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152219 gunnar oquist webbProfessor Gunnar Öqvist, Professor emeritus at Umeå Plant Science Centre, Umeå University and the former Chairman of the Royal Academy of Sciences was recently conferred the Order of the rising sun, gold and silver star, by the Japanese government. He receives the honour as a recognition for his contribution to promote academic exchange and a mutual understanding between Japan and Sweden.

Press release (In Swedish)
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