BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Association for Bioindustries, EuropaBio, is sponsoring a workshop on rare diseases at the Belgian Parliament Sept. 21. The meeting, on new treatments for rare diseases, is organized by EPPOSI, the European Workshop for Patients' Organisations, Science and Industry. The aim is to promote action for the 30 million Europeans suffering from one of over 8,000 disorders affecting fewer than five in 10,000 people.

"Without specific incentives to promote investment in research and development, prospects for treatment remain remote," EuropaBio said.

The workshop will highlight the opportunities offered by the new regulation on orphan drugs, and will bring together academic, clinical, industrial, financial and patient interests, to match quality research with commercial partners who can ensure research develops into useful products. The EPPOSI scientific committee has now selected 10 research projects out of 60 submissions.

UK Committee Probes Genetic Databases

The UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee is conducting an inquiry into human genetic databases.

Lord Oxburgh, who chairs the subcommittee undertaking the inquiry, said, "Rapid advances are being made in genetic sequencing techniques and also in our understanding of the sequencing results. There are potentially enormous medical benefits in prospect from the accumulation and interpretation of such data. At the same time, there are concerns about the implications for individuals in both such medical and wider potential uses. The committee will investigate human genetic databases that exist at present and the plans for developments in this field. This will provide a solid foundation for discussions - by the Human Genetics Commission and others - about the future regulatory arrangements in this complicated area."

Written evidence is being sought by Oct. 4, and oral evidence will be taken from November to February 2001. A report will be made to the House of Lords in March 2001.

Monsanto Seeks Change In EU GMO Position

Monsanto, one of the companies caught by the current EU embargo on new authorizations for GMO products, has been stepping up its attempts to influence the EU to change its mind.

It is pointing out loudly that in June there was a spate of acceptances of biotech crops, in Australia, Korea, and China. And it is giving wide publicity to recent statements from the director general of the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN, Jacques Diouf, who gave GM crops his backing, saying new plant and animal varieties were needed to feed a burgeoning population.

A shortage of land available for cultivation in the years to come would make it impossible to feed the global population expected to peak at 9 billion in 50 years, without recourse to genetically engineered plants and animals, Diouf warned, in an interview with the Financial Times. He said the FAO was setting up a social "ethics committee" embracing philosophers and religious representatives to study the human dimensions raised by plant biotechnology.

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