EPSO, the European Plant Science Organisation, is an independent academic organisation currently representing 70 institutional members bringing together more than 200 research institutes, departments and universities from 31 countries in Europe and beyond.
EPSO’s mission is to improve the impact and visibility of plant science in Europe. EPSO’s top priorities are to provide advice on science policy towards a strategic approach and critical mass funding for basic and applied research across Europe, to coordinate research activities at the national and European levels – and beyond, and to facilitate the understanding of plant science.
EPSO’s mission is to improve the impact and visibility of plant science in Europe, particularly to:
Promote plant science and support plant scientists
Discuss future plant science programmes across Europe
Provide authoritative source of independent information on plant science funding and advice to policy
Promote plant science research to meet the 21st century challenges in breeding, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, plant ecology and sectors related to plant science
Because plants matter
- Photosynthesis fuels all terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and is the ultimate source of all our food.
- Plants are essential for ecosystem services by, for example, preventing soil erosion and maintaining quality of watercourses.
- Plant populations are crucial to the amenity value of forests, grasslands and agricultural environments.
- Plant communities are extremely vulnerable to climate change.
- Most of the cultivable land in Europe (and globally) is devoted to agriculture. Wise judgements about coexistence of wildlife and agriculture require scientific evidence.
- A better understanding of plants is vital for sustainable human existence.
Imagine a world without plants! Not very attractive, is it?
Plant matter matters
- Plant yields are critical to farming, food and biomass energy production.
- In 2010, ~ one billion people have inadequate food. Enhancing crop yields and quality can reduce food prices and malnutrition, and enhance rural incomes.
- Plants provide timber, fibre (cotton), animal feed, high value substances (fragrances, aromas, pigments), oils, grains, fruit, vegetables, flowers, biomass for energy, and new sources of sustainable chemical feedstocks.
- Plant-derived chemicals play a vital role in preventive medicine.
- Plants take CO2 out of the air and sequester carbon above and below ground
- Biology education needs to properly instruct pupils, students and the public of the importance and properties of plants. Teaching should recognise the contribution of plants to discovery in biology, such Mendel’s Laws in genetics.
- European agencies and individual governments should fund high-quality pan-European plant science projects, irrespective of nationality, and neither requiring nor excluding industrial participation. Currently, different programs enable different subsets of EU nations to participate in projects with each other, but exclude certain countries from working together.
- The EU Framework programs must have a strong plant science component, and as well as applied projects, should help drive exciting discoveries that create new and unexpected opportunities for valuable new technology.
- World food supplies are more vulnerable than most realise, and will become more vulnerable; strengthening plant science is critical to future advances in crop yield.
- Plant breeding is critical to improved crop yields, but is declining in the public sector. Private breeders are having difficulty recruiting new breeders because so few are being trained. Public sector breeding and germplasm improvement must be revived.
- Biotech (GM) traits are being deployed worldwide to solve weed and insect problems in crops, and to improve drought tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency and disease resistance. EPSO urges a case-by-case appraisal of individual biotech traits, focusing on the quality of the crop trait rather than the method used to improve it.
- We should seize the huge opportunities afforded by plant science (including GM) to improve the quality of the human diet.
- Plant and crop evaluation policy should be evidence-based.
EPSO will cooperate with other organisations to advance these goals.
The association was founded in 2000 to represent the needs and interests of European plant science. Since then, it discusses with the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament and national politicians recommendations on European and global science policy.
EPSO is a key driver ensuring that appropriate funding, in terms of content and critical mass, is available for plant research in European Research programmes (FP6, FP7, and now Horizon 2020) and to foster ERA-NETs in plant sciences, being an observer of the ERA-Nets on Molecular Plant Sciences (ERA-CAPS) and on Sustainable Crop Production (SusCrop).
In 2004, EPSO together with EuropaBio started one of the first European Technology Platforms ‘Plants for the Future’ (Plant ETP). In 2007 the platform published its Strategic Research Agenda presenting a vision of plant research for the next 20 years and identifying challenges for Europe’s society and economy to which the plant sector can contribute. Today Plant ETP is composed of European Seed Association (ESA) and individual companies from industries, EPSO representing academia, and Copa-Cogeca bringing in the farming communities. Jointly they develop Action Plans on Research, Innovation and on Education and work on their implementation at the European and national levels to promote and advocate strategic research and internationally competitive research and innovation.