EPSO working groups
Agricultural Technologies Working Group
Agricultural Technologies - lead Joachim Schiemann, Jonathan Jones, Pere Puigdomenech
EPSO Publications prepared by this Working Group:
- Updated Statement: Crop Genetic Improvement Technologies, 12.01.2017 EPSO welcomes the majority opinion of the Member States “New Techniques Working Group” report and asks the EC to follow these recommendations and provide legal certainty for science and industry regarding application and exploration of New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBTs) to allow the plant sector addressing the Grand Challenges facing our planet. EPSO acknowledges the interpretation of the EU GMO legislation as both process and product based and considers that this could help to clarify the legal status of the NPBTs. In its update EPSO includes recently published reports from Belgium and Italy.
- Synthetic Biology is much more than the application of new breeding techniques, statement 7.12.2016, pointing out that the application of a certain technique or material does not lead automatically to a Synthetic Biology organism or product, and a synthetic organism should be different from any organism found in nature.
- Fact sheets on New Breeding Technologies, 21.3.2016. Including: Site-Directed Nucleases (e.g. genome editing), Oligonucleotide-Directed Mutagenesis, RNA-directed DNA-Methylation, Cisgenesis, Grafting using GM plants, Reverse breeding, and Agroinfiltration.
- Updated Statement: Crop Genetic Improvement Technologies, 18.12.2015
- Crop Genetic Improvement Technologies, Statement, 26.2.2015
- Plant breeders’ rights and patent rights, Statement, 26.2.2015
- GMO cultivation – national opt-out, Statement, 26.2.2015
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.
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 CNR / Milano on 22.11.2016. The participants discussed mainly New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBT) and the implementation of the Nagoya protocol at national level. The group continues to provide science advice to policy on NPBTs to the European Commission and via its members to national level. Further activities will include advice on Synthetic Biology.
Previous meetings took place at 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 end of May 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
Josep Casacuberta, CSIC-CRAG, ES
Roberto Defez, CNR, IT
Dennis Eriksson, SE (guest)
Mathias Fladung, Thuenen Inst, DE (observer)
Josef Gloessl, BoKu, AT
Wilhelm Gruissem, ETH Zurich, CH
Frank Hartung, JKI, DE
Per Hofvander, SLU, SE
Thomas Jacobs, VIB, BE
Jonathan Jones, TSL, UK
Elspeth MacRae, Scion, NZ
Karin Metzlaff, EPSO
Johnathan Napier, Rothamsted, UK
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
Meredith Schuman, Max Planck, DE
Uli Schurr, Research Center Julich, DE
George Skaracis, Agricultural University of Athens, GR
Tomas Vanek, CAS, CZ
Richard Visser, WUR, NL
Michelle Watt, Research Centre Juelich, DE
Li-Hua Zhu, SLU Alnarp, SE
- EPSO: Synthetic Biology is much more than the application of new breeding techniques, statement 7.12.2016, pointing out that the application of a certain technique or material does not lead automatically to a Synthetic Biology organism or product, and a synthetic organism should be different from any organism found in nature.
- Swiss Academies: – significant potential, uncertain future, fact sheet on the new plant breeding techniques, as well in , FR, 18.8.2016
- 110 Nobel Laureates plus 4311 scientists and citizens support Precision Agriculture (GMOs): by signing an open letter Supporting Precision Agriculture (GMOs) to the Leaders of Greenpeace, the United Nations and Governments around the world. They criticize Greenpeace to neglect scientific facts about safety and benefit of the technology, 18.7.2016. Read the letter and sign it at http://supportprecisionagriculture.org/
- 108 Nobel Laureates (50% of all living laureates): signed an open letter Supporting Precision Agriculture (GMOs) to the Leaders of Greenpeace, the United Nations and Governments around the world. They criticize Greenpeace to neglect scientific facts about safety and benefit of the technology, 30.6.2016.
