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Brussels, October 30, 2000

A public debate on genome information and its responsible use
A conference and an internet-chat

Keywords: genetics, genome, public debate

The conference on ‘Genetics and the Future of Europe’ which will open on 6 November in Brussels is the first event of its kind. It is one of the initiatives taken by the Commission to stimulate scientists to communicate better with society, represented at the conference by politicians, and industrial and social leaders. The aim is to engage the debate on the responsible use and exploitation of genome information in health, food, environment and society. This initiative will be presented by Philippe Busquin, Commissioner for research at a press conference on 7 November.

Said Commissioner Busquin: “We all realise that developments in life sciences are increasingly and profoundly impacting on our lives, but we don’t always know what this means. This is why I have asked a group of top-level European scientists to help me organise this meeting and to engage a dialogue with the public on the impact of life sciences on society.”

The debates will be available on the Web in real time and after the conference Commissioner Busquin will be hosting an internet-chat where, for two hours, he will be answering questions of European citizens in 11 languages.

Life Sciences are in the centre of a discussion seen to encompass multiple and occasionally conflicting interests. Scientific progress and industrial exploitation of human genome information are critically perceived by the public and by policy makers. An exchange between leading scientists, industrial leaders, politicians, NGO representatives, media experts and further representatives of society interested in the beneficial and responsible application of human genome information is needed to start an informed public debate.

‘Genetics and the future of Europe’ will allow an unbiased discussion of the scientific, economic and ethical implications of advanced genetic research. It is the first event arranged by the Life Sciences High Level Group which was assigned by Commissioner Busquin to advise him on likely developments of life sciences and technologies. The event will be chaired by Professor Axel Kahn, president of the Life Sciences High Level Group. In addition to the four thematic debates, a round table will be chaired by Philip Campbell, editor of Nature.

A limited number of places are still available for the conference, which will also be broadcast on the web in real time. The programme and further information is available on http://ec.europa.eu/research/quality-of-life/genetics.html.

On 7 November at 11:00, Commissioner Busquin will give a press conference. Journalists wishing to attend the press conference or indeed the entire event should contact the European Commission.

Commissioner Busquin will also be discussing the issues addressed at the conference with those European citizens that want to join him on an Internet-chat on 7 November, from 18.30 to 20.30. The discussion will take place in the eleven languages of the European Union, in real time, but questions can also be sent in advance to chat-busquin@ec.europa.eu and will be answered during the chat.

Conference web pages:

Internet chat:

For additional information:

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, E-mail: michel.claessens@ec.europa.eu

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PRESS RELEASES | 30.10.2000