Europe: Biotech Congress Cancelled

Publisher Name: 
Corporate Europe Observer

EuropaBio, the European biotech lobby group, has recently suffered a
major blow when it had to cancel its annual congress. The Fourth
Annual European Biotechnology Congress was scheduled to take
place in Edinburgh, Scotland on October 9-13. According to the Dutch
daily newspaper, De Volkskrant, EuropaBio, cannot deny that the
conference was cancelled due to the fierce critique of genetic
engineering in the UK and the resulting lack of sponsors.[1] Previous
EuropaBio congresses were held in Amsterdam, Brussels and
Munich.[2] De Volkskrant quotes a regular participant of EuropaBio
events as saying that the event was cancelled in order to avoid
sparking anti-biotech sentiments.

This seems a plausible explanation for the sudden cancellation the
UK is probably the most hostile environment in Europe to organise a
biotech congress. Genetically modified food is highly unpopular among
the population, which has successfully forced UK-based supermarket
chains and food companies to guarantee that the products they sell
are GM free. A vibrant direct action movement has emerged which
systematically uproots test fields for GM crops. Some UK anti-biotech
campaign groups were already in the process of organising protests
against the EuropaBio congress, before the announced cancellation.[3]
EuropaBio has been at the forefront of successful biotech industry
campaigns for the adoption of controversial legislation in the European
Union such as the EU Life Patent Directive.[4] The lobby group also
scored a victory for the biotech industry when it helped persuade the
European Parliament to reject a proposed liability regime for biotech
companies.[5] EuropaBio has tried hard to avoid publicity around the
cancellation of the congress. While fiercely denying the suggestion
that worries over protests and the resultant foot-dragging from sponsors
played a role, the lobby groups official explanation is that the congress
would overlap too much with another major international biotech event
four months later the UN-sponsored BioVision Congress (to be held
in Lyon, France, February 2001). EuropaBio itself contradicted this
statement, however, when it admitted that it was already aware of the
competing event when it sent out the first glossy brochures about
EuropaBio 2000 in Edinburgh, and even earlier in the planning
stages.[6] The group says it will organise its next annual conference in
the Autumn of 2001, but location and date are not yet decided.

NOTES

1. Thijssen, Wil, Congres Biotechnologie Afgelast uit Angst voor
Stemmingmakerij, De Volkskrant July 15, 2000.

2. The biotech lobby group describes its annual congresses as the
key European events that bring together leaders in industry, science,
government, NGOs and the public at large in sharing modern
biotechnology in Europe (from the brochure announcing the
EuropaBio 2000 Fourth Annual European Biotechnology Congress)

3. For more on the UK anti-biotech movement, see Genetic
Engineering Network http://www.dmac.co.uk/gen.html, Womens
Environmental Network http://www.wen.org.uk and Corporate Watch
UK http://www.corporatewatch.org

4. The European Union Directive on the Legal Protection of
Biotechnological Inventions.

5. The European Parliament originally proposed amendments to the
EU Directive 90/220 calling for biotech companies to be held liable for
any undesirable effects of deliberate release of genetically modified
organisms into the environment. After much pressure from EuropaBio
and others, the Parliament dropped its original proposal when it came
to a second vote. For more information on EuropaBio, see also articles
in the Corporate Europe Observer Issue Zero and Issue Five. For
information from the horses mouth, see the EuropaBio website:
http://www.europa-bio.be

6. Thijssen, Wil, Congres Biotechnologie Afgelast uit Angst voor
Stemmingmakerij, De Volkskrant July 15, 2000.

AMP Section Name:Food and Agriculture
  • 181 Food and Agriculture