Frank Hartung, Ralf Wilhelm & Jens Sundstrom


This WG considers how the science that our members are producing may have an impact on agriculture. Agriculture will have to meet important demands in the near future. The production of sufficient, safe and healthy food for an increasing human population is a huge challenge. But this production also has to meet the need for a reduced impact of agriculture in a changing environment.

Everyone working in plant biology is aware of the significant advances in our knowledge of plant development, interactions of plants with other organisms — particularly pathogens, and the control of metabolic pathways. New methodologies are being developed to study plants both at molecular and cellular levels and as whole organisms or populations in the field. We are convinced that these methods and the information that we are obtaining from them will have, sooner or later, significant effects on agriculture. Agriculture has always been based on the best technologies available at a given moment. Plants were among the first species selected for the studies that led to the birth of genetics and during the last century plant breeding provided the basis for the present levels of food production. A number of technologies are already having an impact in plant breeding:

  • Molecular markers are already being used routinely for many crop species by public and private breeders.
  • Sequences of the main cultivated plants are becoming available and resequencing of varieties is being used to obtain collections of polymorphic sequences that allow massive genotyping and the discovery and use of complex genetic characters.
  • Knowledge of pathways that control metabolism and development and generate resistance to pathogens is providing genes that may be useful to produce new variability through transformation.
  • Methods for phenotyping are also being developed based on image analysis. They may become useful to follow the state of crops in the field helping farmers to take decisions.

The recent progress in genome editing allows the efficient and precise modification of genes in almost all plant species.

By introducing the genetic information for new metabolic pathways into nuclear and chloroplast genomes plants can be explored as production platform for a wide range of new products.

Next to this, increasing awareness and providing an actual overview and access to Risk Assessment (RA) and Regulatory Issues (RI) of new agricultural technologies, including genetic engineering and genome editing, also belongs to the activities of the WoGr. RA and RI influence the daily work and lives of researchers involved in developing and exploring new biotechnologies. The group aims to address this significant area, directly related to research and placing on the market. Main tasks arez to: increase awareness of RA and RI amongst EPSO members, provide an actual overview on and access to RA and RI documents for EPSO members, and flag up necessary actions.


This WG meets twice a year. The most recent meeting was held in March 2020. The current issues are: positions on Crop Genetic Improvement Technologies, New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBT), the implementation of the Nagoya protocol at national level, advice on Synthetic Biology, plant breeders rights and patent rights. The group continues to provide science advice to policy on NPBTs to the European Commission and via its members to national level.

EPSO news developed by this WG:

Relevant news from other sources:

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Eva-Mari Aro, Turku Univ., FI

Alexandra Baekelandt, VIB, BE

Sylvain Bischof, UZH, CH

Gintaras Brazauskas, LAMMC, LT

Ralph Bock, MPIMP Golm, DE

Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, Aarhus University, DK

Elena Caro, CBGP (UPM-INIA), ES

Josep Casacuberta, CSIC-CRAG, ES

Aldo Ceriotti, CNR, IT

Pedro Crevillen CBGP (UPM-INIA), ES

René Custers, VIB, BE

Roberto Defez, CNR, IT

Jordi Garcia Mas, CRAG, ES

Josef Gloessl, BoKu, AT

Andreas Graner, IPK, DE

Wilhelm Gruissem, ETH Zurich, CH

Claire Halpin, Hutton, UK

Frank Hartung, JKI, DE

Ingo Hein, Hutton, UK

Per Hofvander, SLU, SE

Thomas Jacobs, VIB, BE

Huw Jones, IBERS UK

Jonathan Jones, TSL, UK

Sophien Kamoun, TSL, UK

Solveig Krogh Christiansen, Copenhagen University, DK

Margit Laimer, BoKu, AT

Elspeth MacRae, Scion, NZ

Karin Metzlaff, EPSO

Heiko Mibus-Schoppe, Geisenheim University, DE

Michele Morgante, Università degli Studi di Udine, IT

Moritz Nowack, VIB, BE

Margarida Oliveira, ITQB, PT

Vitantonio Pantaleo, CNR, IT

Pere Puigdomenech, CRAG, ES

Francesco Paolocci, CNR, IT

Anneli Ritala-Nurmi, VTT, FI

Peter Rogowsky, INRA, FR

Joerg Romeis, Agroscope, CH

Cecilia Sarmiento, Talin Univ., EE

Joachim Schiemann, JKI, DE

Helga Schinkel, Fraunhofer IME, DE

Andrea Schubert, Università degli Studi di Torino, IT

Meredith Schuman, University Zurich, CH

Rene Smulders, WUR, NL

Uli Schurr, Research Center Julich, DE

George Skaracis, Agricultural University of Athens, GR

Sjef Smeekens, Ultrecht University, NL

Thorben Sprink, JKI, DE

Eva Stoger, BoKu, AT

Jens Sundstroem, SLU, SE

Tage Thorstensen, NIBIO, NO

Erkki Truve, EE

Tomas Vanek, CAS, CZ

Richard Visser, WUR, NL

Michelle Watt, University Melbourne, AUT

Ralf Wilhelm, JKI, DE

Li-Hua Zhu, SLU Alnarp, SE


Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, Aarhus Univ, DK

Matthias Fladung, Thuenen Inst, DE

Johnathan Napier, Rothamsted, UK

Solveig Krogh Christiansen, Copenhagen Univ, DK