The award honours a discovery made in basic research on bacteria, which has led to transformative applications in the plant and medical sciences. It is the first Nobel prize to be shared by two women.

In plant science, genome editing enables scientists and breeders to improve the whole range of plants, from fruit, fibre, and vegetable crops to legumes, cereals, and trees, on which people depend for food, health, and livelihoods. The method enables diversity enhancement and precise, targeted improvements leading to better nutritional quality, disease resistance, stress tolerance, and environmental sustainability for rapid advancement through breeding to farmers’ use. Even underutilised crops, on which critical-mass breeding efforts have not so far focused, due to their poor market share compared to the time and effort needed to improve them with classical methods, will benefit from the new genomic techniques. The resulting crops will contribute to environmental sustainability, very important in light of climate change, as well as to diverse diets and human health.

Plant scientists call upon policy makers to improve European legislation, so that the potential of genome editing to improve underutilised crops is unfettered from the substantial time and financial burden of the GM legislation to which it is currently tied. If genome-edited plants were only subject to the standard legislation any new plant variety has to follow, the diversity of cultivated crops as a whole, a main target of the European Biodiversity strategy for 2030, would be substantially increased.

Finally, the application of genome editing to neglected and medicinal species will help to explore and secure biodiversity, demonstrating its value by revealing the metabolic pathways of a large variety of bioactive secondary metabolites, which may for example have high potential in fighting against new diseases or against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Click here to read: Full EPSO statement 07.10.2020, Nobel Prize PR, 07.10.2020


  • Alan Schulman, LUKE, FI & EPSO President
  • Angelo Santino, CNR, IT & EPSO Nutritional Security WG co-chair
  • Frank Hartung, JKI, DE & EPSO Agricultural Technologies WG co-chair
  • Kirsi-Marja Oksman-Caldentey, VTT, FI & EPSO Molecular Farming WG co-chair
  • Karin Metzlaff, EPSO


Topics on farm to fork, biodiversity and ecosystem services, zero-pollution and toxic-free environments, wildfire prevention, end-user products and citizen information could be relevant to plant scientists to team up with other disciplines and sectors.

The EPSO briefing on the EU Green Deal Call will help our members navigating this new call which differs in important aspects from previous Horizon 2020 calls. There are fewer, but more targeted, larger and visible actions, with a focus on rapid scalability, dissemination and uptake.  These should help pave the way for innovations in the ‘Horizon Europe’ Research and Innovation programme (2021-2027).

The formal adoption of the European Green Deal call as amendment to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020,  under the pillar Societal Challenges, was published on 17 September 2020 as update to the “Cross-cutting activities” Work Programme (starting on p. 62). It has a total budget of €983 million.

Deadline for submissions of proposals is 26 January 2021, with selected projects expected to start in autumn 2021.

All calls apply a one stage proposal submission procedure.

The 6 calls possibly relevant to plant scientists are under the following areas:

  • Area 1: Increasing climate ambition: cross sectoral challenges

LC-GD-1-1-2020: Preventing and fighting extreme wildfires with the integration and demonstration of innovative means (IA, CSA)

  •  Area 6: Farm to fork

LC-GD-6-1-2020: Testing and demonstrating systemic innovations in support of the Farm-to-Fork Strategy

 Area 7: Biodiversity and ecosystem services

LC-GD-7-1-2020: Restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services (IA)

  • Area 8: Zero-pollution, toxic-free environments

LC-GD-8-1-2020: Innovative, systemic zero-pollution solutions to protect health, environment, and natural resources from persistent and mobile chemicals (RIA)

  • Area 9: Strengthening our knowledge in support of the EGD

LC-GD-9-2-2020: Developing end-user products and services for all stakeholders and citizens supporting climate adaptation and mitigation (RIA)

  • Area 10: Empowering citizens for the transition towards a climate neutral, sustainable Europe

LC-GD-10-3-2020: Enabling citizens to act on climate change, for sustainable development and environmental protection through education, citizen science, observation initiatives, and civic engagement (IA)

Read the full news item

Read the full briefing on the EPSO website ‘Members only’ section

Sources: EC, EPSO

Contact: EPSO members who need to renew their access to the EPSO members only website, please contact Sofia Ciravegna / EPSO.

EPSO welcomes the Concept and proposed actions towards a new ERA published by Commissioner Gabriel on 30.9.2020 and offers to collaborate in further shaping and implementing these. EPSO is focusing regarding the ERA for instance on critical mass investments in research and innovation, balancing basic, applied research, demonstration and innovation action support; widening participation; creating synergies between education and research; science outreach engaging citizens; and setting and implementing strategic priorities for Horizon Europe.

