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EurekAlert: 'Plants for the future': A European vision for plant biotechnology t
Posted by: DR. RAUPP & madora (IP Logged)
Date: June 29, 2004 01:51PM Manfred G.Raupp;

Today, the "Plants for the Future" European Technology Platform on plant
genomics and biotechnology, launches a new era for plant biotechnology in
Europe. This long term vision for 2025 has been created by leading
representatives from research (such as EPSO, the European Plant Science
Organisation), the food and biotech industry (such as EuropaBio, CIAA,
ESA), the farming community (such as COPA/COGECA) and consumer
organisations (BEUC). The vision document has been presented to European
Commissioner Busquin.

"Our society faces tremendous challenges in the coming decades. There will
be an increased demand for healthier, higher quality and more diverse
food. The need for animal feed will grow. Agricultural production needs to
become more environmentally friendly: maintaining productivity while
reducing inputs including water, pesticides, fertilisers, energy. The
issue of economical sustainability will necessitate the development of
novel biomaterials, bioenergy and renewable resources. Agriculture will
also face consequences of climatic changes causing drought and spread of
diseases to new areas of Europe and beyond. It is imperative that we
enable developing countries to achieve self-sufficiency and become more
competitive and, together with North America, to contribute to meeting the
growing global food demands," says Marc Zabeau, chair of EPSO.

These immense challenges can be met by prioritizing basic and applied
research goals that are tailored to the needs of European society and the
agriculture and the food industries. The expertise and capabilities of
European plant scientists also need to be effectively harnessed to
generate a more profound understanding of plant biology. Together this new
set of capabilities and priorities will enable key characteristics such as
improved quality and nutrition, sustainable production, safe co-existence,
and improved yield, harvestability, processability and environmental
stability to be created, Novel public- private partnerships will also need
to be created to develop these products and bring them to market.

"EPSO and EuropaBio will develop this Technology Platform in the framework
of an EU supported project that started on 1st June 2004. We aim to
broaden the stakeholder forum, to articulate the Long Term Strategic
Research Agenda 2025 and the Action Plan 2010 and discuss these with
member states," says Karin Metzlaff, Director of EPSO. "These activities
are also a key step towards implementing a long-term research policy for
Europe at European, national and regional levels."

EPSO hopes that this initiative will attract young talented researchers
and entrepreneurs as well as public and private funding into this sector
of science and industry to the benefit of science and society in Europe
and beyond.

For further information, contact:
Karin Metzlaff

Marc Zabeau

Mike Bevan

About EPSO: []

1. Background information:

At the initiative of the European Commission, leading representatives from
the food and biotech industry, research, farming community and consumers'
organisations developed a long-term strategy for European plant
biotechnology towards 2025. The outcome is a vision paper on "Plants for
the future" which will be presented on 24 June 2004 in Brussels. The 2025
vision paper will form the basis for establishing a technology platform on
plant biotechnology in co-operation with all stakeholders.

"European researchers and small companies have pioneered the development
of modern plant biotechnology" said European Research Commissioner
Philippe Busquin. "In recent years, however, European investment in plant
genomics and biotechnology has stalled, partly as a result of a lack of
communication to the public of the potential benefits of this technology.
Defining and implementing a proper regulatory framework has also taken its
time. Since this framework is now largely in place we urgently need to
take action to reverse the exodus of European researchers and companies
and to strengthen the European knowledge base in this area to maintain
competitiveness of European agro-food and related industries".

A Green Economy

The vision paper stresses the huge economic importance of plants and plant
derived products in Europe in terms of turnover and employment of related

There are nearly 7 million farms, with an average size of 18.4 hectares
and employing nearly 15 million people, in the 15 older EU Member States
(EU15). With enlargement, the number of farms has more than doubled to 17
million, and the proportion of farmers in the workforce has grown from
around 4% (EU15) to nearly 8% (EU25). Livestock production in Europe
consumes 400 million tonnes of feed, including grazing land, of which 90%
is produced in Europe. The EU25 food and drink is the leading EU
industrial sector with close to
700 billion annual turnover and employing about 3 million Europeans. The
European seed market, worth 8.4 billion annually, is the largest regional
market (30% of the global market)/ European forestry and its related
industries employ more than 3.5 million people with an annual turnover of
over 200 billion. Europe currently accounts for only 10% of the
fast-growing markets for crop-derived fibres and raw materials, which
increased globally from 50.9 to 70 million tons over the past five years.
"Advances in plant biotechnology research will have a strong impact both
on the future competitiveness and the sustainability of these important
European industries" said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin.

