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EPSO Conference 2013 Highlights - Day 4

Session 1

Cathie Martin started day 4 by speaking about the production of tomatoes that produce high levels of the purple pigment anthocyanin.  The tomato plant, like most angiosperms, already contains the pathway to produce the pigment, therefore the necessary enzymes were placed under the control of carefully chosen promoters to ensure that high amounts were produced at a specific stage of fruit production.  The resulting lines produce anthocyanin levels comparable with the highest natural producers such as the blackcurrent. 

The health benefits of the purple tomato were tested on mice missing the tumour suppressor  p53, which develop soft tissue cancers and live at a reduced and reproducible average lifespan.  Mice on the purple tomato diet lived significantly longer than those on a normal or red tomato diet.

So what is the next step?  Martin and collaborators have founded the company Norfolk Plant Science which will be unapologetically GM, and work from the mantra that the food is good for you because it is designed that way.  They will now apply for regulatory approval in the United States.

Final session

Last day, last session, still lots of people at the conference room listening to the presentations.

Sandra Knapp (UK), Tom Whitham (US), Filippos Aravanopoulos (GR) and Adam Takos (DK) are talking about different perspectives on plant evolution – biodiversity and ecosystems.

Sandra Knapp reminded the audience of the diversity of life on our planet. The world was not made for us, we are only one small part of it. She presented maps of evolutionary uniqueness for terrestrial zoogeographic regions of the world, indicating how much regions are differing from each other and which of them are the most evolutionarily unique. But all systems interact with each other since millions of years. There exists a multiplicity of fragile dependencies and connections. It is very important to keep this in mind, no matter if we are living in developing or developed regions.

Tom Whitham from Arizona University continued these thoughts in his presentation on changes in community genetics related to global changes. His research focusses on genetic interaction among species and their environment. He explained how strong the effects are triggered by man when changing natural habitats into used land. Decreasing biodiversity, a change of the composition of animate beings interacting in a certain area diminishes ecosystem services, promotes invasion of other species, reduces general stress resistance and enhances the susceptibility to climate change. He showed examples of plants exposed to stress in different natural and transformed habitats. And he gave examples for the development of new ecosystems and ecosystem interactions after reforestation. “Maintaining networks of interacting species is probably as important as maintaining the species themselves… Genetics-based ecosystem restoration offers a similar potential for conserving biodiversity in “wild” systems just as quantitative genetics has for agro-ecosystems and the “green revolution” in food crops.”

 

Poster Prizes

A Poster Prize of 200 euros was awarded to the following three participants listed below, congratulations!

Christine Lelandais-Brieve, Institute for Plant Science CNRS Gif sur Ivette, France, for her poster entitled "Micro RNA networks involved in root architecture and biotic interactions in the model legume Medicago truncatula".

Henrietta Pal-Gabor, Dept. Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Pontificia Univ. Catolica de Chile, for her poster entitled "Transcriptomic analysis of plants growing on the western slopes of the Andes in the Atamacama Desert".

Dimitrios Fanourakis, Plant Science Institute for Bio and Geo Sciences Julich, Germnay, for his poster entitled "Hyperspectral reflectance-based detection of nutritional deficiency".

 

Thank you to Sotirios Georgiades in Porto Heli for helping to video the conference.


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EPSO is an independent academic organisation currently representing 61 institutional members bringing together more than 204 research institutes, departments and universities from 29 countries in Europe and beyond.