Therefore, we ask European leaders for an increase of the Horizon Europe budget in general and a specific allocation of additional 5Bn€ to Pillar I.

The Initiative for Science in Europe (ISE), published today its statement on the EU Council’s President proposal on MFF and Horizon Europe, stating it is perplexed by the downward spiral of the Horizon Europe Research & Innovation budget for 2021-2027 as an additional cut of 5Bn€ has been proposed by the President of the EU Council.

Although the current COVID-19 crisis has shown beyond any doubt the importance of research and innovation, the funding of the EU flagship research programmes (ERC, boosting frontier research and MSCA, focusing on training of young scientists and entrepreneurs) together with the total investment in Horizon Europe has been declining quickly since the Commission’s initial proposal.

While the EU Parliament had set 120Bn€ as the minimum budget requirement to assure EU competitiveness, the Commission’s June 2018 proposal had a total budget of 94.1Bn€; in February of 2020, the Council discussed an allocation of approx. 85Bn€; this went down to 81Bn€ in May and then to 75.9Bn€ last week. The current proposal is significantly below this ambition and that of a geopolitical Europe set by the EU Commission.

We acknowledge and approve of the additional investment from the “Next generation EU” recovery package to fund innovation actions (approximately 14Bn€). We notice, though, that since frontier research and training of young scientists are not funded through this instrument, a cut in the programme signifies a substantial depletion from the investment in Pillar I of Horizon Europe.

This is going in the wrong direction; research addresses fundamental questions and equips societies to face complex challenges. In these difficult times, the leaders of Member States would show a greater vision for the future of Europe by deciding for a more ambitious investment in Horizon Europe as a whole, to boost the growth of the research and innovation system, and therefore the benefits for European economy and society.

Contacts:

  • Martin Andler, President of the Initiative for Science in Europe, [email protected]
  • Karin Metzlaff, EPSO Executive Director and member of the ISE Executive Committee

Website: https://initiative-se.eu;Twitter: @ISE_news

ISE statement: https://initiative-se.eu/he-budget-statement-july-2020/

Promoting diverse crops and livestock with a variety of farming systems for diverse diets, human health and resilient production, is a joint responsibility of policy makers and actors in many areas: agriculture, health, education, environmental and R&I services.

Experts from three Technology Platforms developed the following R&I recommendations to address climate change, biodiversity loss, consumer competence and malnutrition:

  • An environmental performance toolbox to adapt to climate change and to maintain, or even to improve, crop yield and quality: Catalogue and improve crop and livestock performance by testing the effects of diverse combinations of livestock and crops with diverse and mixed cropping systems…
  • Smartly reducing pesticides: Investigate pest and disease resistance in plant genetic resources; Improve and broaden farm management practices; Develop and optimise new digital monitoring technologies; Identify and develop environmentally friendly pesticides.
  • Improving consumer knowledge and choice regarding healthy and sustainable diets: Understand consumer choice associated to healthy, diverse and sustainable diets; Install communication with citizens and consumers across Member States; Advance traceability and transparency regrading sustainability and health impact of food products throughout the value chain.
  • Diversified farming systems for diverse diets: Exploring and improving alternative protein sources; Improving livestock breeding and management; Developing new varieties of existing crops, reintroducing and domesticating niche and heirloom crops, and developing and introducing new and underutilised crops; Developing and scaling up new crop rotations and new intercropping techniques.

Among the 19 experts participating in the joint workshop of the Plants for the Future ETP, Food for Life ETP and Organics Technology Platform to discuss the challenges and develop these recommendations, were Karin Metzlaff (EPSO) and Roy Neilson (Hutton / UK).

Click here to read: Full Policy Brief by ‘Plants for the Future’ ETP, ‘Food for Life’ ETP and TP ‘Organics’, 02.07.2020

Contacts:

  • Karin Metzlaff, EPSO, BE
  • Amrit Nanda, Plant ETP, BE

EPSO urges the European Commission to take action to prevent the French draft legal proposal from being enacted.

