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Swiss Nobel prize winner to help launch dialogue on genetically modified products

The Swiss bioengineering scientist, Rolf Zinkernagel (pictured), has been chosen to enter a European Commission panel to spearhead an information campaign on genetically modified (GM) organisms.

The Swiss bioengineering scientist, Rolf Zinkernagel (pictured), has been chosen to enter a European Commission panel to spearhead an information campaign on genetically modified (GM) organisms. The 12-member group was set up because of an alarming level of ignorance towards GM science, reported in a European survey.

The survey, carried out last December, found that 89 per cent of Europeans were not sufficiently informed on genetic-engineering. However, 72 per cent of those questioned said they would be prepared to read more and watch television programmes on the subject.

Professor Zinkernagel, who is from Zurich and the winner of the 1996 Nobel prize for medicine, was selected by the European Commission in Brussels because he was "a scientist of a very high-calibre, recognised by his peers," a statement from the Commission said.

He and his 11 colleagues have been charged with preparing a major summit on bio-science to bring together scientists and representatives from politics and culture. The summit is scheduled for November.

The European Commissioner for science, research and development, Philippe Busquin, said, "The aim of the summit is to sound out the possibility of having a dialogue. There is no reason why Europe should stagnate in the field of biotechnology," he said.

But with the recent survey showing confidence in environmental watchdog organisations hitting an all-time low, the task facing the scientists will not be easy. A mere 14 per cent of Europeans interviewed said they had faith in these bodies.

swissinfo with agencies

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