Despite Europe's generally cautious approach to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the sector is increasingly difficult to control and regulate. GMOs are already common in certain industries, and with Europe dependent on GM agricultural imports, it must soon decide on new types currently under development. Europe needs a way of assessing the potential impact of GMOs – whether positive, negative or neutral. The EU-funded PRESTO GMO ERA-NET (Preparatory steps towards a GMO research ERA-Net) project provided the necessary information. The undertaking mapped out steps needed to create an ERA-NET to coordinate transnational research on GMOs and their effects. Focus areas included impacts on human and animal health, the environment, techno-economics and societies. The team compared various risks and benefits, and prepared a research agenda for the ERA-NET. Work involved taking stock of research at national, EU and international levels. The consortium assessed upcoming GMO developments entering the regulatory pipeline within the next 10 years. Other aspects included identifying and prioritising research gaps and needs, based on stakeholder views. In doing so, the project used a Delphi survey and decision analysis model. The group also prepared a Strategic Implementation Plan for the ERA-NET. The outcome was based on various forms of evidence, the experiences of other ERA-NETs and nationally funded GMO projects. Researchers recommended a focus on GMOs intentionally released into the environment and/or those used for human or animal food purposes. The team also suggested that the ERA-NET consider the views of a wide range of stakeholders. Stakeholder ownership would thus be strengthened, leading to the participation of different scientific communities in future calls, enhanced collaboration and greater accountability of research outcomes. Work on the PRESTO GMO ERA-NET project helped facilitate EU collaboration in GMO research. The outcome will aid a future ERA-NET in the scientific assessment of specific risks and benefits of GMOs.
GMO, ERA-NET, genetically modified organisms, PRESTO GMO ERA-NET, GMO research, stakeholder involvement, research agenda