EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries considers that the refocused actions proposed by the Commission are an important step towards building the bio-economy. However, industry points to the lack of implementation of the EU biotech strategy by a number of member states. "Member states must take their responsibilities to implement the biotech strategy seriously otherwise today's mid term review of the European strategy will not generate the bio-economy and meanwhile US, China and the rest of the world will run ahead of Europe," said Johan Vanhemelrijck, Secretary General of EuropaBio.
EuropaBio urges the ministers to implement the strategy in a coherent and timely manner to overcome "the fragmented European legal, financial and regulatory environment" to help "stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation, take the science out of the labs and bring it to society, build the bio-economy and help grow companies, jobs and solutions to our own unmet needs be they medical, agricultural, industrial, environmental".
Friends of the Earth Europe warns that "the European Commission intends to promote genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe, even though it admits that that the European public does not want to eat GM foods" and argues that "environmentally-friendly farming will create more jobs and make the EU more competitive than if it grows GM crops."
"The European Commission's own research shows that the use of GM crops is an economic failure. But instead of scrapping its support, the Commission is instead ignoring the wishes of the majority of the European public and asking for looser regulation and more taxpayers' money for GM crops," said Helen Holder, GMO Coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe.
A recent Eurobarometer survey on biotechnology (2005) shows that there is widespread support for medical and industrial biotechnologies but a general opposition to agricultural biotechnologies in all but a few countries and that EU citizens see genetically modified (GM) food as "not being useful, as morally unacceptable and as a risk for society".
The European Group on Life Sciences (EGLS), established in 2000 to advise the Commission on the life sciences and technologies, finished its mandate in January 2005. Just before, it made public the key lifescience related challenges it believes need to be addressed if Europe is to take a leading position in the sector. These include:
- putting more effort to decoding the genomes of all microbes (potentially huge industrial and environmental benefits);
- moving forward, in a responsible fashion, with embryonic stem cell research;
- investing more in developmental biology to understand the fundamental mechanics of biology better;
- using the ‘gene revolution’ to remedy dwindling food supplies and natural resources and to combat environmental degradation caused by current intensive farming techniques and the use of non-renewable fossil fuels;
- moving towards a multidisciplinary systems biology approach that takes a holistic view of biological challenges;
- resolving the public controversy over genetically modified food;
- streamlining the European regulatory environment to stimulate future innovation;
- intellectual property issues, to enable the effective sharing of knowledge and information;
- overcoming the education 'bottleneck' in which not enough new graduates are emerging from the education system to fill the needs of the research community.
The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) urges member states to follow words with actions. The association is worried by the declining competitiveness of the European pharmaceutical sector and persistent threats to intellectual property rights. In particular, EFPIA has called for progress on the Community Patent and on national implementation of the Biotechnology Patent Directive.
The employers' federation UNICE has emphasised that an attractive climate is needed for investors, entrepreneurs and researchers, as the current 'brain drain' is preventing Europe from reaping the fruits of biotechnology. UNICE considers that clear decisions on the issue of legislation are of the utmost importance to restore confidence in EU biotechnology. The organisation has therefore called for governments to improve authorisation procedures for new biotech products and to fully transpose the Biotechnology Patents Directive.
Greenpeace and other environmental pressure groups have been fighting a fierce campaign against biotechnology and especially its uses in agriculture and food. Moreover, they oppose patents on all genes. "Life is not an industrial commodity. When we force life forms and our world's food supply to conform to human economic models rather than their natural ones, we do so at our own peril," Greenpeace said in a statement.