Why we can’t let EU regulations hold back UK innovation

As reported in the Times, Financial Times and Radio 4, this week I co-chaired the major Fresh Start Pan-European Conference on EU Reform, leading a forum of thirty eminent scientists, lawyers and businessmen to discuss how the EU impacts the UK Life Science industry, and how we can reform it to make sure it works to support UK innovation.

EU Fresh StartThe roundtable followed my launch last week of my Report on EU Biotechnology Regulation with the Fresh Start Project and the think tank Open Europe. The Report says the growing trend towards ‘anti-science’ politics in Europe risks jeopardising the UK’s crucial Life Science sector, and controversially calls for the UK to consider withdrawing from EU jurisdiction in bio-science if the trend cannot be stopped.

As the world stands on the dawn of a new age of bioscience, with extraordinary opportunities to help feed, heal and fuel some of the poorest people on earth, institutionalised prejudice against the appliance of science and biotechnology in key sectors of medicine and food and agriculture risks condemning Europe to a new Dark Age. Unless we act we will miss out on the next Industrial Revolution, and the chance to pioneer the new technologies with the potential to help feed, fuel and heal the developing world.

Over the next 30 years the world faces a major Global Grand Challenge in the three core life science sectors of food, medicine and energy: how to double world food production to feed nine billion people in 2050, with half as much water and energy, from the same land mass?

Financial TimesBiotechnology is the defining technology of our age, with technologies such as GM, nanotech and genomic medicine unlocking new opportunities for the world’s population to transform the life prospects of the poorest people on earth. But the rise of an increasingly biotechnology hostile emotive green politics in Europe is starting to undermine Europe’s attractiveness as a location for biotech investment, and risks condemning Europe as a backwater in some of the most exciting fields of human endeavour.

Across the board in GM agriculture, exciting emerging fields like ‘nutriceutricals’ and the use of genomic and clinical patient data in modern biomedical research, the EU is heading in the wrong direction. If we cannot use our influence to reverse this dangerous trend, we must seriously consider taking the opportunity of the Review of EU Competencies to withdraw the UK from the EU jurisdiction in these emerging new Life Sciences altogether.

The report was welcomed by prominent voices in the EU and science debate:

Matt Ridley (Conservative member of the House of Lords and author of The Rational Optimist) said: "As this report reveals in stark detail, an excessively precautionary approach to innovation in the life sciences — which counts the risks of innovating, but not the risks of not innovating -- is already costing Europe heavily in jobs, environmental benefits and even lives. It is time to challenge the Panglossian complacency of the green lobby groups who exert increasing power over Brussels and do so much to delay and prevent Europeans citizens getting access to more effective treatments, greener crops and healthier nutriceuticals."

John Redwood MP (Chairman of the Conservative Economic Affairs Committee) said: “Regulation is often the enemy of innovation. The inventor often has thoughts beyond those of the lawmaker. If you are not careful the EU lawmaker closes down or prevents new ideas which are the lifeblood of enterprise. To win the global race and enjoy high living standards a country needs to let its scientists inspire and its technologists pioneer.”

Read the Report: http://eufreshstart.org/downloads/lifesciences.pdf

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