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Life sciences and the impact on society


Specific Objectives

in 2002:
Work on request by User DGs, in close collaboration with IHCP and IRMM:
- Prospective study of Agricultural Production Modes: conventional, integrated, organic (on request by DG AGRI);
- Prospective support to the new EU Nutritional policy under development by DG SANCO in the area of functional foods, new food and personalised food;
- Prospective study on ecological food (pricing) on request by DG AGRI;
- Study on Food safety crisis management on request by DG RTD;
- The work identifying potential needs for harmonisation of quality control of genetic testing services will develop in collaboration with DG RTD and IRMM into a European reference network;
- The scenarios for co-existence of GM and non-GM plants in EU agriculture will be followed up with studies on 2 additional plants (request by DG AGRI);
- Prospective study on new GM-plants on the way into the market (request by DG AGRI);
- Launch a study on potential needs for science-based policy initiatives (within the competence of the project Life Sciences; targets DG SANCO DG AGRI DG ENV);
- Execute prospective study on technical needs for harmonisation of genetic testing services in the EU in collaboration with IRMM;
- Execute prospective study on technical needs for harmonisation of genetic testing services in the EU in collaboration with IRMM;
- Launch study on ethical dimensions of genetic testing (data protection, data ownership, counselling services);
- Launch workshop and studies on "Genomics, impacts on human health and society";
- Launch follow-up prospective study on co-existance of GMO crops and conventional and organic crops in the EU
- Execute study and workshop on new generation of GMOs coming to market: anticipating issues for regulatory bodies and socio-economic impact of selected cases;
- Launch follow-up prospective study on co-existance of GMO crops and conventional and organic crops in the EU;
- Execute study and workshop on new generation of GMOs coming to market: anticipating issues for regulatory bodies and socio-economic impact of selected cases;
- Continue networking activities on dissemination of information.
Planned Deliverables

in 2002:

Specific deliverables to DGs:
- Support to develop the technical background for a legal framework for quality assurance of genetic testing in the EU (DG RTD)
- Scenarios for farm practices to secure segregation of GM crops from other crops: technical support for developing legal frameworks in organic farming and GMO presence in seeds (DG AGRI)
? IPTS studies used as scientific-technical background for the work of Scientific Committees (DG SANCO)
- Anticipating risk assessment issues linked to new generation GMOs (DG SANCO)

As a result of the research:
- Technical Report on the needs for harmonisation of human genetic testing services;
- Technical report and workshop proceedings on the impact of the second human genome map;
- Technical Report on the development of future GMOs generations;
- Workshops, review papers and fact sheets for public communication on GMOs.

Summary of deliverables made by: 31/12/2001

Technical Reports produced
- "Priorities in Food Safety and Food Technology for European Research" IPTS Technical Report Series EURxxx, Sevilla, December 2001;
- "Science and Governance: describing and typifying the scientific advice structure in the policy making process - a multinational study". ESTO Technical Report Series, EUR 19830 EN. IPTS (JRC, European Commission), Sevilla, Spain. February (2001).
- "Co-existence of genetically modified, conventional and organic crops: agronomic and economic aspects" IPTS-ESTO Technical Report Series (EURxxx) (To be published before end 2001) A synthesis report will be published late 2001 based on the reports delivered during 2001 by different partners, including IHCP (Report on GMO detection and Quantification techniques)

Other publications produced
- "Data is Destiny- Health Care and Human Genomics"
Authors: Bock, A.K. Ibarreta, D., Lheureux, K., Libeau, M., Nilsagard H
Journal: Foresight, the journal of futures studies, strategic thinking and policy, 2001, in press
- Possible health impact of phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens in food. Ibarreta D, Daxenberger A, Meyer HH. APMIS. 2001 Mar;109(3):161-84. Review.
Possible health impact of animal oestrogens in food. Daxenberger A, Ibarreta D, Meyer HH. Hum Reprod Update. 2001 May-Jun;7(3):340-55.
- Excretion and behaviour of endogenous estrogens by farm animals under natural conditions - a cause of endocrine disrupting activity? A. Daxenberger and D. Ibarreta. Abstracts of the European Symposium "Hormones in the Environment and Animal Production ¡V A Public Health Concern?", Uppsala, Sweden, March 2001.

