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How art and science are helping chicory

AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE NEW CHIC PROJECT. BY: MARCEL BRUINS

Root chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) is an under-utilized crop. It is currently used for the commercial production of inulin, which is added to many food products as a dietary fibre and sweetener.

The CHIC project aims to develop chicory varieties that can be used to produce dietary fibre with enhanced prebiotic effects to promote gut health. At the same time, given its biosynthetic capacity, high yields and low agronomic requirements, chicory has significant potential as a versatile production host in molecular farming for the production of many additional health-related products with benefits for consumers. CHIC also aims to harness this potential for the extraction of other types of health-related compounds such as terpenes as potential lead molecules for drug development. To achieve this, new chicory varieties must be developed. However, chicory breeding is currently exceptionally time-consuming. Since it is an obligatory outcrossing species, no true varieties can be obtained, and germplasm is maintained by in vitro propagation. Macarena Sanz, project coordinator – CHIC Dissemination and Communication Manager, says CHIC aims at developing chicory varieties as a crop to increase the diversity and sustainability of agricultural production while serving consumer needs. These varieties will require less agrochemical and shall produce improved dietary fibres and medical compounds.

“CHIC also aims to facilitate a transparent discussion and create awareness about new plant breeding techniques (NPBT) such as CRISPR,” she says. “We will compare their efficacy, potential risk, evaluate socio-economic consequences and develop business plans for commercialization.”

Why was chicory chosen for this project over other crops? The idea of the European Commission was to address minor utilised non-food crops that produce interesting compounds and have potential for molecular farming. Chicory is just like that – it is a crop that grows in the north of Europe, predominantly in France, The Netherlands and Belgium. It is already used for the commercial production of inulin and the processing pipeline is in place. Chicory can become a multipurpose crop, since it also produces interesting terpenes. The project plans on using new plant breeding techniques.

However, the ECJ recently ruled that such techniques should be regulated, as GMOs. Isn’t that a drawback for the project? Sanz says this shows the importance of projects like this, and perhaps they are needed now more than ever. By using NPBT, CHIC will develop chicory plants with consumer benefits. They will assess the products as well as the methods used, their safety and their possible socio- and economic impact. “We will do this by enhancing interactions and open communication with stakeholders, including the public. In doing so, we aim to boost awareness and take into consideration all the needs and concerns we will detect during the whole length and development of the project.”

PUBLIC AWARENESS

Sanz says in their project, they will reach out to the public by engaging them with several activities. A solid publication strategy will be developed and  implemented, which will allow them to disseminate publishable data to researchers by using traditional channels (such as symposia, journals, presentations at conferences etc.) and to engage with key stakeholders. Communication with stakeholders and the general public will be crucial, since their objective is to increase public awareness and appreciation of NPBTs to generate valuable natural products – this is particularly relevant in case of potential consumers and new products. Training activities aimed at school children and households will be organised allowing researchers and interested stakeholders to gain knowledge and skills in the NPBTs relevant to the project. “To this purpose, we will organise four CHIC days in different European schools for teenagers (age 14 – 16) to educate them about ‘hot topics’ such as new plant breeding techniques,” she says. “Moreover, the educational material will be designed for teenagers and disseminated through smartphones/tablet application. This will include demos and games to explain in an education, visual and interactive way the relevance of these topics, such as the positive impact of NPBTs, GMOs on human health and increasing food demands.” In addition, Sanz says they will have an active presence on social media channels and organise initiatives to involve artists, since art is an effective ´language´ when it comes to transmit knowledge, values and stronger connection with the audience. “Both science and art are human attempts to understand and describe the world around us. Art can not only provide the audience with information, but also elicit visceral, emotional responses and engage the imagination in ways that prompt action and a positive attitude towards such complex topics that could be hard to explain with words and scientific notions,” she states. “For these reasons, involving artists in the project could attract a broader audience, such as people that would otherwise not be interested in science developments, since it´s a more evocative and effective way of communicating.”

