|Genetically modified plants and foods. Challenges and future issues in Europe|
GM plants and their role in European agriculture as well as in the regulatory system and in society at large have long been controversial issues. In addition, recent developments with respect to new technologies, expanding international trade and the increasing demand for food and fuel have changed the general framework. The question is whether these developments challenge the established way in which GM plants and food have been dealt with in Europe so far. Reviews of reports from EPTA member organisations on various aspects of GM plant application, their regulation and associated problems rendered a list of developments and consequently possible challenges to European policy on GM plants. Proceeding from this list of challenges, a questionnaire was developed, and 183 experts involved in the development, assessment and policy making on GM plants in Europe were invited to respond. These experts, 71 of whom completed the questionnaire, come from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The questionnaire results and the experts' comments were analysed in the light of the results of the EPTA members' reports. All in all, 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.