BioWorld International Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Medicines Evaluation Agency made a series of new appointments in its scientific working parties.

Among them were Manfred Haase of the Paul-Ehrlich Institute in Germany as vice chair of its biotechnology working party, Per Nilsson of the Swedish National Medicines Agency as chair of a new working group on anti-HIV medicines, Hans van Bronswijk of the Netherlands Medicines Agency as chair of a new working group on interferons and neutralizing antibodies, and Markku Toivonen of the Finnish Medicines Agency as chair of a new working group on comparability of biotechnology products.

EU Criticizes Codex Alimentarius Approach

The European Union has criticized the approach taken by the Codex Alimentarius - the UN agency for food standards - toward food biotechnology. At a meeting in Tokyo in late March, the EU said that the complex issues linked to foods derived from modern biotechnology were not sufficiently taken account of in the drafts prepared for the meeting. The EU emphasized the issues of surveillance and traceability, which the EU see as playing a key role in managing risks linked to food derived from biotechnology applications.

It called for a more broad-ranging safety assessment for food products or components, to take into account both intended and unintended effects, to identify new or altered hazards, and to identify changes relevant to human health in key nutrients. The EU also pointed out that the definitions - notably the term "foods derived from modern biotechnology" - being used by the Codex Alimentarius in its work in this field are not consistent with the terminology currently used in the work of the Codex Committee on Food Labeling.

House Of Lords Says Databases The Key

Realizing the full potential benefits of human genetic research will require changes in regulation, and investment in human and financial resources, according to a report from the UK's House of Lords published on March 29 and titled, "Human Genetic Databases: challenges and opportunities."

Lord Oxburgh, the former Rector of Imperial College at the University of London before he was made a member of the House of Lords, chaired the subcommittee that produced the report. He described genetic databases as the key to the health benefits of the Human Genome Project. The committee proposes reinforcing data protection for personal health records and genetic makeup via a new Medical Data Panel, to include lay members.

"This will ensure that people's legitimate concerns are met while not stifling research with bureaucracy," Oxburgh said. Special regulation of human genetic databases per se is neither necessary nor feasible, the report says.

Opinion On GM Foods Rises In UK

A newly published opinion survey in the UK suggests that support for genetically modified foods has increased among the British public over the last 12 months. Key findings of the survey, conducted by National Opinion Polls, one of the UK's leading opinion agencies, are that half the nation would eat genetically modified food, and that there has been a significant drop (from 30 percent to 20 percent) in those who believe such foods are unsafe, since an identical survey in 2000.

The survey also reveals that two out of three people feel they don't know enough about genetically modified foods.

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