IMPACT AND SUSTAINABILITY

Within the CHIC project, a socio-economic and an environmental assessment will be performed. Regarding socio-economic impacts, there will be assessments on how different NPBTs will influence economic and social indicators such as GDP (Gross Domestic Product), production volume, growth, competitiveness, and employment as well as the distribution of wealth and income between different sectors and regions within the EU. The assessment of environmental issues will be done with the methodology of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) which is an established method of environmental assessment providing information about environmental aspects over the whole life cycle. The LCA will be performed on the NPBTs and based on the whole value chain from breeding, cultivation, harvesting, processing to the final products (inulin and terpenes). The most relevant environmental aspects and parameters (e.g. GHG emissions, primary energy consumption, land use aspects, water issues) with their influencing factors will be identified and compared to a conventional reference system.

Of Note:

• The private sector are partners in the project. Stakeholders from the private sector will be involved throughout the project (e.g. farmers, processors, food companies etc).

• The outcome can be translated to other crops.

• CRISPR is the main technique that will be used. We will use different variants and see which ones best fit chicory.

 

Link to the magazine and the article: https://european-seed.com/docs/books/volume-6/issue-1/?page=26

 

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How Art and Science are Helping Chicory: An Inside Look at the New CHIC Project

Posted on February 21st, 2019 by Marcel Bruins

Among the various projects which are supported through the EU Horizon 2020 funding programme is the CHIC research and innovation project. It plans to establish a responsible innovation pathway for developing and using New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBTs) for chicory as a multipurpose crop for the production of inulin and terpenes.

Root chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) is an under-utilized crop. It is currently used for the commercial production of inulin, which is added to many food products as a dietary fibre and sweetener. The CHIC project aims to develop chicory varieties that can be used to produce dietary fibre with enhanced prebiotic effects to promote gut health. At the same time, given its biosynthetic capacity, high yields and low agronomic requirements, chicory has significant potential as a versatile production host in molecular farming for the production of many additional health-related products with benefits for consumers. CHIC also aims to harness this potential for the extraction of other types of health-related compounds such as terpenes as potential lead molecules for drug development. To achieve this, new chicory varieties must be developed. However, chicory breeding is currently exceptionally time-consuming. Since it is an obligatory outcrossing species, no true varieties can be obtained, and germplasm is maintained by in vitro propagation. European Seed sat down with project coordinator Macarena Sanz, CHIC Dissemination and Communication Manager.

European Seed (ES): Macarena, can you tell me a bit more about the CHIC project?

Macarena Sanz (MS): CHIC aims at developing chicory varieties as a crop to increase the diversity and sustainability of agricultural production while serving consumer needs. These varieties will require less agrochemical and shall produce improved dietary fibres and medical compounds. CHIC also aims to facilitate a transparent discussion and create awareness about new plant breeding techniques (NPBT) such as CRISPR. We will compare their efficacy, potential risk, evaluate socio-economic consequences and develop business plans for commercialization.

ES: Why was chicory chosen for this project over other crops?

MS: The idea of the European Commission was to address minor utilised non-food crops that produce interesting compounds and have potential for molecular farming. Chicory is just like that – it is a crop that grows in the north of Europe, predominantly in France, The Netherlands and Belgium. It is already used for the commercial production of inulin and the processing pipeline is in place. Chicory can become a multipurpose crop, since it also produces interesting terpenes.

ES: The project plans on using new plant breeding techniques. However, the ECJ recently ruled that such techniques should be regulated as GMO’s. Isn’t that a drawback for the project?

MS: This shows the importance of projects like this, and perhaps they are needed now more than ever. By using NPBT, CHIC will develop chicory plants with consumer benefits. We will assess the products as well as the methods used, their safety and their possible socio- and economic impact. We will do this by enhancing interactions and open communication with stakeholders, including the public. In doing so, we aim to boost awareness and take into consideration all the needs and concerns we will detect during the whole length and development of the project.

ES: Will the CHIC project be using mainly techniques based on CRISPR-Cas, or also using other techniques?

