EPSO submitted key recommendations towards the Strategic programming to the European Commission including:

1 – Clusters 1 (Health) and 6 (Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment (FBNRAE)) should jointly address Food and Nutritional Security (FNS) and Environmental sustainability and human health:

EPSO welcomes the link between Food and Health Clusters: 1) Crops without diseases, but with high plant secondary metabolite levels are beneficial for human health and help preventing diseases; 2) Plants in natural and cultured environments improve air quality and human wellbeing; Possibly add 3) Plant Made Pharmaceuticals contribute to novel medicines.

Keeping plants and animals healthy to supply safe food:  We suggest adding ‘Improving crops to prevent plant pests and diseases relevant to human health (e.g. fungi) is an important contributor.’


EPSO urges to give more balanced consideration to basic research in relation to the other components (applied research, demonstration and innovation actions) of the research and innovation cycle in pillar 2. We currently miss potential benefits from basic research (incl. questions from innovation to basic research), hindering ground-breaking solutions addressing the SDGs. This could be better balanced by encouraging collaborative basic research as component and / or focus of RIA projects. This will widen participation incl. EU13, close gaps in collaborative research and bridge between the Excellent Science and Innovative Europe pillars. It will help private companies who need to build on the explorative research.


Currently Europe’s position on New Breeding Technologies as laid down in article 2 of directive 2001/18/EC, which is binding for NBT, is not in line with the definition of Living Modified Organism as it is defined in article 3 (g) in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement signed by 171 countries. Europe needs to have a more balanced approach to new technologies incl. improving the legislation and start flagship projects engaging all stakeholders from scientists, companies, farmers to end-users towards products with consumer benefits on the market in Europe and globally. In parallel to such projects, new concepts for deregulation, based on public-private risk and benefit sharing, need to be developed to enable SMEs bringing such products to the market. EPSO invites policy makers to exchange views on the current situation of genome editing in Europe and possible next steps to enable Europe better addressing climate change, achieving food and nutritional security and establishing a sustainable agriculture in Europe and world-wide.

4-Targeted impacts best / only reached through HE and suggestions to the content:


To 3.1 Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society: Add the concept of ‘diverse crops for diverse diets and human health’ and the goal of ‘nutritional security’ to healthier food choices, health promotion and disease prevention.

To 3.2 Living and working in a health-promoting environment: Add the ‘importance of plants’ for health and well-being in terms of agriculture, horticulture and forests.


To 3.4. Sustainable primary production, food and bio-based systems, FNS: Add ‘Diverse crops for diverse diets, human health and resilient production will become available.’ Sustainable, safe and healthy diets …a major shift to ‘diverse and’ healthy diets from sustainable food production systems ….

To 4.2. Biodiversity and Natural Capital: Link to increasing ‘cultured diversity’ in 4.3.

To 4.3. Agriculture, forestry and rural areas: Add the concepts of ‘improved crops’ (in addition to management approaches) and of ‘Diverse crops for diverse diets, human health and resilient production’.

To 4.5. Food systems: Link to the concepts of ‘improved crops’ (in addition to management) and of ‘Diverse crops for diverse diets, human health and resilient production’ in 4.3.

To 4.6. BBI Systems: Add to the use of nature’s “biological assets” ‘and improved crops, synthetic biology’…

5 – In general, the idea of the co-design process is very good and most welcome. We see better links between the clusters in pillar 2 and hope this will be translated into calls that are cross-clusters (or alternating led by always one of these clusters), which would be a major improvement versus the Horizon Europe programme.

The method of co-design could be easily improved by

  1. inviting free text contributions without set questions and only an overall text limit (e.g. 4 pages). Stakeholders would simply refer to certain chapters of the orientation paper on comment on these.
  2. Inviting umbrella organisations to participate in or recommend experts to the upcoming workshops the respective EC colleagues will organise to further develop and translate the Strategic Plan.

EPSO submitted these suggestions on 17.11.2019, to the EC: Horizon Europe online consultation for umbrella organisations regarding Orientations towards first Strategic Plan for Horizon Europe – vs 2 of 31.10.2019. the EPSO Contribution ID is 666b7610-ddca-4262-b4be-dc125b7ec2cf.

Contact : Karin Metzlaff / EPSO

Informal meeting in Brussels 19.9.2019

Brussels, 4.11.2019

On 19 September 2019 EPSO invited tandems of member-scientists and policy makers from a dozen countries across Europe to an open-minded, informal meeting to assess the situation for research and development on New Plant Breeding Technologies (NPBTs) after the ruling of the ECJ in July 2018.

