Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honour and pleasure to welcome you all, those present in this meeting room and those attending on-line, to the high level conference "Modern Biotechnologies in Agriculture - Paving the way for responsible innovation".
My warm welcome to Minister Tarmo Tamm, who has joined us today from Estonia.
Member States are also very interested in today's important topic and I am happy to welcome the Estonian Presidency on behalf of the Council of the European Union.
We are living in exciting times. Scientific developments with potential for application in healthcare or agriculture are occurring at an unprecedented pace.
And this is good news because the future of Europe is about innovation, from curing diseases to addressing climate change. And in all fields safety is one, very important factor.
In addition, innovation alone is not a value in itself: it needs to be assessed in the light of civil society concerns: protection of public health and of the environment, as well as citizens' trust need to be guaranteed before promoting any innovative technique.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I organised today's conference to stimulate an open and informed debate with all stakeholders on how the European Union can benefit from innovation in the food and agriculture sectors.
I invite you to approach this topic from multiple perspectives: ethical, technical, regulatory, social, economic, health and environmental safety.
Human innovative interventions in agriculture have the potential to deliver new tools and innovative solutions to tackle some of the important challenges our society is facing today.
For example, the agri-food sector is increasingly affected by a changing climate that is causing environmental degradation. At the same time, however, it has to deliver on food security and respond to increasing consumer demands while maintaining the livelihoods of European farmers.
However, there is no single vision in the EU as to how far we could and should go to reap benefits from the use of Human innovative interventions in agriculture.
Science is progressing as we speak.
However, we should always remember that in most science-related issues, people tend to look for "black and white" answers where science is about risk and uncertainty.
And such uncertainty is feeding doubts in people's mind. Therefore I think that a public debate is essential.
Because I am a firm believer in science, I mandated the Scientific Advice Mechanism to deliver an explanatory note on new techniques in agricultural biotechnologies last year.
I consider it important that we continue to develop our scientific understanding of these new techniques, taking into account the extensive variation in their possible applications and the way they are used.
With this in mind, I am delighted to welcome Professor Janusz Bujnicki from the High-Level Group of Scientific Advice Mechanism. Professor Bujnicki will give us an overview of the Group's work.
Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I attach great importance to multi-stakeholder dialogue, in particular on the topic of today's conference, and so we have invited representatives of different sectors to share their perspectives in the three panel discussions.
The first panel discussion is dedicated to responsible research and innovation. I invite you to explore some fundamental questions, including:
-How to better align research with public values, needs and concerns?
-How to strengthen research and innovation in this field in the EU?
-What is the role of scientists and regulators?
We will also look into opportunities and limitations to the use of modern biotechnologies.
The second panel discussion will offer insight on how technology could respond to current and future demands for farming. My friend and colleague, Phil Hogan, will be participating in this panel.
Finally, I will join the last panel discussion on finding a common way forward in ensuring citizens' trust, and the health and environmentally safe use of innovation and new technologies in the EU. I particularly look forward to the discussion on the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in this task.
Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dialogue, even more than biotech, is the key word today. I encourage you to engage in an open, frank and constructive dialogue, which is essential to the success of this event.
I hope that we can all work together to have this positive spirit reflected in the concluding remarks that will be delivered by the Commission's special adviser Dagmar Roth-Behrendt.
Minister Tamm, Honourable Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we are all convinced in the European Commission that every voice should be heard, I stand ready today to listen to your voice.