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Brussels, December 14, 2000

Philippe Busquin welcomes European Parliament initiative
to set up committee on genetics

Keywords: genetics, ethics, science and society

Commissioner for Research Philippe Busquin welcomed today the European Parliament’s initiative to set up an enquiry committee on genetics: “It is evident that the advances in genetics will have a profound impact on our lives and on our societies. By examining all the issues in a political forum such as the European Parliament, the enquiry committee will contribute to and complement the Commission’s own efforts to reconcile science and society”, he said.

Recalling the Union’s substantial financial support to research in this field, Philippe Busquin added that the newly-formed enquiry committee could count on his full co-operation and that of DG Research.

The European Parliament has decided today to establish a temporary committee on “human genetics and other new technologies in modern medicine”. Its aim is to catalogue new and potential developments and uses and to examine the ethical, legal and socio-economic issues that these imply. Commissioner Busquin welcomed the initiative and assured the Parliament of the co-operation of his services in the committee’s work.

Earlier this year, Philippe Busquin set up a High Level Group on Life Sciences consisting of top-level European scientists. One of the Group’s tasks is to advise the Commissioner on imminent and foreseeable developments in life sciences, particularly in genetics, and on how to better dialogue with society.

The 6 and 7 November conference on Genetics and the future of Europe, organised with the support of the Life Sciences High Level Group, highlighted the need for European and national fora to foster dialogue on genetics and its implications for society. The Commission also published a call for proposals last month to support innovative ways of communicating on genetics. For information on these “Accompanying Measures” see: http://cordis.europa.eu/life/

It is in the same context that the Commission published a reflection document on “Science, society and citizens”, which was discussed by Research ministers at their Council meeting on 16 November 2000 (http://ec.europa.eu/research/area.html).

Throughout successive EU Research Framework programmes, the European Commission has supported studies into the ethical, legal and socio-economic aspects (ELSA) of research in the Life sciences.

Genetics is at the heart of many processes in life sciences. Consequently much of the European Commission’s € 2.4 billion research budget for life sciences is awarded to collaborative research projects that are using genetics to understand and utilise these processes in various areas of applications for health, food and the environment. In the first year of the Quality of Life programme (1999-2002) over 540 research projects were selected for funding. Priority areas include “Food, Nutrition & Health”; the “Control of infectious diseases”; “Cell Factory”, “Environment & Health”; “Sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry” and “the Ageing population”; as well as on more basic research and related infrastructures. Projects short-listed for EC support must fulfil a number of ethical requirements and can be subjected to an ethical review.

For further information, please contact:

Stéphane Hogan, Quality of Life programme, Research DG
Tel : +32.2.296.29.65, E-mail : Research Contact

Michel Claessens, Communication Unit, Research DG
Tel : +32-2-295.99.71; Fax: +32-2-295.82.20, E-mail: michel.claessens@ec.europa.eu

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PRESS RELEASES | 14.12.2000