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Minutes of the Steering Committee Meeting of the Union of European Academies for Science Applied to Agriculture, Food and Nature (UEAA)

19.4. 2021

by Visio conference from Tbilisi Wednesday, March 10, 2021, 10.00 a.m. Paris time

Attendees: Guram Aleksidze (Georgian Academy of Agricultural Sciences); Michel Thibier (French Academy of Agriculture), Zenonas Dabkevičius (Lithuanian Academy of Sciences), Ioan Jelev (Romanian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences), Jan Nedelnik (Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences), Baiba Rizva (Latvia Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences), Kerstin Niblaeus (Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry), Iuri Lupenko (National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine). Simone Orlandini (member of the Academy Council of Academy of Georgofili, Italy)

The meeting was opened by President Guram Aleksidze at 10.00 a m (Paris time)

 

1. Welcome by President Professor Guram Aleksidze
The President of the UEAA, Professor Guram Aleksidze welcomed all members of the Steering Committee. He addressed in person each member attending the meeting and thanked them for their participation. It was underscored that the Meeting Agenda included seven problems to be addressed and solved.

President G. Aleksidze extended his deep regret regarding the death of Professor Štefan Mihina, elected Vice-President of the UEAA, and the President of the Slovak Academy of Agricultural Science who passed away on February 19, 2021. Severe illness took life of a distinguished scholar whose contribution in development of agricultural science is immense. The SC members also expressed their condolences;

Each of the attendees welcomed the Meeting participants and expressed their contentment regarding
assembly of their colleagues, and their readiness to work on the issues proposed by Agenda of the Meeting. The Chairman of the Meeting announced that one problem has been added to the Agenda – Prof. Michel Thibier’s information about Genome-Editing. Agenda has been approved with its changes by the meeting participants.

The Chairman said that the UEAA web-site has become more interesting last time publishing almost 20 actual articles, among them are more interesting two – “An open letter” which dealt with the state of agriculture in the period of pandemic which were sent to EU governments and the second “Position Letter” which was sent to EU Parliament referred to the Gene – Editing issues. Out of 14 addresses to whom the letter was sent, positive responses were received from 2 departments (EU Commission of Health and Food safety, Deputy Head of Cabinet Mrs. Annukka Ojala; Head of service of “Food and Feed safety, innovation” at the DG Health and Food safety Ms. Sabine Juelicher).

 

2. Approval of the minutes of the 6 October 2020 meeting
Approved unanimously

 

3. Election of new SC member: Professor Simone Orlandini, member of the Academy Council of Academy of Georgofili, Italy
The Chairman gave the floor to Professor Simone Orlandini to introduce himself. He has been the
member of the Academy of Georgofili for a long time. He is a member of the Council of the Academy. He is a Professor of Agronomy and head of the Department of Agriculture, Food, Environment and Forestry of the University of Florence.

G. Aleksidze spoke in favor of the candidate; he indicated that although Professor Simone Orlandini was not yet a member of the SC, he has been actively involved in the work of the UEAA. He asked the meeting participants to support Professor Simone Orlandini and to express their personal opinion regarding his candidacy.

After some positive feedbacks in regards to the proposed candidate, the Meeting participants expressed their full support to Professor Simone Orlandini to become a member of the SC of the UEAA. He was unanimously elected as a UEAA steering Committee member.

The Chairman raised the question to continue the membership of Prof. Zenonas Dabkevičius on behalf of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences as the President of gave his strong recommendation to continue his work as a UEAA SC member. The SC members agree with this recommendation.

 

4. The next issue #4 on the Meeting Agenda referred to the problem of re-establish the contacts with UEAA country members and establish with those countries, which are not UEAA members now.
The Chairman opened a discussion about how to establish contacts with European UEAA member countries which do not take part in the work of the UEAA. Prof. M. Thibier proposed that each of the member of the SC would take responsibility to use all his/her personal contacts and try to establish cooperation with them. Prof. Michel Thibier read out the EU countries according to alphabetical order and the meeting participants declared their intention to establish contacts based on personal contacts with
their associates, and with the academies of agriculture in the named country.

After discussion, it was agreed that the each of the SC member will be responsible to establish contact with the following EU member countries to attract their attention and have them engaged in the work of the UEAA. G. Aleksidze said that official letters had been sent to a number of European academies, but only one country – Greece responded positively. He declared that Georgia will work with Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Turkey, Belarus and Bulgaria;

Following a list of the countries read out one by one by Prof. Michel Thibier, the meeting participants discussed the possible contacts, which could be established based on personal, as well as institutional levels.
Albania: Romania will take care of the contact with Albania;
Austria – Czech Republic;
Belgium –
Bosnia- Herzegovina – not decided yet;
Bulgaria – Georgia will try to contact them. Also, Czech Republic will take care of this problem; Croatia – Czech Republic;
England – Sweden;
Estonia – Latvia;
Finland – Sweden;
Germany – Not decided;
Croatia – Italy;
Moldova – Ukraine;
Netherlands – Ukraine;
Norway – Sweden;
Poland – Lithuania;
Portugal – France;
Russia – France;
Serbia – Italy;
Slovakia – Czech Republic; Slovenia – Italy.

The Chairman of the Meeting mentioned that our Union also has potential members but they have not yet joint, such as Azerbaijan, and other countries. The countries which may join the Union were listed in the list that M. Thibier circulated earlier.
For example, Belarus – Georgia, Hungary – Czech Republic Ireland – Czech Republic
Malta – Italy Spain – France Turkey – Georgia.

Michel Thibier asked Guram Aleksidze to share with the SC members the draft of a letter, which
could be sent to the academies of sciences of UEAA member countries and UEAA potential member countries. It was decided that the letter would explain the UEAA and what the future goals and perspectives of the Union are to be accomplished.

