Biotech Updates

EC Report on "A Decade of EU-funded GMO Research" Describes "Tailored" Bioenergy Crop Research Project

December 10, 2010

The European Commission (EC) recently released its sequel publication on the biosafety issues related to the use and applications of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the European Union (EU). The EU has been known to take a precautionary approach on new technologies (such as GMO technology), and it has often stressed the need to identify and quantify potential risks and benefits. The publication titled, "A Decade of EU-funded GMO Research", reviews the last ten years of research projects launched under the Framework Programmes for research, focusing on safety aspects of GMO's, and also taking account of developments in the field over time. Fifty research projects were assessed and classified into five areas: (1) Environmental Impacts of GMO's, (2) GMO's and Food Safety, (3) GMO's for biomaterials and biofuels –emerging technologies, (3) Risk assessment and management –policy support and communication. The results, as highlighted by the bioenergy website, indicate that "there is no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms". The present research projects are said to be more "carefully integrated and look at the potential technological benefits as well as the risks". A biofuels-related project on the development of "new strategies for breeding added-value plants with modified cell-wall properties" that are better suited for processing of second-generation (lignocellulosic) bioenergy feedstocks is described. Leading scientists have been brought together to work on strategies for plant wall deconstruction. Year 1 accomplishments include the development of a high-throughput robotic system "to identify plants with altered digestibility in large populations of plants, and a reactor system for the more detailed analysis of plants with altered digestibility". The full EU report can be accessed at the Europa website (URL above).