Towards a sustainable European agriculture and knowledge-based bio-economy

The "Plants for the future" vision paper not only stresses the economic
importance of plants and plant derived products, but also outlines
important challenges at European and global levels that calls for renewed
attention to plants:

A growing world population coupled to an increasing demand for a high
quality, safe and diverse food supply, and the need to ensure this demand
is met in a sustainable manner under the constraints of limited
availability of land, of climate change and seasonal instabilities. The
limited availability of fossil resources and its negative impact on
climate and human health which calls for a replacement of fossil-fuel
based non-renewable products with bio-products from renewable plant
resources. "The transition to a sustainable knowledge based bio-economy
utilising renewable plant resources for both food and non-food products is
as inevitable as it is desirable", said European Research Commissioner
Philippe Busquin.

The vision paper highlights the important role of scientific and
technological progress in plant biotechnology and genomics in achieving
this transition, in particular the need to create a new generation of crop
plants that are more drought resistant and stress tolerant, and crops with
the potential for increased productivity, with reduced inputs as
fertilisers, pesticides and water, to ensure long-term sustainability.

An ambitious research agenda

Research into plant genomics handled with appropriate caution and public
support can result in major benefits over the coming decades. Through
well-targeted basic research into plant genomics and its biotechnological
applications, we believe it is possible to:

Secure a healthy, high quality food/feed supply
Improve plant yield potential and security
Increase the amount of useful plant matter
Improve biodiversity in the farmed landscape
Improve the genetic diversity of crop plants
Reduce the environmental impact of agriculture
Enhance crop monitoring
Improve crop co-existence
Develop renewable materials
Develop more efficient bio-fuels
Roadmap and milestones

The Plants for the Future platform should promote basic research in the
field of plant genomics and biotechnology. It should focus on EU-grown
crops, develop applied research programmes in the agro-food domain, and
launch novel product-oriented R&D projects. We recommend the following
research milestones on the road map to improve the sector:

Short and medium-term (to 2015)

Create integrated programmes in basic plant science with a European
dimension to support long-term strategic goals.
Initiate coherent basic plant genomics research programmes for the major
EU-grown crops: cereals, grain legumes, solanaceous species, major
oil-producing plants, and fruit and wood-producing trees Launch research
programmes aimed at exploiting the knowledge flowing from plant genomics
and biotechnology to improve the sustainability of production,
co-existence, yield, harvestability, storability and processability of the
major EU-grown crops Develop research programmes focused on improving the
nutritional contents of food and feed crops Promote public/private
partnerships to explore the development of novel agricultural, food,
energy and biomaterials products In the medium and long-term (to 2025)

Establish a comprehensive genomics knowledge base for all economically and
strategically important crops grown in the EU and their related genetic
resources Develop enhanced phenotyping tools and modelling methods for
exploiting the genetic diversity of important EU crops Promote
public/private partnerships to develop superior crop varieties which meet
the requirements for sustainable production in an environmentally friendly
manner, while satisfying consumer preference for healthy and safe food
Form collaborative programmes with developing countries on crop genomics
to promote self-sufficiency, greater sustainability and competitiveness.
Europe's strategic priorities

The stakeholders involved in drawing up the vision paper have identified
three major strategic priorities for Europe:

Produce better quality, healthy, affordable, diverse food offering
consumers in and beyond Europe new options to improve their quality of
life. Bring about environmental and agricultural sustainability, including
the production of biomaterials, bio-energy and renewable resources.
Enhance the competitiveness of European agriculture, industry and forestry
by establishing integrated basic research projects at a European scale, to
create the foundations for future prosperity. The stakeholders call for
the development and implementation of an ambitious and detailed strategic
research agenda in co-operation with policy makers at EU, national and
regional level and other interested parties. Cornerstones of this research
agenda are a better understanding of plant metabolism, improved genetic
diversity of crop plants, improved co-existence and the development of
renewable biomaterials and more efficient bio-fuels.

