Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Science in Europe, 05,2008

In today's edition:
  1. Health innovators get top prizes
  2. EU observatory to guide policymakers on nanotechnologies
  3. Vienna and Bratislava join forces in bid for EIT
  4. Commission hesitant to approve more GM crops
Soon, more on GM and it would be very hard! You know, some need to learn the hard way :)

Health innovators get top prizes

Published: Friday 9 May 2008

A number of medical technologies have been awarded a symbolic European innovation prize for their contribution to improved quality of life and technical progress in Europe.

The inventors of a ground-breaking antiviral treatment for AIDS, a pain-free eye-scanner and a robot designed to overhaul medical surgery were honoured with three of the four European Inventor of the Year 2008external awards, handed out on 6 May.

The prize is purely symbolic and does not involve any financial or other reward, but "recognises inventors and innovations that have made a significant and lasting contribution to technical progress in Europe and beyond," as well as strengthening European competitiveness.

The award's origins date back to discussions which took place several years ago between Commissioner Günter Verheugen and former European Patent Office (EPO) president Alain Pompidou, who regretted that there was no European award related to innovation and technology in the broadest sense. To fill the vacuum, the European Inventor of the Year was established and given out for the first time in 2006.

The 2008 prizes were awarded to inventions which were patented and successfully marketed between 1993 and 2002.

"The groundbreaking inventions honoured today underline the importance of an effective legal framework for the protection of intellectual property rights to support the creative potential of the European economy. We are convinced that an agreement on a Community patent and EU patent jurisdiction will help boost Europe's innovative process and international competitiveness," said Slovenian Minister for Economic Affairs Andrej Vizjak.

Despite widespread support for the idea of a simple EU-wide patent system that would save companies the cost and effort of having to apply for protection under different national patent regimes, member states have not been able to reach a consensus. The main hurdle regarding the Community patent is the difficulty of reaching agreement over the language in which the patent should be written.

The last of the four 2008 prizes went to an inventor of lighter and more environmentally friendly aluminium car frames, which make cars more fuel-efficient as aluminium is lighter than steel.source

My comment: Symbolical award? Oh, well, I guess it's better than nothing...And the common patent system is really really essential. If you ask me the patent should be filed only on the language of the country where the application is taking place. That should be enough.

EU observatory to guide policymakers on nanotechnologies

13 May 2008

An EU project to establish a European Observatory on Nanotechnologies is seeking to address the lack of objective and independent information on nanotech for policymakers, industry and investors.

The ObservatoryNANOexternal project was launched as a first step on the way to establishing a permanent European Observatory on Nanotechnologies. Once established, it would provide "ongoing, independent support to decision-makers," according to the consortium.

Launched in April 2008, the project will be funded for four years from the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) and has a total budget of €4 million. The project consortium, led by the UK Institute of Nanotechnology (IoNexternal ), brings together partners from different fields of application of nanotech. Partners vary from a Danish nanoethics centre to the French atomic energy commission (CEA), and from the Technical University of Darmstadt to the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).

The consortium will analyse current nanotech trends and expectations regarding public and private roadmaps and funding strategies and examine patents and published company data. In addition to scientific and economic analysis, the project partners will assess ethical and societal issues related to nanotech and its impact on health and the environment, as well as standardisation and other legislative issues.

Nanotechnology, which involves studying and working with matter on an ultra-small scale, is widely perceived as one of the key technologies of the 21st century, with the potential to grow into a 1 trillion euro industry within a decade. However, fears are growing that the field could develop into a political battleground with fiery debates about the dangers of nanotech and its health, environmental and ethical consequences - as has happened with biotechnology. This is because nanomaterials are so small that they can be inhaled or absorbed into the body through the skin. Their behaviour inside the body or in the environment is still unknown.

The European Commission recently completed a review of existing EU regulations to establish whether new legislation on nanomaterials is needed to cover these risks. According to a Commission official, a communication - set to be published this spring - will argue that no new specific regulation is needed as the related health and environmental risks are already covered by EU legislation on chemicals, novel foods and food packaging, for example. source

My comment: That's a good news. It was really a high time to see such agency in action. I just hope it will be independent from the industry and it won't just waste European money but also will work in our benefit.

Vienna and Bratislava join forces in bid for EIT

8 May 2008

Slovakia has joined Austria's bid to host the proposed European Institute of Innovation and Technology in the hope that a twin-city headquarters initiative will convince ministers to give them the nomination.

The proposal was presented on 6 May by MEPs from the two countries, who explained that the governing board and auditing body would be on the Slovakian side, with executive functions carried out on the Austrian side.

Problems with practicalities concerning the split geography were dismissed by Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Jan Mikolaj, who argued it would actually make it easier as it would "facilitate the independence of financial control and prevent the crossing-over of remits".