The European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO) is concerned about the draft legal proposal on the genetic modification techniques mentioned in Article L531-2 of the French Environment Code, which would modify the list of techniques of mutagenesis exempt from the scope of the regulations on GMOs. In particular, the draft legal proposal would revoke the exception of in vitro random mutagenesis consisting of subjecting plant cells cultivated in vitro to chemical or physical mutagenic agents. This unilateral restriction of GMO Directive 2001/18/EC disregards scientific literature evidencing the history of safe use of in vitro random mutagenesis, ignores the ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ, case C-528/16) reiterating the exemption of all random mutagenesis techniques established before 2001, establishes barriers for research and innovation between member states and will be difficult to enforce by French authorities.

Click here to read: Full EPSO statement 08.07.2020, EPSO submission to the EC 08.07.2020

Contacts:

  • Peter Rogowsky, INRAE, FR & EPSO AgT WG chair
  • Jens Sundstrom, SLU Uppsala, SE & EPSO
  • Karin Metzlaff, EPSO, BE

EPSO agrees with the general statement of EFSA that risk-assessments should be done in a case-by-case manner and that the suggested procedures for risk assessment of SDN-3 that pertain to risk assessments of transgenes do not apply to SDN-1, SDN-2 and oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis, and should be simplified for these. Furthermore, EPSO suggests clarifications in the definitions of SDN-1 and SDN-2 and the nature of the introduced base changes using these two techniques.

 The EFSA public consultation of the applicability of site-directed nucleases type 3 safety assessments on plants developed using site-directed nucleases type 1, type 2, and oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis.

 EFSA has issued in 2012 a scientific opinion on the safety assessments of plants developed using Site-Directed Nucleases type 3, SDN-3 (EFSA, 2012). In these plants, site-directed nucleases have been used to introduce exogenous (recombinant) DNA in a site-specific manner through homologous recombination.

In spring 2020, EFSA issued a draft scientific opinion for public consultation on the applicability of the safety assessments of type 3 site-directed nucleases (SDN-3) on plants developed using SDN-1 SDN-2, or oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis (EFSA 2020). In plants developed using either of these techniques, no exogenous (recombinant) DNA is inserted into the plants. In SDN-1, predominantly point mutations or short in/dels are introduced through non-homologous end-joining at the target cleavage site. In SDN-2 and oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis, a short nucleotide sequence is used to guide the inherent DNA-repair mechanism to introduce a few predetermined base changes. Mainly EFSA promotes a case-by-case risk evaluation and outlines possible simplifications concerning specific genome editing methods. If no exogenous (recombinant) DNA is inserted into the plant, the subset of SDN-3 risk assessment protocols that evaluates transgenes are not applicable.

Click here to read: Full EPSO statement 24.6.2020, EPSO submission to EFSA, 28.5.2020

Contacts:

  • Jens Sundstrom, SLU Uppsala, SE & EPSO
  • Peter Rogowsky, INRAE, FR & EPSO AgT WG chair
  • Karin Metzlaff, EPSO, BE

 

CHIC is an Horizon 2020 project aiming to develop with genome editing sets of new chicory varieties to produce more and healthier inulin food fiber as well as to identify and produce medicinal terpenes in sufficient amounts.

These varieties are developed via genome editing. Safety, socioeconomic and environmental impact as well as stakeholders’ needs and concerns when implementing such new varieties are also investigated in this project.

A novelty of this project is the collaboration of scientist with artists to better engage the public.

Have a look and spread the videos which CHIC produced to explain to the general public its project as it is almost midway, especially focusing on the benefits and techniques of this research as well as on its innovative Art and Science partnership:

The videos were developed and produced by EPSO with the CHIC partners.

Acknowledgement: This project is funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020. G.A. 760891.The CHIC budget is €7.3 million.

Contacts: Alexandra Barnoux, EPSO;  Macarena Sanz, ID Consortium, ES; Dirk Bosch, Wageningen University, NL (Coordinator)