Conference on genome editing for food safety and crop improvement
DATE: 13–14 October 2022
13:45-14:15 Welcome and Introduction
Eva ZAŽÍMALOVÁ, President of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
Veronika VRECIONOVÁ, Member of the European Parliament, Czech Republic
Karel BLÁHA, Director of the Department of Environmental Risks and Environmental Damage of the Ministry of the Environment, Czech Republic
Dirk INZÉ, Coordinator of the EU-SAGE network, Belgium, Gene editing for crop improvement: the quest for a science based policy making
14:45-15:50 Session I. The science behind genome editing of plants
Jaroslav DOLEŽEL, Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic, Leveraging Mother Nature’s inventions to breed custom-designed crops
Aleš PEČINKA, Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic, New genomic techniques − Scientific discovery of the century
Oana DIMA, EU-SAGE, Belgium, European Sustainable Agriculture Through Genome Editing − The role of scientists in policy making
15:50-16:20 Coffee break
16:20-17:50 Session II. The potential of genome editing to address the sustainibility
René CUSTERS, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie, Belgium, Regulatory conditions necessary to unlock the genome editing potential
Petra JORASCH, Euroseeds, Belgium, How plant breeding innovation can help reconciling sustainability with agricultural productivity
Dennis ERIKSSON (online), INN University, Norway, GeneBEcon − Capturing the potential of gene editing for a sustainable bioeconomy
Irene Sacristán SÁNCHEZ (online), DG Health and Food Safety, European Commission, Belgium, Policy initiative on plants obtained by certain new genomic techniques − Sustainability aspects
17:50-18:00 Closing remarks
David HONYS, Member of the Academy Council, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
Session I. The science behind genome editing of plants
Session I provides the scientific background of new genomic techniques in plants and their application in agricultural crops of the next generation. The key features of this innovative approach will be explained and put in context with the whole range of breeding techniques. In particular, new genomic techniques will be compared with and opposed to the traditional mutagenesis that results in genetically modified plants. Finally, the role of scientists across Europe in providing the necessary knowledge and their active contribution to the evolving policy environment will be evaluated.
Session II. The potential of genome editing to address the sustainbilitysustainability
Session II will go beyond the scientific aspects of the use of new genomic techniques by addressing the important issue of sustainability based on continuous development of resilient, high-yielding crop lines with the appropriate nutritional value under constantly and rapidly changing environmental conditions. In this respect, the innovation potential of new genomic techniques can only be fully exploited by combination of technological, economic, social, and regulatory drivers working together and by steady evaluation of their benefits and risks that should include also the stakeholders. There, an industry perspective on how the plant breeding sector could implement the innovations brought by new genomic techniques is critical.
9:00-9:10 Welcome and Introduction
9:10-10:50 Session III. Potential impact of genome-edited crop cultivation and use in Europe
Kai PURNHAGEN, University of Bayreuth, Germany, Regulating NGT in the EU
Herbert DORFMANN, Member of the European Parliament, Italy, The ongoing political discussion on NGTs at EU-level
Gregory JAFFE, Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA, Securing Societal Benefits from Gene Editing
Martin LEMA, Quilmes National University, Argentina, Experience from Argentina and LATAM countries
Gwen SWINNEN, GeneSprout Initiative, Switzerland, GeneSprout Initiative – A young plant scientist initiative for open dialogue on genome editing
10:50-11:20 Coffee break
11:20-13:20 Session IV. Societal aspect and communication about plant breeding innovations
Michaela ŠOJDROVÁ, Member of the European Parliament, Czech Republic, The importance of public communication on NGTs
Christian KAISER, Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences, Germany, Science communication at the crossroads − Discussing plant breeding from knowledge to values
Svenja AUGUSTIN, Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences, Germany, Key experiences from communicating the benefits of genome editing to German politicians
Jitka GÖTZOVÁ, Ministry of Agriculture, Czech Republic, Safety of Agri-Food Chain & Innovation
Georges FREYSSINET, Association Française des Biotechnologies Végétales, France, Enabling genome editing to make European agriculture more sustainable
Andrzej NOWAK, Re-Imagine Europa, Poland, Task Force on Sustainable Agriculture and Innovation of Re-Imagine Europa
13:20-13:30 Closing remarks / Outlook
Tom VANDENKENDELAERE, Member of the European Parliament, Belgium
Session III. Potential impact of genome-edited crop cultivation and use in Europe
The current EU legislation, unlike many other countries and regions, subjects the crops obtained by using new genomic techniques under strict GMO regulations. To change this approach, discussion about the regulation of these innovative techniques was not only initiated but gradually has been taken to a prominence by policy makers. Such discussion cannot include only scientific view and evidence but should also involve the whole society, and there, transparency, and societal engagement to achieve the necessary social license is necessary. In this perspective, the experience from two non-european countries, USA and Argentina, is interesting and enriching.
