What HCB does

HCB gives independent advice to the French government on all issues relating to GMOs and other types of biotechnology

Set up by the Genetically Modified Organisms Act (GMO Act) of 25 June 2008, the High Council for Biotechnology is an independent body whose role is to inform public decision-making. Reporting to the ministries responsible for the environment, agriculture, research, health and consumer affairs, it delivers opinions on all biotechnology-related issues, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs). HCB is unusual in Europe because it consists of two committees: a Scientific Committee (SC) and an Economic, Ethical and Social Committee (EESC). This model stems from the Grenelle environment consultation, which underlined the importance of assessing not only the environmental and health risks of GMOs but also their socio-economic impact.

HCB provides comprehensive guidance for public policy-making

In particular, HCB has the tasks of:

  • Assessing the safety of biotechnology: It provides opinions on national biomonitoring and on the risks to public health and the environment of various possible uses of GMOs;

  • Studying society-related aspects of biotechnology: It specifically gives advice on the social and economic impact of GMOs and considers the ethical issues that they raise.


With its dual scientific and society-related approach, HCB is able to deal with a wide range of issues

  • Applications for authorisation to use GMOs, submitted to the authorities by companies and research institutions. These applications can cover all types of genetically modified organisms and cells (plants, animals, micro-organisms, etc.) as well as gene therapy products, veterinary drugs, etc. They can relate to sectors as various as agriculture, health, food, energy and the environment, for a variety of purposes: contained use of GMOs for research, development, education or industrial production; trial use (field trials of genetically modified plants, clinical trials of gene therapy products, etc.); cultivation or import of GM plants, etc.

  • Environmental monitoring reports on cultivation of genetically modified plants authorised in the European Union;

  • Contribution to management of biotechnology in France, the EU and worldwide (guidelines, recommendations, regulations, etc.);

  • Wider issues raised by biotechnology: structure and transparency of GMO assessment, coexistence of GM and non-GM crops, labelling, ethical issues, protection of biotechnology inventions, etc.