MS: Yes, CRISPR is the main technique that will be used. We will use different variants and see which ones best fit chicory.

ES: How are you planning to raise awareness and improve the interaction with the public?

MS: In our project we will reach out to the public by engaging them with several activities. We will develop and implement a solid publication strategy which will allow us to disseminate publishable data to researchers by using traditional channels (such as symposia, journals, presentations at conferences etc.) and to engage with key stakeholders. Communication with stakeholders and the general public will be crucial, since our objective is to increase public awareness and appreciation of NPBTs to generate valuable natural products – this is particularly relevant in case of potential consumers and new products. Training activities aimed at school children and households will be organised allowing researchers and interested stakeholders to gain knowledge and skills in the NPBTs relevant to the project. To this purpose, we will organise four CHIC days in different European schools for teenagers (age 14 – 16) to educate them about “hot topics” such as new plant breeding techniques. Moreover, the educational material will be designed for teenagers and disseminated through smartphones/tablet application. This will include demos and games to explain in an education, visual and interactive way the relevance of these topics, such as the positive impact of NPBTs, GMOs on human health and increasing food demands. In addition to this, we will guarantee an active presence on social media channels and organise initiatives to involve artists, since art is an effective ´language´ when it comes to transmit knowledge, values and stronger connection with the audience.

ES: You plan on using artists to better convey the relevant messages. What will be the additional benefits of using artists?

MS: Because art and science are more closely related than we think. Both science and art are human attempts to understand and describe the world around us. Art can not only provide the audience with information, but also elicit visceral, emotional responses and engage the imagination in ways that prompt action and a positive attitude towards such complex topics that could be hard to explain with words and scientific notions. For these reasons, involving artists in the project could attract a broader audience, such as people that would otherwise not be interested in science developments, since it´s a more evocative and effective way of communicating.

ES: How do you plan to assess the impact on the sustainability of the CHIC project?

MS: Within the CHIC project a socio-economic and an environmental assessment will be done. Regarding socio-economic impacts, we will assess how different NPBTs will influence economic and social indicators such as GDP (Gross Domestic Product), production volume, growth, competitiveness, and employment as well as the distribution of wealth and income between different sectors and regions within the EU.

The assessment of environmental issues will be done with the methodology of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) which is an established method of environmental assessment providing information about environmental aspects over the whole life cycle. The LCA will be performed on the NPBTs and based on the whole value chain from breeding, cultivation, harvesting, processing to the final products (inulin and terpenes). The most relevant environmental aspects and parameters (e.g. GHG emissions, primary energy consumption, land use aspects, water issues) with their influencing factors will be identified and compared to a conventional reference system.

ES: In certain fields there is a feeling of growing opposition against innovation, including in agriculture and the seed sector. How can we overcome this opposition?

MS: I am not sure there is growing opposition against innovation. There are many innovation projects going on in the food and agriculture fields, and we need at all costs to better interact with the target we want to reach, if we want to be successful.

ES: How will the private sector be involved in the CHIC project?

MS: The private sector are partners in the project. Stakeholders from the private sector will be involved throughout the project (e.g. farmers, processors, food companies etc).

ES: Do you expect that the outcome can be translated to other crops?

MS: Yes, we do. Both the technologies and the ways to interact with society.

 

 

Source: https://european-seed.com/2019/02/how-art-and-science-are-helping-chicory-an-inside-look-at-the-new-chic-project/

 

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Cichorei als basis voor voeding en medicijn

Source: www.nieuweoogst.nu
Photo: Twan Wiermans
Onno Beijers

‘Cichorei is een gewas met veel potentie. Het zou mooi zijn als we op beide fronten – als bron van voedingsvezels en medicinale stoffen – slagen kunnen maken. Dat is de doelstelling van het CHIC-programma’, zegt onderzoeksleider Dirk Bosch van Wageningen University & Research.

