BioWorld International Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Parliament has started the new year with a plan to produce a report on the future of the biotechnology industry in Europe.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Parliament's committees on public health and industry were both reviewing a working document drafted by UK Euro-MP John Purvis, which aims "to define the role of biotech in achieving European Union goals," especially the current priority EU idea of a knowledge-based economy, he said.

The approach in the report is to reject the use of the single term of "biotechnology" to refer to diverse activities ranging from pharmaceuticals and health care to agri-food and environmental cleanup technologies, and to treat each area separately. Purvis also said that the overall picture of the European biotechnology sector is inevitably "further diversified by differences in public attitudes, and indeed in legislation, from one EU member state to another."

He said that future regulation might range from a conditionally permissive attitude toward certain activities to a complete ban on others. His working assumption is that "there will continue to be a European biotechnology industry - or, more precisely, a palette of industries using various technologies based on the latest developments in the life sciences."

He said his plan is to offer a measurement of the European biotechnology industry's ability to provide products and services of benefit. At the same time he wants to examine its competitiveness at the world level, its relationship to jobs, and its role as an outlet for European research, particularly in life sciences.

According to a working document put before the Parliament's committees by Purvis, European biotechnology industry employment jumped to 54,000 in 2000, up from 17,000 in 1995, while industry revenues increased from EUR1.5 billion (US$1.4 billion) to well over EUR5 billion in the same period. But it still trails the U.S. industry.

The report is scheduled to be adopted in the early spring by the Parliament as a whole. The objective, according to Purvis, is to create the best conditions for a successful future for the industry, and to define the ethical and environmental constraints under which it has to operate.