BRUSSELS, Belgium - A report suggesting that trans-Atlantic differences over biotechnology may not be insurmountable was welcomed at the EU-U.S. Summit on Dec. 18. The report, from the independent EU-U.S. Biotechnology Consultative Forum set up in May by European Commission President Romano Prodi and U.S. President Bill Clinton, aims to combat polarization in the debate on biotechnology and to suggest improvements in regulatory systems to ease tensions.

The report noted: "Modern biotechnology holds the promise of dramatic and useful advances in some of the areas of greatest challenge for humankind during the 21st century." According to a joint statement released after the meeting, "We have continued, as agreed at our last summit [in Portugal in May], to address the full range of issues of concern in biotechnology. We have intensified our cooperation on regulatory and other issues, including making progress on means to facilitate trade flows for conventional and biotech crop varieties approved in both the EU and the U.S."

A U.S. statement added: "The consensus these individuals reached on biotechnology demonstrates there is common ground for discussing biotechnology both between the U.S. and the EU and among the many nongovernmental groups concerned with this subject."

Prodi said it was "a useful contribution to the trans-Atlantic debate on biotechnology." The EU and U.S. government have committed themselves to looking carefully at its recommendations "in the coming months, and to pursuing a cooperative approach in this sensitive area," Prodi said.