Genetically modified plants and foods

A joint EPTA project


Opportunities and risks of genetically modified plants and foods

Biotechnology, and especially genetic engineering, is one of the most controversially discussed modern technologies. This technology is seen on the one hand as an important key to economic competitiveness and growth, and on the other arouses concerns about health and safety issues and about ecological impacts. The new European Directive on deliberate releases (2001/18/EC) and the following EU regulations have put into force a new framwork for GM crops and foods in the EU, including an emphasis on the precautionary principle, an enforced risk assessment, a time limit for authorizations, an introduction of follow-up evaluations and a change in the labelling regime. At the same time, a new generation of GM crops, capable of producing medicine, industrial chemicals, etc. is emerging. This development leads to new questions for risk assessment and regulation, and for the discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of these new GM crops.

Why conduct an EPTA project on genetically modified plants and foods?

Many citizens in the European Union and in Switzerland are opposed to or sceptical about GM food. In the past fifteen years, heated debates about genetically modified plants and food have taken place in many European countries. These debates have common characteristics and national specificities. Many projects of European technology assessment (TA) institutions have reviewed and contributed to these debates. They used different approaches, such as consensus conferences or scientific assessments. GM crops and foods are a major topic for the European Network of institution for Technology Assessment (EPTA Network).


All in all, the final report points out that the regulatory system for GM plants and food in Europe does not seem to be fully prepared to meet all existing and foreseeable future challenges. Five key areas of challenges for the European system of GMO regulation in the years to come were identified, as were a number of possible approaches for future technology assessment activities.



- final report (in English)


Project partners

  • Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag - TAB
  • Danish Board of Technology
  • Austrian Institute of Technology Assessment – ITA
  • British Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology – POST
  • Flemish Institute for Science and Technology - IST
  • Scientific Technology Options Assessment (STOA – European Parliament)
  • Centre for Technology Assessment TA-SWISS

Project team

  • Dr Danielle Bütschi, TA-SWISS
  • Peter Border, POST
  • Jarka Chloupkova, STOA – European Parliament
  • Els van den Cruyce, Flemish Institute for Science and Technology IST
  • Soren Gram, Danish Board of Technology
  • Armin Grunwald, TAB
  • Rolf Meyer, TAB
  • Arnold Sauter, TAB
  • Stef Steyaert, Flemish Institute for Science and Technology IST
  • Helge Torgersen, ITA
  • Willy Weyns, Flemish Institute for Science and Technology IST

TA-SWISS Project Supervisors

  • Dr Danielle Bütschi, TA-SWISS
  • Dr Rolf Meyer, TAB

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