Plant Gene Edit­ing panel dis­cus­sion

On 11 September 2019 Michiel de Both (KeyGene) visited the Vikki Plant Science Centre of the University of Helsinki (Finland), to give a seminar as an invited speaker in their seminar series in plant science. The seminar covered genome editing technology in crop plant breeding, as well as the CHIC program, and was attended by ~80 people.

Because of the strong concerns in the Finnish plant science community about the 2018 Court of Justice ruling, the institute organized a panel discussion to debate issues of regulation, IP and science policy related to genome editing.

The panel consisted of a representative of the Finnish seed company Boreal Plant Breeding Ltd., of the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, of Kirsi-Marja Oksman-Caldentey of CHIC partner institute VTT, of Michiel de Both on behalf of KeyGene and of Alan Schulman, the current president of the European Plant Science Organization EPSO.

Journalists and politicians present in the audience took part in the discussions, which concluded with the realization that any change in the European regulation must be instigated by the EU member states, supported by informing stakeholders and the general public of the importance of plant breeding and innovation for the European economy.


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CHIC at the European Researchers’ Night 2019

During the night of September 27th the Museum of Science in Trento (MuSe) will be part of the European Researchers’ Night 2019, and it will host the staff from Fondazione Edmund Mach (FEM) to talk about their research topics.

The event is free and open to all the people, from kids to elderlies, starting from 6PM and lasting until midnight. It will consist both of short talks and demo/hands-on sessions, where the public will be involved with different science topics and invited to ask any question related to the research activity.

For CHIC project, scientists will talk about New Plant Breeding Technologies and Cas9 delivery inside plant cells, showing in vitro material (plants, protoplasts at the microscope) and explaining the challenges faced while doing Genome Editing in industrial crops.

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Fascination of Plants Day 2019 Success Stories

The biennial international Fascination of Plants Day (FoPD) is an event encouraging people from around the world become fascinated and enthusiastic about plants. Coordinated by the European Plant Science Organization (EPSO), it takes place globally on May 18, every uneven year since 2012.

In 2019, for it’s fifth edition, FoPD was a huge success gathering 862 events across 52 countries! Thanks to our 56 national coordinators, thousands of enthusiastic event organisers, partners, 5 national patronages and sponsors we have created real success stories. To know more about them, check our Fascination of Plants Day Success Stories 2019 publication.

In 2021, Fascination of Plants Day will be back for a new adventure. While waiting for its launch you can follow us on Twitter (@PlantDay18May), Instagram (@fascinationofplantsday), Facebook, Youtube and on our website:

We welcome you to join us in preparing for Fascination of Plants Day 2021! Get organizing events in your country and keep tweeting about plants (#PlantsDay, #FoPD). We look forward to seeing you all in 2021!

Contact: Global Coordinators: Alexandra Barnoux, EPSO, BE; Trine Hvoslef-Eide, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, NO, Przemysław Wojtaszek, Adam Mickiewicz University, PL; Karin Metzlaff, EPSO, BE

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Check our 1st piece of art in CHIC project!

We already have our 1st CHIC piece of art. The CHIC – animation created by artist Jakub Kaczmarek with ASSF/Art & Science Node.

We hope you enjoy it!

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A debate on the Future of Gene Editing: CRISPR Science, Society and Policy

During the 20th and 21st of June, the CRISPRcon conference was organised by Wageningen University and Research and the Keystone Policy Centre in Wageningen, The Netherlands.

The objective of the conference was to foster discussions about the future of CRISPR and related gene editing technologies across a variety of applications in agriculture, health, conservation and more. Researchers, industrial representatives, consumer organizations, organic farmers, traditional farmers, patients’ organizations, policy makers, EC representatives, environmental associations and students, took part in the conference.

The conference consisted of a mix of panel discussions, round tables (more than 30) on topics brought in by the audience and short lightning presentations on CRISPR applications. Students and farmers organised side-events to discuss about their perspectives. Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis, gave his view about the new gene editing techniques emphasizing the importance of the dialogue on this matter in Europe. An inspiring talk was given by geneticists, writer and BBC broadcaster Dr. Adam Rutherford who made a comparison about the genetic evolution and the evolution of hip-hop music.