- Italian Societies on Agricultural Genetics and Plant Biology: Position on genome editing techniques applied to agriculture, 12.4.2016 - recommend excluding genome editing products from regulation under GM when their gene combinations could potentially result from natural mutations or conventional breeding
- Swedish Ministry of Enterprise: Views on new technologies for genome editing, 18.01.2016
- Swedish Board of Agriculture: Confirms interpretation that plant genomes edited with CRISPR-Cas9 do not fall under EU GMO definition, 17.11.2015
- EASAC: Statement on New Breeding Techniques, 13.7.2015
- ISAAA: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2014, Biotech crop hectarage increases for 19th year | Executive Summary, 28.01.2014
- European Parliament: The plenary voted in favour of a member state opt-out for GMO cultivation, 480 in favour, 159 against, 58 abstentions, 13.01.2014
- GPC: Please complete the Global Plant Council's questionnaire on Stress Resistance before the 1st of December, 10.11.14
- Klumper & Qaim: A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops; On average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%, 3.11.14
- 21 of Europe's most outstanding plant scientists: Europe needs to think again about the role of plant research, including the use of genetically modified plants, Open letter, Press release, 30.10.2014; Media coverage: Guardian; Telegraph (GM is future, Saving lives or lining corporate pockets?); Nature; EurActiv; Vilt (in Dutch); SVT (in Swedish); all 30.10.14; Chemistry World; ORF.at (in German); Der Standard (in German); APA (in German); El Pais (in Spanish); Kemivalden Biotech (in Swedish); all 31.10.14
- BBSRC: Statement on New techniques for genetic crop improvement | Announcement Note, 28.10.2014
- FAO: “Paradigm shift” needed towards sustainable agriculture and family farming; options including agro-ecology, climate-smart agriculture, biotechnology and genetically modified organisms should be explored, 3.10.2014
- FAO: Sharp rise in FAO Food Price Index - Weather and Black Sea tensions push prices to ten-month high, 2.4.2014
- Observer, UK: editorial "There's no choice: we must grow GM crops now", 16.3.2014
- UK Council for Science and Technology: Letter to UK Prime Minister on the risks and benefits of GM technologies, 14.3.2014
- FAO: Steady increase in incidents of low levels of GM crops in traded food and feed, 13.3.2014
- EASAC: Risks to Plant Health: EU Priorities for Tackling Emerging Plant Pests and Diseases, 10.3.2014
- FAO: Food Price Index sees sharpest rise in months, 6.3.2014
- EFSA: European Food Safety Authority scientific workshop on RNAi based GM on 4-5.6.2014 in Brussels, 11.2.2014
- Plant ETP: Press Release ‘European Parliament AGRI Committee underlines value of plant breeding sector’, 24.1.2014
- EP: The Parliament adopted a report on plant breeding, 24.1.2014
- The Guardian: UK environment secretary Owen Paterson: 'Embrace GM or risk becoming 'museum of world farming', 7.1.2014
- Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology: Seralini et al. asked to retract study claiming carcinogenic effects of herbicide treated GM maize on rats, 28.11.13
- JRC: IMPACT ANALYSIS of the Joint Research Centre's activites for the regulation of GMOs in the European Union, published Jan 2013, 19.9.2013
- EPSO: Science Based Policy, 1.9.2013
- EASAC: Planting the Future: opportunities and challenges for using crop genetic improvement technologies for sustainable agriculture, Brussels, 27.6.2013
- Paterson, the UK Environmental Secretary: UK must lead the World in GM crops, Rothamsted, 20.6.2013
- Daily Mail, UK: Ministers urge EU to relax its tough curbs on genetically-modified crops, 12.5.2013
- Independent, UK: Editorial; Time for a rethink on GM crops, 11.6.2013
- NBT Platform: 7 factsheets available on new breeding techniques, 30.4.2013.
- EFSA call for tender on feed additives - preparatory work to support the re-evaluation of technological feed additives, deadline 24.5.2013
- EFSA call for tender on GMOs - to prepare documents evaluating the bioinformatic analyses of incoming GMO application dossiers, deadline 24.5.2013
- EPSO: Submitting input to the EC’s consultation on Organic Agriculture in Europe, 28.03.2013
- ISAAA: First time developing countries have grown more hectares of biotech crops than industrialized countries, contributing to food security and further alleviating poverty, 20.02.2013
- EPSO: Comment to editorial A Glover: Is there opportunity in risk and uncertainty?, 5.2.2013
- A Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser to EC President: Is there opportunity in risk and uncertainty?, 4.2.2013
- European Commission: call for experts to assist EC in preparing report on development & implications of patent law in the field of biotechnology and genetic engineering. Deadline applications: 12.12.2012
- EFSA: Seralini study 2012 does not impact re-evaluation of glyphosate, nor re-opens safety evaluation of maize NK603, 3.10.2012
- H. Hirt: Science first in GM debate, 2.10.2012
- Federal Inst. of Risk Assessment, Germany: Publication Seralini et al.: Feeding studies on rats with GM corn and glyphosate-containing formulation, 1.10.2012
- Swiss National Science Foundation: 'Green genetic engineering in Switzerland: low risk, high unused potential', 4.9.2012
- Plant ETP: Statement on New Breeding Technologies, September 2012
- EPSO: Statement on agricultural technologies, 15.6.2012
- EPSO statement on Plant breeders’ rights and patent rights, 8.6.2011