Dirk Bosch, DLO Groepshoofd Applied Metabolic Systems bij Wageningen University & Research, is in zijn nopjes dat het CHIC-project (zie tekst onderaan artikel) de financiële EU-injectie definitief kreeg toegekend. ‘We hebben er veel werk ingestoken om al die laboratoria en bedrijven uit twaalf landen op één lijn te krijgen. Formeel zijn we in januari al begonnen, op 6 februari was de officiële kick-off in Brussel.’

CHIC is vooral een veredelingsproject. ‘Cichorei is nu moeilijk te veredelen, moeilijk kruisbaar. Tegelijkertijd is het een gewas met veel potentie. We isoleren nu inuline uit de wortel van de cichorei, maar willen via veredeling een beter type maken, met betere voedingsvezels’, zegt Bosch.

Nieuwe soorten antibiotica

‘Daarnaast zitten er ook andere medicinale stoffen in cichorei die interessant zijn, zoals stoffen die aan de basis zouden kunnen staan van nieuwe soorten antibiotica, ontstekings- en tumorremmers en dergelijke.’ Eerdere onderzoeken brachten al aan het licht dat de bitterstoffen in de cichorei zowel een antimalaria-effect hebben als ook een antiwormeffect bij schapen.

Het lijkt een utopie om alle bitterheid uit cichorei te halen.
MATTHEW DE ROODE, INNOVATION MANAGER BIJ SENSUS

Bosch: ‘In de eerste fase van het project gaan we uitzoeken welke medicinale stoffen erin zitten en welke daarvan de meeste potentie hebben; zijn dat antibiotica, ontstekingsremmers of iets anders? Pas als we daar antwoord op hebben, kunnen we gaan veredelen.’

Hij noemt het ‘de inventariserende fase, waarbij de nodige protocollen zullen worden opgezet’. Daarna komt pas de fase van ‘verbeteren, veredelen en testen’.

Crispr-Cas

Het verdere veredelen (dat de EU wel ziet zitten, gezien de verstrekte subsidie) is dankzij Crispr-Cas vereenvoudigd. Deze nieuwe veredelingstechniek kan erfelijk materiaal van onder meer planten relatief eenvoudig genetisch veranderen, wat leidt tot aangepaste of geheel nieuwe eigenschappen.

‘Uiteindelijk moet het project leiden tot meerdere, hoogwaardige types cichorei, met een nuttige verbetering voor de consument of patiënt. Die moeten er iets aan hebben’, aldus Bosch.

Ook projectdeelnemer Sensus kijkt met een gretig oog naar het beter verwaarden van cichorei. Innovation manager Matthew de Roode: ‘Wij zijn niet alleen inulineproducent, maar actief bezig om de hele keten op een hoger plan te brengen en nauw betrokken bij de telers. Dat zijn wij als onderdeel van de coöperatie Royal Cosun aan onze stand verplicht.’

Inulineproductie

De Roode hoopt dat de cichoreiteelt qua opbrengst per hectare ‘dezelfde sprongen’ kan maken als de suikerbiet en dat de inulineproductie minder grillen vertoont. ‘De hoeveelheid inuline is geen constante factor in de campagne die van september tot januari loopt. De piek ligt in oktober en november. Daarvoor, in de opgroei en daarna is die lager. Onder meer door koudere weersomstandigheden, waardoor de plant de voorraad inuline sneller aanspreekt’, vertelt hij.

‘Wij vragen ons af: zou het mogelijk zijn om een cichorei te kweken die zijn inuline dan niet afbreekt? Een hele campagne een constante kwaliteit, dat zou mooi zijn.’

Daarnaast is De Roode zeer geïnteresseerd in de uitkomsten van het onderzoek naar de terpenen (aromatische stoffen met een medicinaal en beschermend effect tegen planteneters) in de plant. ‘De bitterheid in de wortel is best lastig, dat wil je niet in je eindproduct hebben. Met nieuwe veredelingstechnieken kan de bitterheid omlaag, al lijkt het een utopie om alle bitterheid eruit te halen.’

Maatschappelijk debat

De Roode realiseert zich dat de maatschappij nauwlettend kijkt naar het via gerichte mutaties verbeteren van het gewas en verhogen van gezonde inhoudsstoffen.

