The national Citizen's panel on GMO crops (Genetically Modified Organisms) took place in 2003.

Which societal challenge?

The question of the cultivation of GMO crops will sooner or later be raised by federal, regional and local authorities. Scientific and technological developments in plant breeding and modification are of great concern to the whole of society. It is therefore essential to give a voice to citizens on this issue usually reserved for experts.

The question asked to the citizens was: "According to you, what should be considered in any decision regarding the cultivation of genetically modified crops for experimental and/or commercial purposes?"


The initiative was taken by:

  • the Federal Minister for Consumer Protection, Public Health and the Environment
  • the Federal Public Service for Public Health, Safety of the Food Chain and the Environment
  • the Foundation for Future Generations

Together they decided to organize two citizens' panels at the local level, one in Flanders and the other in Wallonia, with the help of the Town of Gembloux and the Municipality of Beernem.


Citizens, selected from a cross-section of society in 2 Belgian local councils, have worked at the request of federal (together with regional and local) executive, administrative and public advisory authorities. Drawned by lot, they met a broad number of resource persons and deliberated for several days together. They handed in their citizens’ report in publicly to the various public authorities.

The citizens' report provided the public authorities with a deep insight into the collective views of informed citizens from all walk of life, before that these authorities had to take new decisions on the issues at stake.

Interestingly, the panel was also commented as a unique experience for stakeholders to debate and express their points of views on such a controversial issue in a rare atmosphere where everyone showed great respect for each other.

The combination of local and national scales was also an interesting innovation in the project.

When What
01.2003 Gathering the involved parties and developing the methodology
The first working meetings of the Monitoring Committee and the Composition Committee to work on the methodology and search for potential stakeholders. Municipalities were contacted and two (one Dutch-speaking, one French-speaking) were selected. The citizens are recruited.
02-03.2003 Preparation of the panel
The work of the Composition Committee and the Monitoring Committee continues.
Focus evenings are organised. The transcripts of the focus evenings structured by themes are sent to the citizens and to the Composition Committee (CC), which will have the task to propose resource persons in relation to these themes.
Project evenings follow. Citizens establish questions, requests and proposals of resource persons to be invited.
Finally, organisation evenings take place. Based on the proposals of the CC, citizens set the agenda for the 1st panel day.
04.2003 Week-end panel (12-13.04 Gembloux; 26-27.04 Beernem)
Saturday: dialogue between citizens and resource persons, open to the public
Sunday: citizens deliberate and prepare their report
04.2003 Citizens publicly present their report to the public authorities and ensuing discussions (15.04 Gembloux; 30.04 Beernem)

Results & more info

More information on this initiative: see the publication with the final citizens report and information about the whole initiative and process:

More information on deliberative democracy and citizens' panels: their objectives, methodology and links to other citizens' panels initiated or contributed to by the Foundation for Future Generations.