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Biosafenet closing conference, Berlin

Safety research into genetically modified plants: Why? Who does it? How independent is it?

Panel discussion with Dr Ralf-Michael Schmidt, Vice-Chairman of BASF Plant Science (right) and Dr Kristina Sinemus, Moderator (centre)

Biological safety research in the field of plant biotechnology: What are people’s expectations? How can people find out about current research findings? These were the key questions of a panel discussion that was held on 29 June 2009 in Berlin as part of the closing conference of the Biosafenet project funded by the EU Commission.

GMO Safety interviewed experts and participants.

Patrick Rüdelsheim PhD, President of the International Society for Biosafety Research, (ISBR), Gent (Belgien)

“Independent research essentially is good scientific research. It means that we use solid designs, that people can have access to the data and that it can be evaluated scientifically.”


Dr Hartmut Wewetzer, Science Editor for Tagesspiegel, Berlin

“The media are not an acceptance-generating machine. The media are just a part of genetic engineering’s problems.”


Dr Steffi Ober, Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), national office, Berlin

“It is not about the validity of the research - what always comes out in criticisms is the evaluation.”


Prof. Joachim Schiemann, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI), Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Biosafety of Genetically Modified Plants, Quedlingburg

“It is important for the scientific evaluation and the political decision to be presented transparently.”


Dr Arnold Sauter, Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB), Berlin

“Our job is to look at the whole framework of possible consequences. In plant biotechnology this includes not only safety issues, but also particularly the socio-economic impacts.”


Biosafenet is a European network of scientists that has set itself the aim of making the public more aware of biological safety research in the field of plant biotechnology. Biological safety research and its findings have played a rather subsidiary role so far in the ongoing public debate about the safety of transgenic plants. Yet scientific findings form the basis for political decision-making processes.

Together with other European initiatives, Biosafenet helps pool and communicate the findings from biological safety research across national borders. As a comprehensive source of information, Biosafenet aims to communicate research both to politicians and to a broad public.

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