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)

EPSO welcomes the EC First Draft Implementation Strategy for Horizon Europe and offers to collaborate with the European Commission, the Member States, and stakeholders to finalise and implement it.

 EPSO congratulates the EC for defining expected impacts (goals), but not the path to get there, inspiring innovative comprehensive solutions.

EPSO fully supports including the UN SDGs in the Key Impact Factors, encouraging co-benefits and also a comprehensive approach to address several SDGs in parallel – e.g. Food and Nutritional Security, environmental sustainability, and human health.

Regarding the level of TRLs in collaborative research, EPSO urges closing the R&I cycle by giving stronger support to basic research in there, thus becoming equivalent to applied research, demonstration and innovation actions.

EPSO appreciates increasing transparency and simplification, particularly a more concrete, simplified approach regarding the budgetary responsibility to truly encourage and enable interdisciplinary projects across intervention areas and clusters to address the UN SDGs and achieve co-benefits. Examples EPSO suggests are concepts like ‘diverse crops for diverse diets and human health and resilient production’, as well as ‘combined approaches on crop improvement, crop management and crop processing’.

As challenges and science are global, EPSO welcomes further improving international cooperation.

Fostering synergies with other EU spending programmes, particularly allowing accumulation of funds from different programmes in one project is most appreciated by scientists and can help to widen participation.

Finally, EPSO encourages the EC to ease access and outreach, as outreach and stakeholder engagement are key to public appreciation and support of the R&I efforts we undertake. EPSO is happy to discuss our experience with stakeholder engagement, arts & science, and the Fascination of Plants Day with the EC to truly enable scientists to better engage with the public throughout the R&I process.

 We provide further insight on how these concepts can benefit the implementation of the strategy and on how plant scientists can contribute to this in the Annex of the full statement.

Click here to read: Full EPSO statement 3.6.2020

Contacts:

  • Karin Metzlaff, EPSO, BE
  • Alan Schulman, LUKE, FI & EPSO President

EPSO welcomes the EC Farm to Fork Strategy and offers to collaborate with the European Commission, the Member States and stakeholders to implement it.

EPSO appreciates that the strategy links Food and Nutritional Security, environmental sustainability and human health. EPSO urges to apply this approach across the strategy as a whole.

Concepts like diverse crops for diverse diets and human and resilient production, as well as combined approaches on crop improvement, crop management and crop processing, will enable interdisciplinary approaches with co-benefits in Europe and beyond.

EC rightly defines the goals and should lead the process to achieve these – based on open and transparent approaches raging from research to innovation, public procurement to legislation.

 We provide further insight on how these concepts can benefit the implementation of the strategy and how plant scientists can contribute to this in the Annex of the full statement.

Click here to read: Full EPSO statement 2.6.2020

Contacts:

  • Karin Metzlaff, EPSO, BE
  • Alan Schulman, LUKE, FI & EPSO President
  • Angelo Santino, CNR, IT & EPSO NS WG chair

The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) committee of Senior Officials has approved the funding of 45 new COST actions on 24 March 2020. They are expected to start in the late Summer and Autumn of 2020. All scientists are welcomed to participate through the management committee or getting involved in a working group of a COST Action.

COST actions potentially relevant for EPSO members are e.g.:

  • CA19110: Plasma applications for smart and sustainable agriculture

The main aim of this COST Action is to investigate the potential of low temperature plasmas (cold plasmas), as a green alternative to conventional chemicals in agriculture to improve yields, increase size and robustness of plants and to reduce (or eliminate) the need for antifungal agents.

  • CA19116: Trace metal metabolism in plants

For environmental risk assessment and remediation, as well as improved agriculture (targeted fertilisation  and  breeding),  the  mechanisms  of  TM  uptake,  distribution,  speciation, physiological  use,  deficiency,  toxicity  and  detoxification  need  to  be  better  understood. PLANTMETALS  aims  at  elucidating  them  by  the  combined  expertise of  researchers (physiologists,  (bio)physicists,  (bio)(geo)chemists,  molecular geneticists,  ecologists, agronomists and soil scientists). It furthermore aims at making this knowledge applicable to the needs of farmers and consumers, with input from companies for translating laboratory results into applied products.

  • CA19125: EPIgenetic mechanisms of Crop Adaptation To Climate change

EPIgenetic mechanisms of Crop Adaptation to Climate changeSUMMARY. The ultimate objective of this proposed COST action is to define, develop, generate and share new breaking knowledge and methodology for the investigation of epigenetic mechanisms modulating plant adaptation to environmental stresses driven by climate change. No international network has been still created with the aim of standardizing methodology in plant epigenetics/epigenomics and better integrate these data with other “omic” approaches. EPI-CATCH will create a pan-European framework for networking in this under-investigated research field.

  • CA19128: Pan-European Network for Climate Adaptive Forest Restoration and Reforestation

Thus there is an urgent need to broaden the experience on climate adaptive forest restoration and reforestation (CAFoRR). Underlying these urgent need, the developing bioeconomy will sharply increase the demand for  forest  products.  The  PEN-CAFoRR  network  of  experts  from  Europe  and  beyond  will respond  to  these  challenges  by  addressing  the  entire  cycle  of  forest  restoration  and reforestation in different ecosystems, by broadening the dissemination of knowledge, and by facilitating  an  increased  scale  of  planning  and  implementation of  CAFoRR  programs.

Source : EU Research, 20.05.2020 and COST,25.03.2020