While the US, Canada and Argentina have planted millions of hectares of genetically modified (GM) crops, the EU only has 58,000 hectares of insect protected GM maize in Spain. One reason for this difference is the lack of European societal acceptance of agricultural biotechnology. To address this issue, the European Commission funded a thematic network on the safety assessment of genetically modified food crops, the ENTRANSFOOD project, in order to stimulate the debate. Funded under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), ENTRANSFOOD sought to identify prerequisites for introducing agricultural biotechnology products in a way that is largely acceptable to European society. 'ENTRANSFOOD has, in particular, evaluated issues of the safety of GM crop derived foods and has also paid attention to issues like detection and traceability and public attitude towards GM food crops,' explains the consortium, which consists of 65 partners from 13 different European countries, including representatives from academia, regulatory agencies, food manufacturers, retailers and consumer groups. 'Risk assessment of GM foods has focused on adverse health effects for humans and the environment, but public concern is much broader, focusing not only on risks, but also on who benefits, what are the needs and how does it contribute to a sustainable agriculture. It is important to explicitly address public concerns and to develop new methods for stakeholders' involvement and public consultation,' states ENTRANSFOOD. The project found that existing test methods for safety assessment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are efficient and ensure that GM foods that have passed the test are as safe and nutritious as plant-derived foods. It recommended, however, that in the future, 'based on our improved understanding of molecular biology, toxicology and nutrition, further improvement of test methods may be considered that will render the safety assessment of foods even more effective and informative.' In addition, it recommended the development of novel methods to predict the allergenicity of food components. ENTRANSFOOD also noted that process-based labelling of all foods containing GM crops is a necessity in order to dispel the fears of EU citizens, but recognised that difficulties are unavoidable in implementing the EU's labelling requirements. For example, it will be a challenge to achieve international agreement on standards for the labelling and traceability of foods originating from or containing GM crops across countries and even businesses. On the subject of detection of unintended effects and gene transfer, ENTRANSFOOD emphasised that there is no indication that unintended effects are more likely to occur in GM foods or that there is any inherent risk in the transfer of DNA between organisms, since DNA is not toxic. It did, however, call for further development and validation of profiling methods before they are used in routine risk assessment. ENTRANSFOOD also recommends that the use of bacterial DNA in elaborating GM plants should be kept to a minimum in order to reduce the risk of gene transfer to the microbial population in the gut. Finally, ENTRANSFOOD recommended the creation of an evaluation and discussion platform combining a range of diverse perspectives on new food technology to formalise public engagement and consultation in the GM debate.