It was interesting to see that many of the topics that were discussed at CRISPRcon are addressed by CHIC such as the importance of hearing diverse voices, regulation of process or product, traits that are beneficial for consumers, large scale (staple crop farming) versus small scale local farming, access to CRISPR technology (IP and patents), safety assessment, regulation and who decides.

Involvement of CHIC

Several CHIC partners contributed to the meeting. Katarina Cankar presented the CHIC project in her lightning presentation on “Breeding Healthier Crops: Dietary fibers and medicinal terpenes from chicory roots”. Other CHIC partners paticipated in round table discussions on “CRISPR Education and Outreach”, “Indigenous Perspectives on CRISPR technology”, “If we edit it, will you eat it?”, “Transparency approaches”and “Lets’s avoid a trench war on CRISPR food”.

Through this discussions we gained new insights and established many contacts with divers stakeholders and new link to research projects around the world that align well with CHIC.

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3rd CHIC General Assembly in Madrid

The 3rd CHIC General assembly was held in Madrid during the 27th and 28th of May, 2019.

During this meeting the 1st results of the project were presented to the project partners. The new artists, to be engaged in the “Artists in Residence CHIC program”, presented themselves to the consortium as well as their most popular art pieces, which were beautiful pieces!!!

A productive workshop, to design the 1st CHIC game, was held and all partners gave great ideas to develop a very fun game for secondary school students. This game will be launched in 2020.

Finally, many thanks to Diego Orzaez for his great presentation on our sister H2020 project Newcotiana.

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CHIC project at the 63rd International Fair of Technics and Technical Achievements (UFI)

Our partner, the Institute for Biological Research “Siniša Stanković”, was present in this Fair to promote CHIC project in Belgrade, May 21-24.

International Fair of Technics and Technical Achievements is the most important economic and technological event in Serbia and the South East Europe, which has got a great influence upon the future industrial development in the country and region.

This is a traditional (since 1937) meeting and business contact point, which enables numerous exhibitors and visitors to satisfy their business expectations.

  • Specialized fairs and exhibitions forming the contents of the TECHNICAL FAIR, at the same place and time.
  • The latest technologies for all industry branches included by the exhibiting program.
  • Presentation of national economies of many countries, provinces and regions, professional side events, exhibitor presentations, product and service demonstrations, panel discussions of the exhibitors and experts contribute to a successful participation in the TECHNICAL FAIR and development of the international cooperation.
  • Many press conferences and accredited journalists are there to report about your products and services.

The TECHNICAL FAIR is a venue visited by tens of thousands of professional visitors, decision makers, investors, experts…

The synergistic effect of the TECHNICAL FAIR creates the possibility of meetings between the exhibitors and visitors, as well as mutual contacts of the exhibitors from various industry branches and many countries.

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CRISPRcon 2019 – Conversations on science, society and the future of gene editing

Meet us at CRISPRcon on June 20-21, and join the conversation on science, society and the future of gene editing. CRISPRcon creates a forum in which a broad selection of diverse voices come together. Will you join us?

CRISPRcon 2019 is a program of Keystone Policy Center and will be hosted by our project coordinator Wageningen University & Research.

What is CRISPR-Cas?

CRISPR-Cas is a new technology that makes it possible to change genetic material from viruses, bacteria, cells, plants and animals in a relatively simple, very accurate and efficient way. This technology can make an enormous contribution to the quality of our environment, our health, agriculture and economy. At the same time there are concerns regarding ethical aspects, integrity of life, unfair distribution of property, security and who benefits.

What is our aim at CRISPRcon?

The aim of CRISPRcon is to stimulate open dialogue about precisely these aspects: exchanging opinions, visions and concerns. The conference is aimed at the largest possible cross-section of society. Wageningen University & Research hosts this dialogue and underlines the importance of an open dialogue about the CRISPR technique. At the event, you can join sessions on several aspects of gene editing.