The difficulties in the implementation of the ruling, the possible need for changes to present legislation and the status of activities in different member states and associated countries were discussed. Flagship projects with potential field releases were a further point of consideration. There shall be a follow up meeting in early 2020.

As explained in our statement of 19.2.2019, EPSO offers to collaborate with policy makers to develop an appropriate future-ready regulation to enable the European public sector, small- and medium-sized companies and farmers to contribute more comprehensively to food and nutritional security and to use all available tools to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. Notwithstanding the technical option retained, EPSO supports a science-based revision of the present European legislation establishing a more proportionate product-based risk assessment. EPSO is also willing to contribute to the societal debate on genome editing and to communicate in a fact-based and yet accessible manner about innovative plant science and its societal role.

Ralf Wilhelm, Ernst van den Ende and Karin Metzlaff

  • Ralf Wilhelm, JKI / DE and co-chair EPSO Agricultural Technologies WG
  • Ernst van den Ende, WUR / NL and EPSO Board member
  • Karin Metzlaff, EPSO Executive Director

Read the Meeting report here



Diverse crops with diverse microbiomes for diverse diets for human health and resilient production – the main message from the 2nd EPSO workshop on Plants and Microbiomes held in Vienna October 2018. Diversity matters increasingly and is fundamental towards achieving the UN Sustainability Goals, such as SDG 2 ‘Zero hunger’, SDG 3 ‘Health and wellbeing’, SDG 12 ‘responsible consumption and production’, SDG 13 ‘Climate action’, SDG 15 ‘Life on land’.

Participants assessed progress on implementing recommendations on research and innovation, education, communication, regulation and policy from the first workshop by presenting ongoing and starting initiatives at (multi-)national and European level, discussing the recommendations form the 1st workshop and concluding what is well under way and identifying gaps to be considered at (multi-) national as well as European levels and beyond, e.g. towards the strategic programming for Horizon Europe, the European research and innovation programme 2021-2027.

These gaps and possible actions are highlighted in the 2nd report and led to two major themes for the 3rd workshop in 2020: ‘From Correlation to Causation – from Lab to Field to Ecosystems’, to first identify the causes underlying microbiome functioning at the laboratory scale, take these then further to the field and finally ecosystem levels. This will include, among others, mechanisms of plants to attract and beneficially interact with microorganisms, and what makes a beneficial mix of microbiomes fit for agriculture to survive in field conditions for the time needed. The second theme will be ‘Plants and Microbiomes Research Infrastructure’, discussing how to establish European (distributed) cultured collections, considering a ‘plant microbiota vault’ as complementary long-term microbial resource for plant health, the use of microbiota in phenotyping facilities and related open access databases integrating (plant) microbiome and meta-data required.

A third gap identified is suggested as theme for a 4th workshop: ‘Understanding the interaction of plants (e.g. secondary metabolites) with the animal and human microbiomes, which is likely to affect animal/human health’, possibly jointly with the EPSO Working Group on Nutritional Security.

Actions on training and communication will be taken by the scientific community, whereas legal experts need to look at the challenges in regulations – possibly advanced by the companies active in the field.

EPSO invites scientists, industrial and farming experts as well as policy makers to collaborate on further implement the recommendations to contribute to Environmental sustainability, food and nutritional security as well as human health.

Read the full ‘Report with recommendations’ and the ‘Annex to the report’.

48 participants representing 200 research institutes and universities from 31 countries will discuss at the EPSO General Meeting their short, medium and long term activities towards science strategy and science advice to policy, focusing on the transition from Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe and how better to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals with basic as well as applied (plant) research and innovation, and other forms of (bottom-up) multinational cooperation.

In addition, they will advance the support for scientists, mainly through over ten thematic Working Groups, including for instance ‘Agricultural Technologies’ (facilitating a better use and combination of all technologies and approaches for society), ‘Nutritional Security’, ‘Horticulture’, ’Plants and microbiomes’, and celebrate the success of the Fascination of Plants Day 2019 – a major outreach activity across the world.

Furthermore, they will debate a broadening of the EPSO scope and possibly membership taking even more the role of an integrating network across disciplines and sectors.

This year’s Fascination of Plants Day, a plant scientists’ initiative, has been already adopted by 47 countries worldwide. All information about this initiative can be accessed via www.plantday18may.org and is supported world-wide by a network of National Coordinators who voluntarily promote and disseminate the activity within their countries. A variety of over 468 plant-based outreach activities for all interested people from toddlers to grandparents were already uploaded online by scientific institutions, universities, botanical gardens, and museums, together with farmers and companies, who will open their doors for you to enjoy the interactive events.

To read the full press release click here.