, though not without the help of its members. EuropaBio's Biofuels Task Force states that biotechnology will be needed to wring a higher yield out of each year's harvest in order to reach the 10% biofuel target by 2020.
Joint development of knowledge-based bioeconomy agreed in EU-China statement
To underscore the EU's efforts to become the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy, the European Commission recently signed an agreement with the future home of the world's biggest economy, China. The commitment, signed by Christian Patermann, Director of the Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food Directorate within the Commission's Research DG, and Wang Hongguang on behalf of the China National Centre for Biotechnology Development, was the result of a workshop highlighting the successes and future cooperation opportunities for the EU and the world's most populous country.
Two-year consultation culminates in long-term plant tech agenda
If Wilhelm Gruissem, President of the European Plant Science Organisation has his way, Europe's economic outlook will not only be rosier, but greener. The European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO), an independent body representing 58 members in 24 European countries that councils the EU and Member States on scientific policy and co-founder of one of the first European Technology Platforms, 'Plants for the Future', recently released the platform's Strategic Research Agenda.
EU project publishes bioethics guidelines for nutrigenomics research
Inextricably linked with the exponential growth of scientific and technological discovery are concerns over human health and safety. Increased understanding of the human genome in recent years has unlocked enormous potential in improving our well-being, and as a result public officials are careful to take the requisite measures to protect public safety in emerging fields. One such example is the field of nutrigenomics, the study of the interaction between nutrients and genes. Consequently. the European Commission has funded the European Nutrigenomics Organisation (NuGO) Network of Excellence which recently published a set of bioethics guidelines designed to help scientists undertaking nutrigenomics research using human subjects.
BIOPOLIS report on public biotech R&D released
To gain a better understanding of what is happening in the dynamic field of biotechnology in Europe, the European Commission has published the BIOPOLIS study on public biotechnology R&D in 32 European countries. The first aim of BioPolis is to provide an up-to-date and detailed overview of national and regional biotechnology policies and policy instruments for the period 2002-2005 in all EU Member States, four Accession Countries, and Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The second aim is to assess the effectiveness of biotechnology policies by exploring the relationship between national policy approaches towards biotechnology and the performance of the respective national biotechnology innovation systems.
EU investigates easing BSE-related feed ban
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as 'mad cow disease', has been the target of European research for many years, especially as the disease has succeeded in wreaking havoc on the lives of farmers and consumers alike. Seeking to get a strong handle on the situation, the EU banned the use of animal proteins in farm feed in 2000 because of heightened public concern over BSE. Seven years have since passed and the EU is now mulling over plans to ease this ban. A EUR 1.7 million research study will determine whether using pig and chicken meal which would still be safe for humans, could be used.
German EU Council Presidency organises high-level conference, publishes Cologne Paper
On May 30th 2007 in Cologne (Germany), a high-level conference "En Route to a Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy" was organised by the German EU Council Presidency. High-ranking political representatives of the German government and the European Commission addressed the topic and renowned experts from science and industry have presented their views in lectures and a panel discussion. One of the highlights was the presentation of the Cologne Paper.
Innovative Medicines Initiative to strengthen EU biopharmaceutical
European Commission proposed last month to establish the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) in partnership with the European biopharmaceutical industry. IMI will embody a new approach to research financing at the European level. He will bring together public and private funds, involving industry and faster access to better medicine for Europe's citizens.
Helena project - Adolescence nutrition program
HELENA will provide, for the first time in Europe, harmonised and comparable data about food intake among male and female European adolescents, taking advance of computer-based dietary assessment tools.
Biotechnology benefit to EU labor productivity
Biotechnology constitutes a driving force for the European economy and has increased the labor productivity reported recent studies on the biotech impacts and future prospects. Indeed, the progresses made by the EU companies offering novel products and boosting the production efficiency has permitted today an improvement in quality of jobs and a bigger number of products associated to biotechnology.
Germany has asked for a biotechnology study recently and find that biotech by 2020 could create between 369,000 and 596,000 jobs.
