Jean-Louis Borloo, Minister of Ecology presented the High Council of Biotechnologies on April 22, 2009. This new authority involves experts as well as representatives of the public society and is aimed at enlightening the political field on such pointed and controversial subjects as GMO.
Issuing from the ‘Grenelle Environnement’ and created under the GMO law, the HCB will be a working tool "unique in Europe and apparently in the world from its conception, its functioning and its ambition," as declared by Mr Borloo.
Two committees will comprise the HCB. The first will be scientific in nature and the second one economic, ethic and social. The second committee will deliver ‘recommendations’ that complete the ‘notices’ or ‘avis’ of the first. The HCB will receive a budget of 1 million euros for general function and for research.
Catherine Bréchignac will assume responsibility for this multidisciplinary authority for five years on the 12th of May. CNRS chairperson since 2006, Ms Bréchignac is a renowned scientist of recognised impartiality. Versed in many disciplines, she also benefits from being perceived as neutral in opinion with regard to the polemic questions of GMO.
President of the scientific committee (comprised of 34 members including geneticists, biologists and toxicologists) is Jean-Christophe Pagès, a well-known professor in biology and molecular biochemistry.
President of the economic, ethic and social committee (comprised of 26 members with 3 highly qualified personalities and including ecologists, representatives of consumers’ rights organizations, agriculture and the pharmaceutical industries as well as members of the French parliament) is Christine Noiville, a jurist specialising in the link between the law and scientific development.
In total, the HCB will have 63 members. Among the priorities of this high authority is the definition of a ‘product without GMO’, since the law currently ensures the freedom to consume and to produce “with or without” GMO but does not yet define the precise meaning of the term ‘without GMO’.