Session IV. Societal aspect and communication about plant breeding innovations
The broader societal aspects initiated in the previous session will be further discussed in more detail in the last Session IV. with trustful, open and knowledge-based discussion and scientific communication among policy makers, stakeholders and general public being of critical importance. This is particularly challenging in the environment of often polarized debates bringing together partners with different, often even opposite opinions and interests. Overcoming these challenges should be our target and all involved parties are required to carefully evaluate the advantages and limitations of the use of new genomic techniques within the framework of the sustainable agricultural and food production.
The conference will be livestreamed on YouTube:
First day of the conference (13 October 2022)
Second day of the conference (14 October 2022)
Based on the initiative of MEP Michaela Šojdrová, a thematically related accompanying study entitled Genome-edited Crops: A European perspective was created. Its concrete form arose from the cooperation of EU-SAGE and a group of leading Czech experts on the given issue. The study reflects the outcome of the discussion on how to mitigate the impact of climate change on our agriculture, ensure food security and support the competitiveness of European farmers.
Should you have any questions or would like to contact the organiser, please, do not hesitate to do so via the contacts below.
Official conference e-mail: email@example.com
of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Mgr. Kateřina Cagalová
Department of Protocol
Centre of Administration and Operations
of the Czech Academy of Sciences
+420 703 177 877
Food safety, new genomic techniques, CRISPR
The first research area, food safety and the use of new genome-editing techniques in plant breeding, responds to the anticipated challenges of food shortages and climate change. “At the same time, it builds on recent discoveries in molecular genetics that have led to advances in targeted genome editing of agricultural crops,” adds Jaroslav Doležel from the Institute of Experimental Botany of the CAS, coordinator of the CAS Strategy AV21 Foods for the Future research programme.
For a long time, European researchers have been calling for the EU to allow the option of using new methods of crop cultivation via CRISPR technology. According to Jaroslav Doležel, these ground-breaking genome-editing methods are well-researched and safe: “Given their simplicity, targeting, precision, relatively low cost, and flexibility, they represent a highly desirable and necessary tool in light of the expanding range of challenges facing the EU agricultural sector.”
In the past, the Czech Academy of Sciences also issued an expert opinion on this topic intended for legislators, entitled “Genetic Modification of Crops” (downloadable as PDF – Czech only). The topic is debated within the framework of the Academy's Strategy AV21 as part of the Foods for the Future research programme.
Will the EU greenlight new plant-breeding techniques?
David Honys, Member of the Academy Council of the CAS, answers below.
The Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) will focus on three thematic areas during the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU. What activities are you planning as part of the research area you are coordinating?
Our main activity will be the symposium “Conference on genome editing for food safety and crop improvement”. The initiative fits into the current, more or less coordinated efforts of researchers and politicians to change the stance towards the use of crops obtained by targeted genome-editing methods, during which no foreign genetic information is introduced into the final product. We’re organising the conference in cooperation with the EU-SAGE initiative – one of the key players in informing European political elites in this area. The current overly rigid attitude towards genome-edited crops and food production is causing an ever-increasing lag behind the rest of the developed world. I believe that the joint efforts of the CAS and EU-SAGE will help change public perception of this issue. However, accomplishing this won’t be quick or easy.
The fields of research presented are also the ones which CAS institutes are involved in via the CAS Strategy AV21 research programmes. Is the choice of topics deliberate, not least in order to give them more visibility and to acquire additional forms of support, including funding?
I do not believe this to be the main criterion or goal. I consider the reasons I have described above – the urgency and topicality of the topics of focus – to be key. However, their connection to the Strategy AV21 is a positive element. Moreover, it proves that the CAS is addressing fundamental challenges that are current for today’s society.
How do you assess the scientific footprint of the Czech Republic in Europe today? How has our membership in the EU helped us in this respect?
The footprint of Czech science, but also that of the Czech Academy of Sciences as an institution, is certainly not negligible in the European Research Area, though it always could (and should) be more significant. However, we have to realize that there are still often considerable differences between the various research fields. In this respect, we cannot evaluate our membership in any other way than positively. Without intensive contact with European colleagues and without the support of the EU, the advances of Czech science would have been much slower.
Will it be more difficult in the coming months and years to promote research priorities on a pan-European scale? Or could this be, conversely, an opportunity to convince politicians to invest more resources in science and research?
The complex societal developments of recent years, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, have shown the importance of scientific research and the rapid application of its results. This has also revealed the dangers of too one-sided orientation of energy resources and other aspects important for a sustainable functioning of European society. It is precisely the increasing energy and agricultural self-sufficiency of Europe and the associated changes in systematic structures that comprise a major goal for the European scientific community. I believe that it will not only attract the interest of politicians in our results but will also increase willingness to invest more in obtaining them.