The New ERA is centered on excellence, inclusiveness, talents, and driven by innovation. To this end, the Commission identifies four main objectives:
1) Prioritizing investments
2) Improving access to excellence
3) Translating R&I results into economic value
4) Deepening the ERA.

The Commission commits to 14 actions to reach these goals. It will push for further in-vestment to reach the long-sought goal of 3% of GDP, and support EU-13 Countries. It will also improve synergies through common EU industrial roadmaps and update the governance of research infrastructures. It will support the transition to Open Science, with particular emphasis on Open Access and Open Data (European Open Science Cloud – EOSC). Gender equality and citizens science will also play a central role. Finally, by 2024, a new toolbox in support of researchers career development will be developed with the following components: (i) a Researchers Competence Framework, (ii) a mobility scheme to support exchange between industry and academia, (iii) targeted training un-der Horizon Europe and (iv) a one-stop shop portal. The toolbox will lead to the creation of a pipeline for talent.

EPSO is collaborating with European learned societies and research organisations in the Initiative for Science in Europe (ISE) as a strong voice of the scientific community discussing with the European Commission and Member States recommendations for the ERA.

Click here to read: Full EPSO news 01.10.2020

Marco Masia, Executive Coordinator, Initiative for Science in Europe (ISE),
Karin Metzlaff, Executive Director, European Plant Science organisation (EPSO),

On the occasion of the German Presidency of the European Union Council, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina kindly invite you to the international scientific advice conference “Genome Editing in Europe: New Agenda or New Disputes?”.

The conference deals with genome-edited and genetically modified organisms (plants), and associated regulation. Internationally renowned experts discuss together with European policy-makers and representatives from civil society and business. The conference offers an agora for the optimal use of scientific findings in policy design, from R&I to agriculture and consumer protection, taking an interdisciplinary and international comparative approach. These are all very important aspects of the European Green Deal with its Farm to Fork strategy.

Join the conference

  • Thursday, 1 October » 11:00 – 15:30 hrs GMT+2
  • Friday, 2 October » 12:30 – 17:00 hrs GMT+2

One registration for all sessions required at

Join the conference held as a series of Zoom webinars in English (one registration for all webinars). You are welcome to ask questions using the Zoom Q&A feature. In addition, the conference will be streamed live on the DFG YouTube channel (no Q&A feature there).

After registration, you will receive a confirmation (please check the junk mail, as sometimes automatic mails might be filtered). You can find additional information in the programme.

Feel free to retweet Leopoldina tweets and DFG tweets related to this conference and to share this invitation.

We very much look forward to welcoming you in the virtual space. Please direct further questions to [email protected].

The DFG-Leopoldina organising team


  1. German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina – International Relations Department, Jägerberg 1 , 06108 Halle, Germany – T: +49 (0) 345 472 39-32 – [email protected]
  2. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation)

Deforestation of tropical rainforests causes irrecoverable damage to biodiversity in terms of ecosystem and species loss and has long-term negative impact on global and regional climate through increased carbon release into the atmosphere. It is therefore crucial to stop deforestation.

In this context, EPSO welcomes the initiative, taken by the European Parliament, to explore the potential for European policy to reduce EU-driven global deforestation through the limitation of the import of commodities causing deforestation. EPSO supports the implementation of effective EU policies including due diligence and sustainability certification standards regarding deforestation risks.

We stress nevertheless that, as the Authors of the study themselves admit, they report upper-bound estimates of the impact of proposed policies. We also suggest that there is room for improvement in the definition of policies: (i) by differentiating the biodiversity and ecosystem services of much higher impact of clearing and disturbing pristine compared to already disturbed or secondary forests; (ii) by additionally aiming at preventing degradation of pristine forests, which also has a deep impact on biodiversity & ecosystem services; (iii) by promoting the usage and import of agroforestry-based commodities, which have the net advantage of actively maintaining forest cover.

EPSO offers to collaborate with the European Parliament, European Commission, Member States and authorities across the world to develop a forward-looking legislative framework, respective research and innovation strategies and help implement these.

Click here to read: Full EPSO news 16.09.202

Contacts: Chairs of the EPSO Tree biology and biotechnology Working Group: Ivan Scotti, INRAe / FR, Elspeth MacRae, Scion / NZ and Bethold Heinze, BFW / AT; EPSO.