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Busquin calls for pluralist debate on biotechnology

Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin called for a 'pluralist debate' on biotechnology, speaking at a round table discussion between the European Parliament's temporary committee on human genetics and representatives of civil society on 9 and 10 July. Mr Busquin's appeal ech...

Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin called for a 'pluralist debate' on biotechnology, speaking at a round table discussion between the European Parliament's temporary committee on human genetics and representatives of civil society on 9 and 10 July. Mr Busquin's appeal echoed the sentiments of others present at the hearings, who agreed on the need for a wide ranging debate in order to arrive at a common foundation of Community rules on biotechnology. Mr Busquin called for a pluralist debate as he emphasised that the introduction of any new technology requires public acceptance. He added that the Commission will, by the end of the year, set out a strategic vision for the life sciences up to the year 2010. This vision will reflect the objectives laid down at the Lisbon summit and focus on the need to boost research in the EU to give it an international dimension. It will also discuss measures for launching a pluralist debate on biotechnology. Civil society representatives highlighted other priorities in the field of biotechnology. Some feared that research into rare diseases may be neglected in favour of research into more common illnesses, as such applications would prove more lucrative. Commissioner Busquin responded by saying that it is the Commission's responsibility to help laboratories working on rare pathologies so that they do not abandon these research efforts. Kathleen Strong of the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for research results to benefit citizens worldwide, in particular, in the less developed countries. British experts argued for the creation of a European network of genetic testing centres so that the public may have access to all existing tests, thus preventing shopping around. No agreement could be reached between religious organisations and patients' associations on bioethical issues. Patients' associations called for a 'secular approach' to research, saying that patient benefits is the most important issue. Gioia Scappucci from the EU bishops' conference (COMECE) however called for biotechnology research to go hand in hand, with an appropriate reflection on the concept of human dignity. She maintained that the use of embryos for research purposes, as well as pre-implantation diagnosis, which poses a threat of eugenics, should be banned.