EPSO welcomes the European Commission’s Horizon Europe Draft Orientations towards Work Programme 2025. For plant scientists, most relevant is cluster 6 on Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Environment and the Soil Mission.

In general, the draft orientations Work Programme 2025 are lagging behind the Strategic Plan 2025-27 and EPSO provided in its submission suggestions about how to address this.

For the Biodiversity destination, the “increase of agrobiodiversity – e.g. by supporting R&I on niche, underutilised and novel crops” are not yet considered as main expected outcomes. Cultivated biodiversity or agrobiodiversity is still underestimated in the draft orientations as a contributor to biodiversity.

Similarly, crop improvement and crop management can equally contribute to biodiversity and need to be supported at critical mass.

Regarding the Food Systems destination, the EC refers to ‘Ensuring healthy food and nutrition security …. In the Strategic Plan, crop improvement and adaptation is one path towards food and nutrition security, whereas this is not spelled out yet in the draft orientations.

Likewise, the agricultural primary sector should contribute comprehensively not only to sustainability, but at the same time to food and nutritional security via sufficient and nutritious food with macro-and micronutrients.

Contributions anticipated in the Strategic Plan should be included in the expected outcomes of the Orientations, such as “Key research areas for agriculture will include mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, fostering plant and animal breeding and conserving and improving the use of genetic resources (including the use of new technologies).”, “address crop diversification, improvement and adaptation”, “bolster plant health… leverage the potential of protein crops and underutilised crops.”

EPSO suggests major improvements to the Soil Mission: soils don’t exist without plants, or the ecosystems of which plants are the foundation organisms in both natural and agroecosystems. This interaction between plants and soils and soil health, should be added in the Orientations. Adding contributions from plant science and plant ecology towards soil health and sustainable soil resources will change the current mainly passive character into a balanced approach including interventions.

As explained in the EPSO position paper on Horizon Europe (Feb. 2023), EPSO suggests adding from 2025 on a critical mass effort on enabling crop improvement and adaptation for food and nutritional security, sustainability and bioeconomy.

To this end, EPSO suggests further implementation of four EPSO concepts (see statement).

EPSO looks forward to further discuss and help implement these recommendations with colleagues from the European Commission and the Member State ministries and funders.

 Click here to read: Full EPSO statement and find in the Annex the original submission.

EPSO submissions to the EC consultation are:

Biodiversity:                              Contribution ID: b0a23782-1474-45a8-8c83-3aa01b9a7a88

Food systems:                          Contribution ID: 57556a93-4537-4b65-a0a6-700f8e6cc90c

Circular economy & bioeconomy: Contribution ID: 6f30808d-3a24-4897-90f5-50345b7cabab

Innovative governance..:            Contribution ID: 2fa9392d-e837-4ff1-ae9c-97d8972378f7

Soil Mission:                             Contribution ID: edcd3f50-dd1b-4e78-a16b-8423b158fc59


Karin Metzlaff, EPSO Executive Director, BE

Timothy George, Hutton Institute, UK & EPSO Board

Odd Arne Rognli, NMBU, NO & EPSO President

Alan Schulman, LUKE, Univ. Helsinki, & former EPSO President