Commission request to EFSA for advice to determine safety
of animal cloning on food safety, animal health and welfare
and the environment
The Commission has sent a request to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for a scientific opinion on the implication of animal cloning on food safety, animal welfare and the environment. The opinion, due by August 2007, is set to determine whether meat and milk from cloned animals are safe to eat.
publishes Biotech Strategy review
The European Commission wants to put a special focus on innovation, research, market development and the debate with society on ethical issues in the field of biotechnology. In a mid-term review of the Strategy on Life Sciences and Biotechnology 2002-2010, presented in April by President Barroso and Commissioners Verheugen and Potocnik, a refocus of actions has been proposed to promote a competitive and sustainable European knowledge based Bio-Economy.
global alliance to draft biofuels standards
A new multi-stakeholder, international alliance is to draw up global standards for sustainable biofuels production and processing. Biofuels, with their potential to reduce carbon emissions, present one potential component of the energy mix of the future. The industry is booming in many regions worldwide, but without safeguards, biofuels could have negative impacts.
highlights how far biotech has advanced healthcare
An updated report compiled by the BioImpact project draws attention to the numerous benefits that biotechnology can have for healthcare. BioImpact brings together French, UK and European biotechnology groups wishing to raise awareness of the current value and importance of biotechnologies for public health.
concerns about animal welfare when shopping vary widely between
Considerable attention is being given to what consumers can do to improve farm animal welfare. Linking improvements of farm animal welfare to what people do as food consumers is essential to realise better animal welfare in Europe. This recent study shows that such linkages vary considerably across Europe.
calls for improvements to ethical procedure for stem cell
Addressing safety concerns related to advances in the
nanomedicine field is of vital importance, according to
the newly published "Opinion on the Ethical Aspects of
Nanomedicine" from the European Group on Ethics in Science
and New Technologies. .
Quality Schemes under the Microscope
The future of quality certification schemes, their functioning in the internal market as well as their benefits
and potential were examined and discussed by stakeholders and experts at the Conference
"Food Quality Certification - Adding Value to Farm Produce" in Brussels, 5-6 February 2007.
The conference brought together stakeholders and representatives of all interested parties.
It follows a 2-year "Food Quality Schemes" pilot project undertaken by the Commission's
research arm, the JRC.
of an era for human DNA patenting, finds EU study
The patenting of human DNA is not the barrier to medical and scientific
innovation that many feared, a study has concluded. The PATGEN project, funded under the EU's Sixth Framework
Programme (FP6), researched 15,600 cases of inventions where patents claiming human DNA sequences had
been filed at patent offices in the US, Europe and Japan, between 1980 and 2003.
seeds contain Hepatitis A fighting antibodies
The prospect of drug-producing plants just got a step
closer thanks to new research in which scientists successfully
produced plants whose seeds contain high levels of complex
proteins which closely resemble antibodies.
good for development as well as the environment?
The novelty of biofuels, the vast array of issues involved
and the lack of knowledge to tackle many of them, together
with diverging political and business interests mean that
consensus is elusive. It is therefore increasingly urgent
to map a path for the global biofuels industry that supports
sustainable development,' says Annie Dufey, the author
of a new report on biofuels.
group publishes opinion on nanomedecine
Addressing safety concerns related to advances in the
nanomedicine field is of vital importance, according to
the newly published 'Opinion on the Ethical Aspects of
Nanomedicine' from the European Group on Ethics in Science
and New Technologies.
of technology: an ethics of collective co-responsibility
"(...) contemporary society is not only characterized by the
differentiation of roles but also by the intensified institutionalization
of the social-institutional spheres in which the role differentiation takes place.
Science, engineering, economics, education, politics, art, religion, and more have
all become so institutionally distinct that they largely determine the conditions for
their own functioning." says Dr. Rene von Schomberg in "From the Ethics of Technology
towards an Ethics of Knowledge Policy and Knowledge assessment" working document he
wrote for the services of the European Commission. The thesis takes as its point of
departure the contested assumption that the current ethical theories cannot capture
adequately the ethical and social challenges of scientific and technological development.
research: "Food Quality and Safety Research: First Results
On the 12 December 2006, the European Commission presented
first results from projects in the area of food quality and
safety which were funded from the EU's Sixth Research Framework
Programme (FP6, 2002-2006). A dozen co-operative research
projects with international teams have presented their newest
findings related to the quality and safety of our food.
energy, biomass: Refining Europes ideas on bio-refineries
Both for economic and environmental reasons, Europe needs
to find alternatives to its current dependence on fossil fuels.
An EU conference in Helsinki (FI) explored one of the alternatives: