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More than twenty of Europe's most prominent plant scientists today (Thursday 30 October 2014) signed a joint letter warning that Europe may lose its research lead unless plant science is adequately funded, GM (genetically modified) plant varieties that have been found safe are allowed and field trials are protected from vandalism.

The signatories include world-leading plant scientists from Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden, all of whom are concerned that Europe may fall short on its current 'Horizon 2020' goals of producing "world-class science" and removing "barriers to innovation" unless European policymakers take a more pro-science stance.

The scientists, world-leaders in disciplines ranging from botany to ecology to molecular biology, state that the current EU "de facto moratorium on transgenic plant approvals has been detrimental for applied plant science and has effectively eliminated possibilities for publicly funded scientists and small companies to address the big challenges for society".

The open letter continues that "the resulting reduced competition has enhanced the dominance of major seed and agrochemical corporations" and calls for a "fundamental revision of GM regulation... that strictly follows the principles of science-based evaluations and approvals". This call is particularly timely because the European Parliament is currently considering European Council proposals to allow GM crop cultivation in those countries that choose to allow it.

Read more: Europe’s leading plant scientists call for urgent action to defend research

Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has granted 39, 7 million SEK and considered the application lead by Rishikesh Bhalerao, UPSC, as one of 24 funded research projects that have the possibility to lead to new scientific breakthroughs.
Besides the lead applicant, Anna-Maria Jönsson from Lund University, Maria Eriksson, Pär Ingvarsson, and Stefan Jansson from UPSC and Umeå University, and Thomas Moritz and Ove Nilsson from UPSC and SLU are co-applicants.

Read the press release from Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

Read the news in Swedish on the webpage of SLU

participants UPSC symposiumUPSC postdoc symposium 2 - 3 June 2014

Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) invited five promising young scientists on 72 applicants for a postdoc project symposium organised on 2nd and 3rd of June 2014. The aim of the symposium was to bring together postdoc candidates and UPSC group leaders to identify common research interests to develop a project together to apply for international post-doc fellowships (such as EMBO, Marie-Currie, Human Frontiers).   

During their two-day visit at UPSC, the selected candidates had the chance to present their PhD work in front of UPSC people. They also visited the institute, identified and discussed potential projects with different research groups. The candidates had the possibility to interact with people already working at UPSC during a post-doc lunch and barbecue at Nydalasjön. The prospective postdocs and group leaders are expected to submit a postdoc fellowship application in the fall.

The participants (from the left): Envel Kerdaffrec, GMI Vienna, Austria;  Sunita Kushwah, National Institute for Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), New Delhi, India; Simon Law, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at the University of Western Australia, Australia; Julia Wind, Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden; Lin Xu, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at the University of Western Australia, Australia.