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Friday, August 28, 2009

Research in Europe-patents and GMOs, August, 2009

Today:
  1. Halve patent fees for SMEs, says EU think-tank
  2. EU cancer 'partnership' to focus on prevention
  3. Ministers 'deeply concerned' by biodiversity loss
  4. Austria proposes GMO 'opt-out' clause
  5. Commission allows ten more years of GM maize cultivation
Quote of the day:"Yup, when in developed countries people start to question the benefits of cancer-screening in terms of saved life, we make a 100% screening of the population. I'm sorry, I have problems understanding the idea."

Halve patent fees for SMEs, says EU think-tank

30 June 2009

Small, innovative companies should be given special status by the European Patent Office (EPO) in order to remove barriers to intellectual property protection, according to a new report by the Brussels-based Bruegel think-tank.

The time, expertise and costs involved in filing new patents is prohibitive for small firms, independent inventors and universities, according to the report's author, Bruno Van Pottelsberghe of Brussels Free University (ULB).

Driving costs skyward are the fees charged by the EPO, the price of retaining expert legal and technical advice, and translation costs. Enforcing patents in several European jurisdictions is also expensive, Van Pottelsberghe says, who says the introduction of a single patent court could save businesses up €289 million per year. The report suggests creating special patent status for SMEs and young innovative companies, which would bring Europe's patent system into line with the US and Japan, where small firms have enjoyed special treatment for many years.

He was critical of the governance structures of the Office, which has a board made up of 35 representatives of patent offices in member states. A new administrative council with just 10 members from national patent offices, plus representatives of businesses, consumer associations and the academic sector is proposed as an alternative.source

My comment:I'm starting to feel the whole idea of patents is wrong. And in Europe it is a disaster. Of course, inventors should be paid and their inventions protected, but for some reasons, instead of helping people, patents only help big companies. And the very lucky small companies sometimes. But as a whole, the system is more protective than encouraging. Obviously I'm not going to come up with the new system just like that, but think of open source software. It showed us that you can keep your name under your creation and that you can actually earn without creating a legal mess that will make hell for everyone else to follow trough. Maybe those think-tanks should start thinking in this direction, instead of trying so badly to copy USA in terms of patents. Because the system in USA is very far from perfect. And many people are complaining that currently it is with extremely speculative nature. And that it's very bad one for inventors working for big companies. So...maybe we should be a little bit less eager to copy it. But decreasing the cost of patents and creating a common system for Europe is of course a must do.

EU cancer 'partnership' to focus on prevention

26 June 2009

A 'European Partnership for Action against Cancer' to be launched this autumn will aim to screen 100% of the population for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer by 2013, the European Commission announced.

The EU executive outlined the principles behind the new partnership on Wednesday (24 June), saying it hoped to bring together all relevant organisations working on cancer "to identify gaps, address needs and learn from each other".

"In Europe, one in three people will develop cancer in their lifetime," the Commission said in a statement. "This translates to 3.2 million people being diagnosed with the disease every year."

The EU executive said the partnership aims to provide a framework for "sharing information, capacity and expertise in cancer prevention and control" across Europe in order to avoid duplication of work or scattered action.

It aims to engage "a wide range of stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations, researchers, patients groups, industry and national authorities," the Commission said.

Key priorities of the partnership, to be launched this autumn in Brussels, include promoting early detection of cancer and defining research priorities.

The European Public Health Alliance, an NGO, hailed the Commission's initiative, saying it was "an important step forward in recognising the environmental dimension of cancer prevention".

"Many environmental factors, including carcinogenic chemicals, pesticides and particles in air pollution, contribute to cancer," the EPHA said in a statement. "These cancers could be prevented by changes in policy to reduce people's involuntary exposure to these chemical substances."

Scientists are divided over the health impact of chemicals, with uncertainties remaining about the effects of low-level contamination in particular. Studies are ongoing to try to determine what level of chemical exposure can be considered safe (EurActiv 01/12/08).

The European Chemicals Industry Council (Cefic) says blood tests that detect the presence of chemicals in people's bodies only provide "a one-off measurement" and do not offer "any information on whether the levels vary over time or what the source of exposure was". source

My comment: Yup, when in developed countries people start to question the benefits of cancer-screening in terms of saved life, we make a 100% screening of the population. I'm sorry, I have problems understanding the idea. And while the chemical screening is good idea, as chemical industry said, one time sample is nothing-you need to find how exposure to chemicals correlate with cancer risk and death from cancer. Only this will be a clear proof which factors are really dangerous and which are not.

I'm not protecting chemical industry AT ALL. I'm absolutely sure that some chemicals are extremely carcinogenic and only our wonderful immune system is to credit for the people that actually don't get any kind of cancer during their lives. The question is how to prove it in a way that people will believe. And what to do next.

And of course, I think screening of 100% of population sounds almost as bad as taking genetic samples of 100% of population and making AIDS tests of 100% of population. The aim shouldn't be to cover all. The aim should be to provide help/treatment where needed and to examine groups at risk only when you're sure you can then heal them. Or 80% of them. If you kill more women than you save by giving them a breast-cancer therapy, maybe screening should be changed.

Ministers 'deeply concerned' by biodiversity loss

30 June 2009

EU environment ministers yesterday (25 June) called for better evaluation of EU policies to protect biodiversity and asked for 'ecosystem services' to be integrated into the bloc's policies in order to measure the drivers of biodiversity loss.

Meeting in Luxembourg, the ministers declared themselves "deeply concerned" by the European Commission's recent assessment that the EU is unlikely to meet its 2010 target of halting biodiversity decline.

