DIB (the German association of biotechnology industries) says it clearly: The approval of genetically modified organisms in Europe must rely purely on scientific criteria also in the future. There can be no arbitrary political decisions. This is the only way to safeguard the chances for the future of innovative knowledge-based industries like biotechnology. Vague “socio-economic” criteria – as they are currently being demanded by parts of the German federal government – involve the risk of misuse also for other fields of technology.
The German association of biotechnology industries (Deutsche Industrievereinigung Biotechnologie – DIB) criticises the federal government for the contradictory character of its current biotechnology policy. DIB chairman Dr Matthias Braun states at DIB’s annual press conference in Frankfurt: “On the one hand, for the federal government biotechnology is a lead market for future innovations. On the other hand, parts of the government want to include so-called socio-economic criteria in the science-based approval system for genetically modified organisms in Europe. This contradiction is harmful to domestic biotech companies in the long run; important chances for the future of a science-based industry are gambled away by taking a short-term perspective.”
In the ongoing deliberations of the EU Commission, the EU Member States should be able to justify cultivation bans of genetically modified crops, inter alia, with objections such as: public morals, public order, town and country planning, cultural policy, social policy objectives etc. Parts of the German federal government support this orientation. Braun: “The demanded socio-economic criteria would erode the existing science-based approval procedure for genetically modified crops – due to politically driven reasons for rejection. This biotechnology policy has nothing of a far-sighted approach. It simply opens the door to arbitrary decisions.”
According to DIB chairman Braun, it is naive to believe that the application of non-scientific criteria would remain limited to plant biotechnology in the future, because practically all products could be banned for similar reasons – even though the products were found safe in scientific terms. Braun continues: “How can you prevent political misuse of socio-economic approval criteria that aims at banning other technologies? We find nothing to this end in the proposals by the EU and the German federal government.”
Braun thinks that the contradictory character of the German policy becomes evident in the health sector too. He emphasises that the federal government’s health policy impairs the competitiveness of medical biotechnology. It is a fact that the sector of the industry which produces genetically manufactured medicines developed positively in 2013, with an increasing use of bio-pharmaceuticals and higher sales of these products by the companies. Furthermore, new biotech medicines are in the development pipeline and give rise to hopes for new therapies. Braun: “All the same, I need to say that our country is not making full use of its possibilities. There is more potential for medical biotechnology and other biotech sectors, but this potential can unfold only if the political course is set in a better way.”
Braun urgently calls for attuning the health, research and economic policies to each other. Therefore, he welcomes the cross-departmental dialogue planned by the federal government. The DIB chairman: “With an involvement of science and pharmaceutical manufacturers, the competent ministries should engage in an exchange on how to strengthen Germany as an industry location. In this setting it is essential to discuss an end to the price moratorium for medicines and the long-overdue fiscal incentives for research in this country.”
The complete statement of DIB chairman Dr Matthias Braun can be found in the download section at the top of this page under the point "Ergänzende Downloads" (sorry, only available in German language). At the same place, you will find an overview of business indicators for German biotech companies for the year 2013 as well as the trend forecast for the German biotech sector for the overall year 2014. Finally, you will find a set of photos from the press conference in high resolution.