Workshops and meetings organised
- Workshop: Future issues in European food technology and food safety research: Development of Research Priorities¡¨, Sevilla, 10 ¡V 11 May 2001 (report of conclusions produced for DG RTD);
- Workshop: "GMO Expert group" 12-13 July 2001, IPTS, Seville. The workshop was organized by IPTS with the participation of 10 scientific experts plus officials from IHCP and DG SANCO. The workshop reviewed the ongoing IPTS activities in the field of GMOs and discussed potential new subjects for IPTS studies.

- Presentation of workshop on genetic testing results (WS took place July 2000 in Brussels) to Scientific Committee on Medicinal products and Medical Devices in Brussels on 26. 02. 01 (PS, AKB).

GMPNet (Shared Cost Action, FP5) IPTS in charge of workshops
- 27. 04. 01 "Communication and GMP", Copenhagen, organised with support of Danish Board of Technology;
- 24. 09. 01 "Information, media and public perception of GMO issues", Prague, organised with help of Research Institute of Crop Production, Prague.

Output indicators and impact:
Output indicators:
- Launching a thematic integrated project in the area of quality assurance and technical needs for harmonization of genetic testing services and products;
- Creation of networks of food technology and food safety, GMOs;
- Technical reports;
- Workshops.

- Contribution to define EU initiatives on quality assurance of human genetic testing;
- Contribution to the development of FP6 in the area of food technology and food safety;
- Contribution to the review of the EU legislation connected to GMO.
Summary of the project

The Life Sciences and their impact on Society (LS) Project provides policy support and prospective analysis in policy areas largely affected by technological developments coming from the biological sciences. These areas include agriculture, health, consumer protection and environment. The project is focused currently on:
- Genomic and post-genomic technologies and their prospect for human health prevention and cure;
- Biotechnology, particularly the use of genetically modified organisms crops, in crop production and the socio-economic impact in the EU
- New biotechnologies in food production and processing.

The project has a strong links of collaboration with other JRC institutes (IRMM and IHCP).


Key technologies stemming from life sciences can hardly be matched in terms of their significance in the coming years and potential impact on society. The new biotechnologies (genetic engineering, genome sequencing and mapping, cell and tissue production) are of growing importance in several sectors. By far the largest impact is and will be in the health sector, in the way we define, prevent and treat disease. Developments of technology in this sector (for example the booming of genetic testing) are so fast that it is hard for policy makers to cope with the socio-economic and ethical issues arising.

Agriculture and food production is no doubt the second sector where biotechnologies are of growing importance. In particular, a first generation of GMOs in agriculture is widespread now for some commodities produced outside the EU. The first generation of products, designed to be advantageous to producers, have met strong societal concerns in the EU. A new generation of GMO crops (including crops with changed nutritional composition) may reach the markets.
Anticipating these developments and the socio-economic impact is justified.

Industrial production of certain molecules or polymers will also be affected by biotechnologies. Therapeutic proteins or antibodies have begun to be commercially produced in transgenic plants elsewhere. The economic impact and the new challenges for risk assessment bodies are clearly an issue.

Technological advances in life sciences have led in some cases to different appreciation on the risks posed by some products or technologies. This can eventually result in trade conflicts involving MS and Third Countries (such as the use of recombinant growth hormones in animal production or the banning of Bt Vmaize crops and products in some MS). As technology develops, the occurrence of such conflicts is likely to be more frequent, and therefore the need for support arises.

The revolution in Life Sciences-related industries have generated a race to market and patent products.
The TRIPS agreements (specially concerning health and agro-biotech products) pose a particular challenge for developing countries. Prospective studies on this subject are in line with the EU role of assistance to developing countries to implement TRIPS.

Convocatoria de propuestas

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Régimen de financiación

JRC - Joint Research Centre research


Institute for Prospective Technological Studies
Aportación de la UE
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Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS)

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