BioWorld International Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission and the European Parliament both gave their expected commitments to biotechnology last week.

The Commission gave its formal backing to a new strategy for the industry, to be based on a forecast of the potential economic and social impact of life sciences and biotechnology up to 2010. It will assess achievements to date and suggest guidelines for future action, covering the regulatory framework, biotechnology research, intellectual property rights, industrial competitiveness, access to finance, public perceptions, and EU policy on international trade and multilateral cooperation.

The self-styled grouping of emerging biopharmaceutical enterprises, part of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, applauded the European Commission decision. It said it was a positive EU initiative addressing the real concerns of European biotechnology companies.

And the European Parliament issued a clarion call for stronger EU support for biotechnology. The report it adopted, after weeks of debate, recognizes that biotechnology can contribute to a higher quality of life and encourages all EU institutions and member states to support biotechnology research and development and to increase EU funding of life sciences.

EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, welcomed the Parliament's report. It said it was "evidence of the belief of a strong majority of Euro-MPs in the potential of biotechnology for Europe."

EuropaBio said there is a new and constructive realism in the Parliament's approach to biotechnology. Last week's report is a confirmation of the tendency EuropaBio said it detects in Parliament's vote last month to update the basic EU rules on biotechnology.

However, neither the Parliament report nor the Commission strategy yet amounts to anything more than promises, industry executives point out. Real action is now hoped for before the end of this year in a lifting of the current moratorium on EU authorization of GM products, and a more coherent policy approach to the industry by EU leaders.