Modern Biotechnology in plant breeding has opened new possibilities to improve the plants agronomic properties. Numerous examples can be given where crops have obtained improved performance through introduction of new agronomic traits or suppression of constituent genes, which code for disease or pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, or inhibition of ripening, the so called first generation GM-crops.
Market introduction of these GM-crops in Europe has given rise to broad public concern based upon unfamiliarity with the new molecular techniques applied and the fact that the genetic material of these food plants has been altered in a manner which in nature by way of reproduction or natural recommendation will not occur. Some consumers also have ethical concern about genetic modification.
In 2000 the project "European Network on the safety assessment of GM-food crops (ENTRANSFOOD)" was started. This project is funded by the European Commission through the 5th framework programme and will end mid 2003. The aims of this network are the following:
ENTRANSFOOD consists of 65 participants from 13 EU countries. Five RTD projects dealing with i) safety testing of transgenic foods, ii) detection of unintended effects, iii) gene transfer and iv) traceability and quality assurance are involved amounting a total budget of 11.5 million € .
The results obtained in the RTD projects are discussed with invited specialist in the ENTRANSFOOD working groups. Results from working groups are discussed with a broader audience (i.e. invited persons from academia, industry, regulatory organisations and consumer groups) in the so-called "Integrated Discussion Platform". In this way ENTRANSFOOD will produce review and position papers, evaluation documents and recommendations on the above mentioned subjects. Informing European stakeholders is an import issue of the project, hence much effort is allocated toward dissemination activities, such as Web site, flyers, press-releases and scientific papers.