Faq

  • Are GM seeds only developed by large companies?

     

    Many GM seeds are being developed by large companies, though there is extensive ongoing research by SMEs and public universities. High R&D and regulatory costs and lead times constitute immense market entry barriers for smaller companies.
     
    A report to the Dutch government (2011) has stated that there are no indications whatsoever that market concentration is somehow inherent to GM technology  
     
     
  • What about GM crops and antibiotic resistance?

     

    When plant cells are genetically modified in the laboratory, additional pieces of genetic material are combined with the primary genes in order to make the successfully transformed plants more easily detectable. These additional pieces of DNA are called selectable markers and may for example make the plant cells a particular colour or make them capable of growing in the presence of certain molecules which would normally inhibit growth. These genes are used in the early stages of selection, but remain in later generations of plants, where they serve no function. In the early days of crop biotechnology, antibiotic resistance marker genes (ARMs) were often used as the means of selection. Some crops bearing this gene are still grown and no credible concerns have been raised about their potential to cause greater bacterial antibiotic resistance. 

  • Are GM plants fertile, or do farmers have to buy new seeds every year?

    All GM plants commercialized are as fertile as their conventional counterparts. Nevertheless, anti-GM activists have claimed that companies plan to use Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS) — or so-called ‘terminator’ technology — to prevent farmers from planting saved seed in the following season. This has now become something of an urban myth that “terminator” seed is being sold.

    There are no such seeds in the marketplace. Recognising the sensitivity of the subject, the major GM companies have pledged not to use the technology. Note that GURTS and hybrid seeds should not be confused. Already, many farmers, particularly in developed countries, prefer to buy new seed each year because it produces better yields. In the case of some hybrid crops such as maize and many vegetables, buying new seed is preferable, as the harvested crop does not breed true. This has not prevented hybrid seed dominating the market, even in developing countries such as India.
     
     
  • How can we be sure that GM is safe?

    After more than 15 years and many allegations, none of the myths about health problems resulting from GM consumption have held up to scientific scrutiny. The pre-marketing risk assessment goes far beyond all existing procedures applying to conventional food and makes GM foods the most studied foods we have ever eaten. 

     
    In this risk evaluation procedure, both direct effects of the newly introduced proteins and DNA (such as toxicity and allerginicity), and indirect effects due to compositional changes (intended or unintended) are examined for each new GM event.  
     
    In addition to this systematic assessment before marketing approval is given, post-market surveillance is organized via appropriate traceability and labelling measures, which are more stringent in the EU than anywhere else.
  • Are GM crops safe for human and animal health and the environment?

    Yes. Two European Commission reports covering 25 years’ worth of research on the effects of GM crops on health and the environment have shown no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks than conventional plants and organisms (see links below). More than 2 trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten over the last 15 years by hundreds of millions of people without one health incident having been identified. All GM crops that are currently on the market have proven to be safe for health and the environment. GM products all have to go through a rigorous safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

     
    Resources
    A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001-2010), DG Research, European Commission
     
  • What are ‘agricultural biotechnology’ and ‘genetic modification’?

    Agricultural biotechnology encompasses a range of modern plant breeding techniques. For centuries, farmers have tried to improve their crops by means of crossing, relying on the random rearrangement of existing genes between two closely related parent plants. Modern agricultural biotechnology improves crops in more targeted ways. The best known technique is genetic modification, but the term agricultural biotechnology (or green biotechnology) also covers such techniques as Marker Assisted Breeding, which increases the effectiveness of conventional breeding. Whatever the particular technology used, the crops may be destined for use for food, biomaterials or energy production.

    Genetic modification means that existing genes are modified or new genes included to give plant varieties desirable characteristics, such as resistance to certain pests or herbicides, or for vitamin fortification. Because only a few genes with known traits are transferred, GM methods are more targeted and faster than traditional breeding. They are used alongside conventional plant breeding.
     
    Resources
     
    Read more about agricultural biotechnology
  • What is the BioFuels Taskforce?

    The task force represents biotechnology-based biofuels and related companies at the European level. Its mission is to advocate coherently favorable policies, strategies, regulations and their implementation for research, finance, and market access of biofuels. The two key topics on the agenda are innovation and policy. The task force is also represented in the Steering Committee of the European Biofuels Technology Platform.

  • What could make HTAs more industry-friendly?

    The European biotech industry is calling for a robust and transparent framework in which HTA would be a tool to encourage development of new and innovative therapies for the benefit of patients, whilst allowing health care planners to appropriately fund and manage resources effectively.

  • Should there be patient and public involvement in HTAs?

    Both patients and the public have to be regularly informed about what the use and procedures of HTA are and how it fits in making the healthcare system more efficient for them.  They should have the same right as other stakeholders and actors of the process in the evaluation of new therapies, which should not just be based on economics but also on other, including social values.  Patient and public involvement needs to be clear, transparent and become a key structural element of any evaluation of innovative therapies.

  • Could HTAs manage uncertainty more effectively?

    Uncertainty in economic evaluation of innovative therapies is often managed by a call for more evidence.  However, the willingness to invest in research to obtain additional evidence may be limited by the number of patients, the heterogeneity and natural history of the disease, the mechanism of action of the therapy, and the ethical issues surrounding a specific patient population.  If the region of uncertainty is wide, but if the treatment has significant potential benefits, interim of conditional funding should be considered, provided that data are collected during further use of the therapy in order to improve an informed decision.

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