To address the bleak situation, they suggested examining the impact of EU rural development and fisheries policies on biodiversity and asked the Commission to assess the effectiveness of the NATURA 2000 network of protected areas.

The ministers further urged better use of the bloc's Common Agricultural Policy to strengthen biodiversity conservation. The EU and its member states are also requested to consider reduciing pressure on fisheries to "sustainable levels" in upcoming reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Ministers also called for better understanding of the impact on biodiversity loss of consumption of products like meat, soy beans and palm oil. Ministers also reacted to the Commission's Communication on policy options for an EU strategy on invasive alien species (IAS), published in December 2008.

They asked the EU executive to prepare a specific strategy by 2010, containing measures on prevention, including trade-related aspects, early detection, warning and rapid response, monitoring and control as well as restoration of biodiversity affected by IAS.

With the EU failing to achieve its biodiversity protection targets, the European Environment Agency (EEA) is calling for protection measures to be integrated into agricultural, forestry and fisheries policies, and goods and services to be priced according to their true impact on the environment. source

My comment: NATURA 2000 is a lie, ok?! In Bulgaria, although a region is part of NATURA, you still can cut trees in it and in one such case, the wood was exported to Greece-another EU country that is very well aware of the idea of NATURA 2000. So let's just stop pretending we don't know what's going on. And I won't even comment the deep concern of ministers when they all participate in that crime. I don't get it why if they don't care, they make those directives on the first place. If you ask me, there should be an European directive forbidding the land that suffered forest fires to be used for anything else but for re-planting trees on it and maybe it should be allowed to sell it. This will solve the problem with forest fires pretty much everywhere. As a whole, in this direction, there is so much to be done that it's amazing eco-systems in Europe are such a mess. I mostly like the part with "alien species". That would be GMos. And they really have to be monitored and regulated since they have the tendency to take over regions-there was such case in Mexico with gmo corn that took over the normal corn.

Austria proposes GMO 'opt-out' clause

25 June 2009

After a debate on environmental risks related to the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Austria is now calling for an opt-out clause to be introduced to related EU legislation to allow individual member states to decide on cultivation.

The issue has been added to the agenda of a meeting of EU environment ministers today (25 June) in Luxembourg.

As authorisation of GMOs still remains problematic, the Austrian delegation has submitted a note to ministers on the "way forward" on the issue.

The delegation argues that "relevant socio-economic aspects could form a basis for individual member states to prohibit or regulate the cultivation of GMOs on the whole territory, or certain defined areas, of individual member states".

This view is officially supported by Bulgaria, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovenia.

However, as there is currently no methodology available for defining and evaluating socio-economic criteria, Austria proposes that such criteria could be agreed upon "during the process of discussion on socio-economic aspects" that were started under French EU Presidency last year (EurActiv 09/12/09).

One example of socio-economic criteria could be forbidding the cultivation of GM crops next to vineyards, the GM contamination of which could affect the quality of wine, a diplomat explained.

The Austrian note stresses that the development of socio-economic criteria should consider options which could allow member states to decide for themselves on cultivation "without changing the general authorisation procedure for placing GMOs and products on the market".

"The legally soundest solution" could be a set of minor amendments to relevant EU legislation, introducing the right of an individual country to "restrict or prohibit indefinitely the cultivation of authorised GMOs on its territory," reads the note. Such amendments could be based on both the EU's subsidiarity principle and the principle of unanimity for decisions on land use. source

My comment: Erm, should I say I absolutely agree with this. Greeting to WTO. I'm not sure, but I think they allowed this to Austria. But I could be wrong, of course. We'll see.

Commission allows ten more years of GM maize cultivation

1 July 2009

The European Union took a step closer yesterday (30 June) towards ten more years of biotech cultivation after leading scientists reconfirmed the safety of the only genetically modified crop to be grown commercially in Europe so far.

That crop is an insect-resistant maize type developed and marketed by US company Monsanto, approved for a decade of growing in 1998 and now awaiting licence renewal.

Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), based in the Italian city of Parma, said the maize, known by its code number MON 810, was "as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to potential effects on human and animal health".

It also said MON 810 maize was "unlikely to have any adverse effect on the environment in the context of its intended uses". Those intended uses include seed for cultivation. EFSA's long-awaited opinion is significant since it provides the basis for EU regulators to begin the process of renewing the standard 10-year authorisation for growing the GM maize, banned in six EU countries on environment and health concerns.

France, the EU's cereals powerhouse, banned cultivation of MON 810 maize in February 2008. But its ban is conditional on the EU renewing its approval, which expired in April 2008. If the renewal is granted, as is likely, France's ban will lapse.

The European Commission, which administers and monitors EU biotech policy for the bloc's member states, has said it will use the EFSA opinion as the basis for any authorisation renewal.

So far, the timing for this is far from clear - but during the renewal process, MON 810 may still be grown in EU fields.

Monsanto, which reacted jubilantly late on Monday via its website to the EFSA opinion even before it was published, hailed it as an "exciting milestone for European farmers".

But green groups said EFSA was riding roughshod over the concerns of national EU scientists, especially after EU environment ministers called in December for a review of EU approval laws and better, longer-term safety assessments. source

My comment: No comment, really. People should have more reasons to act jubilantly, but this is not mine. The renewal isn't a surprise, it's just sad. Because we don't need that corn, there are so many natural varieties, that works just fine. And if some disease develop-it might kill one or 2 of them, but it won't kill all of them. While if these GMo's take over, there will be only one variety, that a new disease will kill. And nobody would give you back your money.

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