EPTA-project: Genetically modified plants and foods

  • Project team:

    Border, Peter (POST - United Kingdom); Danielle Butschi (TA-SWISS - Switzerland); Jarka Chloupkova (STOA - European Parliament); Soren Gram (DBT - Denmark); Armin Grunwald (TAB - Germany); Jon Magnar Haugen (NBT - Norway); Rolf Meyer (ITAS - Germany) (Coordinator); Arnold Sauter (TAB - Germany); Helge Torgersen (ITA - Austria); Willy Weyns (IST - Flanders)

  • Funding:

    European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) Network

  • Start date:


  • End date:


  • Research group:

    Sustainability and environment

Project description

The Joint EPTA Project on "Genetically modified plants and foods" was approved by the EPTA Council on 17th October 2006 and started in autumn 2006. The project was concluded in May 2009 with the approval of the final report by the participating EPTA institutions.

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. Many TA projects in Europe have reviewed und contributed to these debates.

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.

Project's objectives:
The project's objectives were to provide information

  • on regulatory challenges for the European system in the next years to come,
  • on points of public debate in the future,
  • on approaches for technology assessment (TA) to handle the identified issues.

Project's approach:
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, came 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.

Project participants:
Eight EPTA members and associates met to conduct the joint EPTA project "Genetically modified plants and foods". These were:

Centre for Technology Assessment (TA-SWISS) Switzerland
Danish Board of Technology (DBT) Denmark
Institute Society and Technology (IST) Flanders (the former Flemish Institute for Science and Technology Assessment – viWTA)
Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) Austria
Norwegian Board of Technology (NBT) Norway, together with the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board
Office of Technology Assessment at the German Parliament (TAB) Germany (project coordinator)
Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) United Kingdom
Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) European Parliament

Project results – Final report:
The final report comes to the overall result 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.

The identified key areas of challenges are:

  • New driving forces for GM plant introduction
  • Novel GM plants, technologies and applications
  • Public opinion - still a decisive factor
  • Coexistence and labeling under growing use of GM plants in Europe and the world
  • International trade rules and domestic decision-making

The report "Genetically modified plants and foods – Challenges and future issues in Europe" and its annexes are available for download here:

Project's organisation:
The core of the project organisation was the Project Manager Group, which arranged, coordinated and performed all project activities.

Project documents


Bütschi, D.; Gram, S.; Haugen, J. M.; Meyer, R.; Sauter, A.; Steyaert, S.; Torgersen, H.
Genetically modified plants and foods: Challenges and future issues in Europe - Final Report
2009. EPTA 


PD Dr. Rolf Meyer
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe