In Europe, in addition to public opposition to genetically modified food, the slow pace of development in agricultural and food biotechnology has been attributed to the lack of basic preconditions for commercial and innovative activities. The role and justification of a significant degree of regulation related to crop biotechnology is discussed. We try to clarify the existing broad structures which regulate these genetic technologies by focusing on several areas: environmental regulation, international trade, labelling and intellectual property rights. We attempt to involve the growing range of actors with different interests in the agri-food chain: biotechnology companies, the seed industry, farmer, and consumers. Finally, we discuss implications and limitation of the interpretation of the current European legislation.