Plant biotech enters the sustainable farming arena
Fears about the application of genetic engineering in agriculture further affecting delicate ecological balance have seriously curtailed field-based trials and moved operations to third countries. To redress this imbalance while addressing public opposition and building confidence in the area, the EU-funded project TP Plants AND Health aimed to set up a European plant genomics and biotechnology platform (PGBTP). The initiative necessarily involved all stakeholders including academics and professionals from industry, the general public and EU representatives. The main aims were to tackle citizens' concerns and to develop policy options on plants for healthy lifestyles and sustainable development so as to arrive at a sustainable competitive position in the global market. The final platform describes a strategy to achieve the goals outlined in the 'Plants for the future' vision paper. Published in 2004 by experts in plant science from both the academic world and industry together with the EU representatives, this paper was the foundation for a more detailed action plan to cover the period up to 2010 with a look into the future direction of plant genomics until 2025. TP Plants AND Health successfully put together a sustainable strategy applicable to private plant genomics and academic research institutions. The project's recommendations were incorporated into stakeholders' proposals for the European Technology Platform, Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) 2025, 'Plants For the Future'. Increased communication and interaction between the public and scientists working in plant biotech will no doubt lead to a more informed debate on the positive effects of plant genomic research. Integrated into traditional agricultural practices and organic farming, biotechnology can be geared towards the production of more economic, sustainable food supply.