"Towards a European technology platform for plant biotechnology"

"The "Plants for the future" vision is very much in line with the EU's
objectives of becoming the most competitive and sustainable
knowledge-based economy by 2010" said Commissioner Busquin. "The March
2003 European Council explicitly called for the strengthening of the
European research and innovation area to the benefit of all in an enlarged
Europe by creating technology platforms bringing together all relevant
stakeholders to develop a strategic agenda for leading technologies, among
them plant genomics. This vision paper is an early milestone towards
realising this recommendation."

Stakeholders, policy makers at all levels and other interested parties are
invited to participate in the advisory council and working groups of the
platform, which will become fully operational in the second half of 2004
and which will be supported by a joint secretariat of EPSO, EuropaBio and
the European Commission.

The mandate of the technology platform and its working groups will be to
develop a coherent strategic research agenda and detailed action, which is
expected to be available by the end of 2004.

2. Signatories (stakeholders and high level personalities) supporting the
vision are: (ask the secretariat at 32-9-331-3810 for phone numbers).

Philippe BUSQUIN, EU Research Commissioner
Feike SIJBESMA, President of EuropaBio, DSM board member
Marc ZABEAU, President European Plant Science Organisation, EPSO
Jim MURRAY, Director BEUC
Mohamed H.A. HASSAN, Executive Director of the Third World Academy of
Sciences Federico MAYOR, former Director-General of UNESCO, Autonomous
University of Madrid, President of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace,
ES Jean MARTIN, President of CIAA Eggert VOSCHERAU, President of Cefic,
Vice-chair of the board BASF Jochen WULFF, former CEO of Bayer CropScience
Pierre PAGESSE, Presidium Member of COGECA President of Limagrain (FR)
Ricardo SERRA ARIAS, Vice-President of COPA, Vice-President of ASAJA (ES)
Sten MOBERG, President European Seed Association, CEO Svalöf Weibull Seed
Group (SE) Andrzej LEGOCKI, President of the Academy of Sciences, Poland
Richard B. FLAVELL, CSO of Ceres (USA), former Director of John Innes
Centre (UK) Christiane NÜSSLEIN-VOLHARD, German Nobel Prize laureate Peter
GRUSS, President Max Planck Society, DE Tim HUNT, UK Nobel Prize laureate
Julia GOODFELLOW, CEO BBSRC, UK Marion GUILLOU, Director-General of INRA,
FR Peter FOLSTAR, Director of the Netherlands Genomics Initiative, NL &
Coordinator of ERA-NET Plant Genomics

3. The members of the drafting group of the vision are: (ask the
secretariat at 32-9-331-3810 for phone numbers).

Simon Barber (EuropaBio)
Indridi Benediktsson (European Commission)
Simon Bright (Syngenta, UK)
Michel Caboche (INRA, FR)
Bernard Convent (Bayer, BE)
Dick Flavell (Ceres, US)
Hans Kast (BASF, DE)
Beate Kettlitz (BEUC)
Waldemar Kütt (European Commission)
Markwart Kunz (Südzucker, DE)
Chris Lamb (JIC, UK)
Etienne Magnien (European Commission)
Karin Metzlaff (EPSO)
Jim Murray (BEUC)
Christian Patermann (European Commission)
Vincent Pétiard (Nestle, FR/CIAA)
Christophe Roturier (ARVALIS, FR)
Joachim Schiemann (Federal Biological Research Centre, DE)
Ralf-Michael Schmidt (BASF, DE)
Lothar Willmitzer (MPIMP, DE)
Frank Wolter (ESA, DE)
Marc Zabeau (VIB, BE)

4. Web sites:

The text of the vision paper will be available on the following websites
from 12pm 24th June on:

EPSO: []
EuropaBio: []
For the biotechnology action plan and progress reports of the European
Commission please see: [] and press
release (IP/04/531 of 23 April 2004).

For the thematic priority on "food quality and safety" in the Sixth
Framework Programme (FP6) see also: [].
For the thematic priority on "life sciences, genomics and biotechnology
for health" in FP6 see also: [].


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