‘We weten niet hoe de Nederlandse burger denkt over deze veredelingstechnieken die geen vreemd DNA inbouwen. Het maatschappelijk debat tijdens het CHIC-project is belangrijk. Naast een veredelingsproject is dit ook een opinievormend project.’ Het is een van Sensus’ taken om een businesscase uit te werken, de commerciële potentie van nieuwe cichoreitypes duidelijk te maken en vanuit de telers feedback te geven.

De Roode: ‘In dit project zijn twee dingen mogelijk: óf we staan aan de start van een veredelde cichorei, óf dat is om technische redenen niet mogelijk. Ik hoop op het eerste, al is een onderzoeksperiode van 4,5 jaar zeer kort. Ik verwacht niet dat er meteen een nieuw soort cichoreizaad ligt.’

WUR, Sensus en KeyGene in breed gedragen onderzoek

De Europese Unie steekt 7,3 miljoen euro vanuit het Horizon 2020-programma in het onderzoeks- en innovatieproject CHIC (CHicory Innovation Consortium) . In CHIC slaan zestien universiteiten, onderzoekscentra en -laboratoria, bedrijven en non-profitorganisaties uit twaalf landen (elf Europese – België, Duitsland, Finland, Frankrijk, Italië, Nederland, Oostenrijk, Polen, Portugal, Servië en Spanje – plus Nieuw-Zeeland) de handen ineen om met behulp van nieuwe, verantwoorde veredelingstechnieken gezonde voedingsvezels en medicinale stoffen uit cichorei te winnen. Daarbij heeft het project ook oog voor het draagvlak en de maatschappelijke acceptatie ervan.Bij het project zijn drie Nederlandse partijen betrokken: Wageningen University & Research (WUR, kartrekker en coördinator), Sensus en KeyGene (R&D-bedrijf in gewasveredeling). Het project is in januari 2018 begonnen en zal 4,5 jaar in beslag nemen.

Source: http://www.nieuweoogst.nu/nieuws/2018/05/24/cichorei-als-basis-voor-voeding-en-medicijn

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What is inulin?

CHIC project aims to develop chicory varieties that can be used to produce dietary fibre with enhanced prebiotic effects to promote gut health.

Inulin is also called chicory root fiber and is present in many fruits and vegetables.

Is it safe to eat and what are the benefits? Learn more about the natural source and the versatility of this ingredient in this video:

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Are you wondering why this European project is called CHIC?

CHIC is the Chicory Innovation Consortium.

Its objective is:

  1. to implement New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBTs) in chicory in order to establish it as a multipurpose crop for the production of health-related products with clear benefits for consumers, and
  2.  to develop co-innovation pathways with stakeholders for game-changing technologies, such as NPBTs.

CHIC will develop four different NPBTs.

They will be used to steer bioprocesses in chicory and mobilize its under-explored potential to produce immunomodulatory prebiotics and medicinal terpenes.

The conceptually different NPBTs will be assessed with respect to technological potential, risks, regulatory framework and their socio-economic impacts. This will be done in close consultation with a Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) composed of relevant stakeholders in industry and society.

Ongoing project activities and results will be discussed with stakeholders and communicated to the  interested public using innovative methods including cultural communication and linking art to science.

In this context, CHIC will develop two business cases in different application areas:

  • inulin as a healthy food ingredient and
  • terpenes as medicinal lead compounds

This effort requires a highly interdisciplinary approach with expertise from molecular sciences, economy, arts, social sciences & humanities, and legislation.

The partnership includes three SMEs and a chicory end-user, and international collaboration is established via a research institute in New Zealand.

The SAG plays a crucial role in consultation in all phases and activities of the project. Via this co-innovation approach, we aim to contribute to leadership in responsible research innovation and to promote improved understanding of plant biotechnology.

Chicory will be boosted as a robust multipurpose crop, tolerant to adverse environmental conditions from which bioactive compounds can be extracted, contributing to sustainable agriculture and a biobased economy.

What is CHIC project?

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