BRUSSELS, Belgium — European Union research ministers gave the go-ahead to the 1998-2002 research program at their meeting last Thursday.

This means that biotechnology research will get funding in the EU over the next five years. But the political approval was attained at the expense of the program's content and budget.

European Research Commissioner Edith Cresson — who proposed the program — was angry it was whittled down by ministers. She said after the meeting it was a "black day" for European research.

The total agreed by ministers is just over US$14 billion. But nearly US$1.5 billion of this is for nuclear research. The rest will be allocated to a number of programming heads. Biotechnology stands to benefit considerably, although it is impossible to say how much, since final allocations depend on projects selected.

Biotechnology projects could win backing under subprograms dedicated to food, nutrition and health; infectious diseases; the "cell factory"; the environment; agriculture; the aged; climate and biodiversity; and a range of other subprograms that cut across sectors. — Peter O'Donnell