Panel 1: Personal Reflections: The Promise and Perils of Gene Editing
Panel 2: CRISPR Cures: Gene Editing in Personal and Public Health
Panel 3: The Evolution of Innovation: What Drives Societal Embrace or Rejection of Emerging Technologies?
Panel 4: Growing for Good?: Gene Editing and Agriculture
Panel 5: Double Helixes and the Circular Economy: Gene Editing and Environmental Stewardship
Panel 6: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Globalization, Governance and Power

More about speakers, programme and registration:


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Industry calls on EU member states to show ‘clear commitment’ in smart farming

By Sarantis Michalopoulos |

his article is part of our special report Innovation in post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy.

The EU manufacturers of agricultural machinery (CEMA) have called on member states to indicate a “clear commitment” to the digitisation of European agriculture as the only way to face the current environmental and economic challenges.

This message has also been acknowledged by the European Commission, which submitted to the EU member states earlier this month a draft declaration titled “A smart and sustainable digital future for European agriculture and rural areas”.

According to the document, EU member states recognise the “urgency” to speed up the introduction of new technologies in order to address increasing challenges related to the environment, economy and society.

“Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, High-Performance Computing and fast broadband, including 5G, are already causing profound transformations in our economies and societies, and will be particularly critical for smart farming,” the document reads.

Precision or smart farming is based on the optimised management of inputs in a field according to actual crop needs. It involves data-based technologies, including satellite positioning systems like GPS, remote sensing, and the Internet, to manage crops and reduce the use of fertilisers, pesticides and water.

Based on the need to “produce more with less”, precision farming is emerging as an innovation-driven solution and the introduction of the new technologies helps farmers to manage their farms in a sustainable way taking into account the “slightest detail” of everyday farming.

The post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) plans to introduce a new delivery model, granting EU member states more space to come up with their own national strategic plans adjusted to their various agricultural needs.

However, this also poses a challenge, considering that there are still doubts whether the member states will manage to digitise their farming sector if there is no overall coordination led by the  Commission.

“The Draft Declaration is the opportunity for a clear commitment from the EU member states in that direction,” Jerome Bandry, secretary-general of CEMA, the European trade association representing the manufacturers of agricultural machinery, told

“The European Commission has placed access to digital farming tools at the top of its agenda for the future CAP. We hope that horizontal strategic objectives, such as the digitisation of the agri-food sector, will be kept as one of the drivers to make European agriculture more competitive, sustainable and economically viable,” it added.

The draft declaration was presented on 11 March at the Special Committee on Agriculture, which is one of the preparatory bodies of the AgriFish Council. However, the declaration was not on the agenda of the AgriFish meeting on 18 March.

A source from the Romanian EU Presidency told that it is not yet sure if it’s going to be on the agenda of a meeting in April as the agenda still has not been made available.

Building digital skills

A key factor in enhancing the digitisation of EU agriculture is digital skills. For CEMA’s Bandry, the role of farm advisers in the adoption of smart farming technologies is crucial.

“Today, agricultural advisory services greatly differ among European countries and it might also vary at the regional level. Hence, a realistic way for the quick adoption of digital farming technologies must include highly skilled farm advisors who interpret the data, make agronomic recommendations and design and analyse on-going experiments at the local level,” he said.

Jean-Paul Beens, the head of public affairs and industry relations at fertiliser company Yara, said digital connectivity and knowledge transfer via advisory services will help attract young people and at the same time, improve the livelihood in existing rural communities.

“Although urban farming may prove to be an interesting experiment and knowledge source, the true custodians of sustainable food production and supply are operative elsewhere, often at remote farm locations, which need to be connected to research and the market,” Beens said.

“Local governments do recognise this need for national cohesion, to build bridges between rural and urban communities, to prevent the feeling of isolation and life in a straightjacket, no matter whether they are yellow, pink or purple,” he added.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]





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How art and science are helping chicory


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.”


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.”


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:


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