The move was welcomed by Austrian MEP Hannes Swoboda, who believed the project was a "further step to transcend national borders, not only in practice but also in our minds".

The joint bid joins three other contenders to host the institute: Budapest, Wroclaw and Sant Cugat del Valles near Barcelona. The Competitiveness Council is expected to reach a decision on 29-30 May. The EIT governing board is expected to convene this autumn and launch its first operations by the end of 2009. source

My comment: :) That's more fun than science, but anyway...


Commission hesitant to approve more GM crops

8 May 2008 | Updated: Friday 9 May 2008

The Commission has referred a number of pending GMO approvals back to the EU's food safety agency (EFSA) for further review of scientific evidence of the GMOs' potential effects on the environment and human health.

Approving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) involves a request for authorisation by a producer. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is mandated to conduct a scientific assessment and to report to the Commission, which then submits its decision to the Council.

In the event that the Council cannot reach a qualified majority for or against authorisation, the matter is sent back to the Commission, which is free to authorise the GMO based on a special regulatory procedureexternal .

Both the special regulatory procedure and the role of EFSA have been the subject of criticism (see EurActiv 05/12/05 and 10/03/06), and the Commission has decided to introduce practical changes to EFSA's GMO-approval process (EurActiv 12/04/06).

Up till now, EFSA has never given a negative GMO recommendation. Since 2005, the Commission has decided to authorise the import of 16 GMOs.

Several member states have repeatedly invoked an EU safeguard clause enabling them to suspend the marketing or growth on their territory of GM crops that have EU-wide authorisation. But the Commission has never substantiated their applications and has always ordered them to lift the national bans.

In October 2007, Portuguese Environment Minister Francisco Nunes Correia said the majority of member states were opposed to the Commission forcing them to lift such bans. He added: "The Commission proposal prevails against the explicit will of one member state and that is something that has to give us pause for thought."

The College of Commissioners held an orientation debate on GMOs on 7 May "to take stock of the current situation and to set out how to move forward on pending authorisation cases and longer-term issues". The commissioners were originally due to clarify the EU executive's policy on GMOs in early February, but delayed their decision.

On the agenda was the approval of three new GM crops (two maize varieties and one potato) to which the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had already given favourable opinions, but on which the Council failed to reach a consensus. Instead of rubber-stamping the EFSA opinion and authorising the varieties, the Commission decided that "in order to take decisions, it needs additional elements of scientific advice," said its spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

The Commission is thus delaying its decision on the pending GMO cases until EFSA has completed its safety analysis of the products and confirmed its positive opinions.

Laitenberger said the Commission has "every faith in EFSA" and feels it is the best placed scientific body to carry out a comprehensive, independent evaluation of GMO safety. The Commission will continue to base its decisions on science "as required by the legislation," he added.

The Commission asked EFSA to:

  • Analyse further scientific evidence on the effects on the environment and human health of the Amflora starch potato (see EurActiv 17/07/07) and three hybrid maize varieties (MON863xMON810, MON863xNK603, MON863xMON810xNK60"), all of which contain antibiotic resistant genesword external ;
  • review new scientific information on GMO maize Bt11 and 1507 and confirm the saftey of these products (which engineer their own pesticide to resist insects), and;
  • confirm that the scientific evidence on herbicide-resistant GMO rice LL62 is complete.

The EU executive also asked its services to find a technical solution to the issue of low-level presence of non-approved GMOsPdf external in feed and foodstuffs before the summer.

Positions:

The European Association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio) immediately expressed its disappointment about the Commission decision to send the dossiers back to EFSA and argues that the EU executive is denying European farmers access to technology. "In Europe, only one biotech crop is available for farmers, an insect-resistant Bt maize. Since 1998 not one single new biotech crop has been allowed to reach the market for cultivation. This stands in stark contrast to the 120 plus products for 23 crops available to farmers worldwide. " states the association.

Environmental NGOs Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace qualified the decision as "a huge vote of no confidence" in the EU's GMO approval system, saying it raises "serious concerns about the ability of the agency to check the safety of GM crops".

The decisions also "vindicate Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas' concerns about scientific inconsistencies in the EU GMO assessment," said Marco Contiero, Greenpeace's

Next steps:

  • It is not clear how long the new EFSA review process will take.
  • If approved, the Amflora starch potato and GMO maize varieties Bt11 and 1507 would be the first new biotech crops authorised by the EU for cultivation since 1998. Currently only one crop - the insect resistant Bt maize crop - is authorised for cultivation in the EU.
source
My comment: In short-EFSA is as corrupted as FDA if you ask me. Funny how USA and Europe watch from each other when they want to. But saying a loud "NO" to Monsanto is too much for a country with 500 000 000 citizens. It's just too hard!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one who knew EFSA are not only deceitful but also lack intelligence. We do not need these so called leaders who are intolerable.

 

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