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Agricultural Technologies Working Group

Agricultural Technologies - lead Frank Hartung, Peter Rogowsky and Ralf Wilhelm

EPSO Publications prepared by this Working Group:

Working Group Activities

The EPSO Board decided to constitute a WoGr to call attention to how the science that its members are producing may have an impact on agriculture. Agriculture will have to meet important demands in the near future. The production of sufficient, safe and healthy food for an increasing human population is a huge challenge. But this production also has to meet the need for a reduced impact of agriculture in a changing environment.

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Everyone working in plant biology is aware of the significant advances in our knowledge of plant development, interactions of plants with other organisms — particularly pathogens, and the control of metabolic pathways. New methodologies are being developed to study plants both at molecular and cellular levels and as whole organisms or populations in the field. We are convinced that these methods and the information that we are obtaining from them will have, sooner or later, significant effects on agriculture. Agriculture has always been based on the best technologies available at a given moment. Plants were among the first species selected for the studies that led to the birth of genetics and during the last century plant breeding provided the basis for the present levels of food production. A number of technologies are already having an impact in plant breeding:

  • Molecular markers are already being used routinely for many crop species by public and private breeders.
  • Sequences of the main cultivated plants are becoming available and resequencing of varieties is being used to obtain collections of polymorphic sequences that allow massive genotyping and the discovery and use of complex genetic characters.
  • Knowledge of pathways that control metabolism and development and generate resistance to pathogens is providing genes that may be useful to produce new variability through transformation.
  • Methods for phenotyping are also being developed based on image analysis. They may become useful to follow the state of crops in the field helping farmers to take decisions.
  • The recent progress in genome editing allows the efficient and precise modification of genes in almost all plant species.
  • By introducing the genetic information for new metabolic pathways into nuclear and chloroplast genomes plants can be explored as production platform for a wide range of new products.

Next to this, increasing awareness and providing an actual overview and access to Risk Assessment (RA) and Regulatory Issues (RI) of new agricultural technologies, including genetic engineering and genome editing, also belongs to the activities of the WoGr. RA and RI influence the daily work and lives of researchers involved in developing and exploring new biotechnologies. The group aims to address this significant area, directly related to research and placing on the market. Main tasks are to: increase awareness of RA and RI amongst EPSO members, provide an actual overview on and access to RA and RI documents for EPSO members, and flag up necessary actions.


The most recent meeting of the working group was kindly hosted by JKI in Berlin in May 2017. The participants discussed mainly New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBT) and the implementation of the Nagoya protocol at national level and advice on Synthetic Biology. The group continues to provide science advice to policy on NPBTs to the European Commission and via its members to national level.

Previous meetings took place every 6 months at CNR / Milano on 22.11.2016, CRAG / Barcelona on 31.5.2016, the Julius Kuehn-Institute in Berlin on 3.12.2015 and in the Helmholtz Association in Brussels on the 30.10.2014. Lead by Joachim Schiemann (both) and Jonathan Jones (Oct’14), a wide range of issues were discussed by over 20 participants including an observer from the European Commission. EPSO positions and statements on Crop Genetic Improvement Technologies, Plant Breeders Rights and Patent Rights, and the Member State Exemption for GMO Cultivation were vibrantly debated and published afterwards. The group will continue to help represent the needs of European scientists in this important area into the future.

The next meeting will be held in Berlin in November 2017.

Activity: Positions on Crop Genetic Improvement Technologies, Plant Breeders Rights and Patent Rights, and the Member State Exemption for GMO Cultivation.

Eva-Mari Aro, Turku Univ., FI
Ralph Bock, MPIMP Golm, DE
Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, Aarhus University, DK
Josep Casacuberta, CSIC-CRAG, ES
Aldo Ceriotti, CNR, IT
René Custers, VIB, BE
Roberto Defez, CNR, IT
Jordi Garcia Mas, CRAG, ES
Josef Gloessl, BoKu, AT
Andreas Graner, IPK, DE
Wilhelm Gruissem, ETH Zurich, CH
Claire Halpin, Hutton, UK
Frank Hartung, JKI, DE
Ingo Hein, Hutton, UK
Per Hofvander, SLU, SE
Thomas Jacobs, VIB, BE
Huw Jones, IBERS UK
Jonathan Jones, TSL, UK
Sophien Kamoun, TSL, UK
Solveig Krogh Christiansen, Copenhagen University, DK
Elspeth MacRae, Scion, NZ
Karin Metzlaff, EPSO
Heiko Mibus-Schoppe, Geisenheim University, DE
Michele Morgante, Università degli Studi di Udine, IT
Moritz Nowack, VIB, BE
Margarida Oliveira, ITQB, PT
Pere Puigdomenech, CRAG, ES
Francesco Paolocci, CNR, IT
Anneli Ritala-Nurmi, VTT, FI
Peter Rogowsky, INRA, FR
Joerg Romeis, Agroscope, CH
Joachim Schiemann, JKI, DE
Helga Schinkel, Fraunhofer IME, DE
Andrea Schubert, Università degli Studi di Torino, IT
Uli Schurr, Research Center Julich, DE
George Skaracis, Agricultural University of Athens, GR

Thorben Sprink, JKI, DE
Eva Stoger, BoKu, AT
Tage Thorstensen, NIBIO, NO
Erkki Truve, EE
Tomas Vanek, CAS, CZ
Richard Visser, WUR, NL
Michelle Watt, Research Centre Juelich, DE
Ralf Wilhelm, JKI, DE
Li-Hua Zhu, SLU Alnarp, SE

Matthias Fladung, Thuenen Inst, DE
Johnathan Napier, Rothamsted, UK
Meredith Schuman, Max Planck Jena, DE


Communications by other entities:



Printed from on 10/12/18 07:01:17 AM

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