"European consumers expect the food they eat to be safe and of high quality. They expect food to meet their nutritional needs, to be wholesome and tasty, and they value variety of choice. Consumers also expect their food to be produced and processed in accordance with good farming practices, with greater respect for the environment and for the welfare of animals. And they want to be informed, in a precise and accurate manner, about the composition, the nutritional value, the durability, and, in certain cases, about the origin and the method of production of the food offered to them."
"Biotechnology will be a major driving force for future innovation, and we cannot deny the huge potential it may offer - cheaper, safer, more cost-effective production, in addition to significant potential benefits for agri-food production.
Sadly, we in Europe find ourselves in a relatively poor position compared to our international competitors, largely due to the delays that have built up since 1998. We must therefore act now to prevent the biotech field being permanently hindered by emotional reaction and apprehension - but without compromising on safety, public health or the environment".
"There is little point in talking about innovation in the abstract unless we, as a Union, can take sensible decisions, based on thorough scientific assessment. Unless we embark afresh on this route, we can forget about increased competitiveness, consumer choice, jobs and wealth arising from green biotechnology. Such a scenario would stifle innovation and hand competitive advantage to competitor nations and trading blocs".
"Research is fundamental towards fostering an innovative agri-food sector. In this regard could I urge all of you to seek to maximise the benefits that can flow from the new Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development 2003-2006. Over that period, a budget of 685 M€ will be devoted to the priority theme of "Food Quality and Safety".
This will help establish the scientific and technological bases needed to develop an environmentally friendly production and distribution chain of safer, healthier and varied food, including seafood, and to control food-related risks.
Actions envisaged include:
The development of safer and environmentally friendly production and processing methods based on systems such as integrated production, lower-input farming and the use of biotechnologies;
In addition, for the first time, a section of the framework programme is dedicated to the scientific support to policies. A very large fraction of the policy areas - such as the modernisation and sustainability of agriculture or the development of new and more environment friendly production methods to improve animal health and welfare - identified in this section falls under the agriculture, fisheries and food sectors. Research carried out in this section will be of direct relevance for the development of new food and agricultural policies.
As I have already said, innovation in the farming and food sector is indeed a vital issue and an excellent choice for the theme of this Informal Council. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the pursuit of excellence in these fields."