Kerstine Niblaeus said that there are problems, such as forestry, which could be very interesting for many EU countries, so this type of information could be shared to draw attention of the countries to the common problems.

 

5. The next issue on the Agenda was Publication of a Book of Abstracts of distinguished articles of scientific works prepared by the scientists or speakers from the UEAA member countries.

Prof. Guram Aleksidze, whose initiative is to publish a book of Abstracts of distinguished scientific works, studies or reports, said that such a book would be a good opportunity to share the achievements in different fields, so that, each country can choose a number of publications from their country and send abstracts of those publications to Georgia, which would undertake the responsibility to publish a book of abstracts by the end of the year. He said that it would feature the scientific works of the UEAA, and attract other countries which do not take active part in the work of the UEAA. Georgia undertakes publication of the first volume, and the publication of the next volume will be a responsibility of the country elected by the UEAA the following years. This kind of book should be published once in two years.

A live discussion was held round the above-mentioned issue raised by the Chairman. Each participant approved the proposal but also expressed their attitude and came up with different suggestions, such as:
– To publish full papers, and not only abstracts – the book will be more attractive and would say something because not many people read web pages and scientific journals;
– To set up a group, or at least appoint one person who will be responsible for choosing the articles for further preparation and publication;

Michel Thibier (France) suggested leaving a decision of selecting abstracts to the national academies. He also added that for example the French Academy could select every month one abstract from the sessions held at the Academy or every trimester or whatever and send it to UEAA Web-site for publication (with the references). And this could be done by each UEAA member Academies. Such nationally selected Abstracts (full papers would be too long and published elsewhere anyway)) which in a first step would have been posted on the UEAA website could then be assembled at the end of the year by the UEAA President to be published as a book just on the site or on paper if possible.
Joan Jelev (Rumania) raised a problem of choosing scientific work from a large research network, a wide variety of fields which their academy comprises. Therefore, monthly selection of the abstracts from different fields will be complicated unless clear criteria for the selection are elaborated by the Union of Academies.

Kerstin Niblaeus, (Swedish Academy), also approved the proposal adding that, it would be very good if the format of the abstract was worked out, because the abstracts should be prepared in the same format. Representative of Lithuania Zenonas Dabkevicius, suggested publishing just information about recent achievements in the field instead of abstract; “more advertisement, or information but not scientific
articles which could be seen in scientific journals” he added.

Simone Orlandini, Italy, approved the idea of publishing a book of selected abstracts but also suggested publishing other important issues and news, that could be more difficult to find, considering that scientific papers are easily available from the scientific data bases and open access journals. He justified his idea saying that the Union has to show its real advantages for the UEAA members and non-member countries, and the publications will serve this purpose. The information will also include some political issues, decisions of the UEAA, news about different bodies working in the field of agriculture to satisfy the users’ interest and needs.

Romania also approved the idea but also questioned the selection process. Besides, he added, the members have to decide whether it is important or needed to include information or full scientific works.
Kerstin Niblaeus agreed with Michel’s suggestion regarding publishing article abstracts first on Web site. Some problem areas could be chosen, such as gene-editing, or use of pesticides, or forestry problems which could be of high interest for many countries.

The President Professor Guram Aleksidze concluded that at this stage the members were not quite ready to decide what and how should be published in details. He proposed that this discussion be resumed at pour next S C meeting,

Ian Nedelnik (Csech Republic) suggested initiating discussion between the scientists as well. Main aim of the Union, he said, is to support close cooperation among European Academies, so, he suggested that more information from each member Academies be posted on the UEAA web-site about the activities carried out by the member academies. This would be very useful, followed by the discussion of some articles or books.

Michel Thibier replied that he appreciated this discussion about getting the UEAA web site more lively and thanked his colleagues who have sent recently various documents which have been posted , which is the first goal of the site. According to Professor M Thibier, the innovative and interesting suggestion presented by the President Guram Aleksidze of collecting selected Abstracts is a somewhat distinct issues from just posting information and news from the member Academies and again should be rediscussed at our next meeting “I think, publishing a book be would a great idea. So, let us think and see what we can do,” he added at the end of his speech.

President Guram Aleksidze drew some conclusions from the debate concerning the publication of a book collating Abstracts received from member Academies along the year and said he would also like to listen to other members regarding this question.

 

6. New items
Next Question on the Agenda was Gene Editing (sometimes called New Breeding Techniques -NBT-, in Plants): information was made by Michel Thibier;

He talked about the necessity of new E U regulations in this field. The draft of a new regulation is currently being prepared by the EU Commission and is planned to be delivered by end of April. He mentioned that the problem is very urgent, and at the same time very sensitive. Because of the content and the significance of the problem, the attention of the researchers should be attracted and UEAA platform can be used for this purpose.

Kerstin Niblaeus – agreed that the problem is very important and that the members of UEAA should get this information about the gene editing from French Academy, also she added that Sweden Academy also deals with the same problems, therefore, she concluded, it is important to follow the decision of the Committee when it comes.

 

7. The last item on the Agenda was Organizational questions:

The President proposed postponement of the meeting of General Assembly of the UEAA until September. It was planned to be held in May, but because of many circumstances, mainly the pandemic, GA meeting has to be postponed.

The members agreed that because of pandemic, there was no other option, so they all voted for GA meeting postponement till September, so that it should be held together with the International Conference. The rationale behind it is that it is highly desirable to organize the GA meeting and a conference in a live format.

At the end of the meeting, it was decided the time of the next SC Zoom meeting, will be announced lately and would likely be around May or June 2021. By this time, the members would send their position in regards of abstracts and book publication.

The president thanked all members of the meeting attendees for active participation in the discussion.

The meeting was closed at 12.00 am.

March 10, 2021.

President
Guram Aleksidze