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Minutes of the June 2021 Steering Committee Meeting of the Union of European Academies for Science Applied to Agriculture, Food and Nature (UEAA)

5.10. 2021

by Visio conference from Tbilissi, Friday 18 June 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), Kerstin Niblaeus (Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry), Simone Orlandini (member of the Scientific-Technical Committee of Academy of Georgofili, Italy), Vilem Podrazsky (Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences), Elena Horska (Slovak Academy of Agricultural Science, dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management from the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra), Maria Salome Pais (Portugal, Lisbon Academy of Sciences, Academia das Ciências de Lisboa (ACL), Tomas Garcia Azcarate (Spain, National Association of Agricultural Engineering, Deputy-Director of the Institute for Economics, Geography and Demography IEGD-CSIC).

The following members of the Steering Committee did not attend the Meeting for some reasons : Ioan Jelev (Rumanian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences), Iaroslav Gadzalo (National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine), Baiba Rivza (Latvian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences).

AGENDA

  1. Welcome address by President of UEAA Prof. G. Aleksidze
  2. Approval of the minutes of the 10 March 2021 meeting
  3. Election of new S C member: Professor Elena Horska (Slovak Academy of Agricultural Science, dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management from the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra)
  4. Election of the Vice-President: Professor Elena Horska (Slovak Academy of Agricultural Science, dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management from the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra)
  5. Election of the SC observers: Professor Maria Salome Pais (Portugal, Lisbon Academy of Sciences, Academia das Ciências de Lisboa (ACL), Emeritus Professor)
    Professor Tomas Garcia Azcarate (Spain, National Association of Agricultural Engineering, Deputy-Director of the Institute for Economics, Geography and Demography IEGD-CSIC);
  6. Information about new members and countries rejoined to UEAA:
  7. Organization of Steering Committee meeting, General Assembly and International Conference “Agricultural Mechanization and Technologies in Europe and Perspectives” in November (Tbilisi, Georgia).Approval of the appropriate documents for Conference (publication of Proceedings).
  8. Discussion about the Best Scientific Papers – Abstracts for publication in our webpage and after in the book.
  9. New Genomic Technologies: Follow up on the E U Commission working document on the “Study on the status of new genomic techniques under Union law”: Professor Michel Thibier
  10. Organization questions: Next SC meeting (zoom) in late September.
  11. Close of the meeting.

1. Welcome address by President of UEAA Professor G. Aleksidze
UEAA President, Academician Guram Aleksidze welcomed the SC meeting participants and asked if everybody agreed with the Meeting Agenda which had been sent to them in advance. The members expressed readiness to discuss 9 issues which were on the Meeting Agenda. Accordingly, the members approved the Meeting Agenda.

2. Approval of the minutes of the 10 March 2021 meeting
SC members approved the Minutes from the last SC meeting in 10.03.2021.

3. Election of new S C member: Professor Elena Horska (Science, dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management from the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra)
President G. Aleksidze presented the proposed candidate Prof. Elena Horska, who was nominated by the vice-chairman of Slovak Academy of Agricultural Science Professor Tomáš Bucha, to the meeting participants and asked her to introduce herself. Prof. Elena Horska talked about her academic and professional achievements in the field of agriculture, about her present activities, as she is engaged in food marketing and distribution.
The President asked the meeting participants to vote for Prof. Horska, whose candidacy was supported unanimously by all members the SC of the EUAA. Therefore, Prof. Horska, was elected as a new member of the SC.

4. Election of the Vice-President – Professor Elena Horska (Slovak Academy of Agricultural Science, dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management from the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra)
The 4th issue on the Agenda was election of Professor Elena Horska, as the Vice President of the UEAA, which means that she will become the president of the Union after the term of President is expired in 2022. The Meeting participants expressed their full support to Professor Elena Horska to hold the position of Vice – President of the EUAA. After voting for Prof. Horska, the election procedure was finished. A new member, in her final speech, said it was an honor for her to become a member of the EUAA as a Vice-President, and thanked everybody for approval of her candidacy.

5. Election of the SC Observers:
Professor Maria Salome Pais (Portugal, Lisbon Academy of Sciences, Academia das Ciências de Lisboa (ACL), Emeritus Professor)
Professor Tomas Garcia Azcarate (Spain, National Association of Agricultural Engineering, Deputy-Director of the Institute for Economics, Geography and Demography IEGD-CSIC);

A first candidate nominated for the position as an observer of the SC of UEAA was Professor Maria Salome Pais (Portugal). She was given the floor for her introduction. She spoke about her scientific career development, and the researches she has been involved in. She mentioned in her speech that in 2015 Portugal together with Georgia was elected as a member of UEAA, but unfortunately because of bad communication she did not participate actively in the work of UEAA these last years and she is grateful for restoring these connections. She expressed her willingness to be engaged in the work of SC of UEAA, but she also wanted to clarify what would be her responsibilities as an Observer, what functions are expected to be fulfilled when being elected as an Observer.
The President clarified that function of the Observer of the SC of UEAA will be to participate in all the meetings of the Steering Committee, to express her opinion, participate in the discussions of questions without voting.

G. Aleksidze asked the members to vote for the named candidate, and Professor Maria Salome Pais was elected as an Observer.

A second candidate as another Observer in the Steering Committee, from Spain, Professor Tomas Garcia Azcarate was nominated by the President. Michel Thibier mentioned that Tomas Garcia Azcarate had participated to the UEAA meeting in 2017, in Brussels with the Commissioner Ph Hogan about the CAP and he was confident that his contribution to the UEAA S C will be of great value on such aspects.

G. Aleksidze asked the members to vote for the named candidate, and Professor Tomas Garcia Azcarate was elected as an Observer.

Also, M. Thibier asked the new members of the SC to send him their brief biographies so as to be able to post them on the UEAA website, and this would allow the UEAA members to know them better. All SC members are agreed.

6. Information about new members and countries rejoined to UEAA
The next issue on the Meeting Agenda referred to the problem of establishing contacts with European countries which have not yet become UEAA members. The result of the attempts to set up contacts and involve some EU countries as a new member of the Union was discussed by the meeting participants. President G. Aleksidze provided detailed information on this account, talking about the results of the efforts undertaken by him to set up communication and attract them. He mentioned that surprisingly very few countries responded (Greece, Belarus, Slovenia, Croatia, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Albania, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina), and the majority of whom the letters had been sent, did not respond (Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Germany, Moldova, The Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Turkey…). Some countries, such as Denmark, Azerbaijan, agree to work but there is no official agreement or a letter of conformation received from them. Six other countries are still in the process of negotiations added G. Aleksidze.
Bosnia and Herzegovina mentioned that in this stage country is not ready to take part in the works of UEAA. Estonia and Finland mentioned that they have not specialists in the direction of agriculture.

Michel Thibier asked the meeting participants to send him a list of the countries who agree to join the Union, so that he could place the information on UEAA website.
(N B. The full list of UEAA members is now available on the UEAA web site .updated 19 August 2021)

7. Organization of Steering Committee meeting, General Assembly and International Conference “Agricultural Mechanization and Technologies in Europe and Perspectives” in November (Tbilisi, Georgia). Approval of the appropriate documents for Conference (publication of Proceedings).
It is planned at the moment to hold the International Conference “Agricultural Mechanization and Technology in Europe and Perspectives” on November 17- 20, 2021, in Tbilisi, Georgia. The organizers of the Conference are UEAA and Georgian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
G. Aleksidze shared with the participants’ information about what kind of work had been done in this direction as well as reported about the future plans. Detailed information would be sent to each country who is a member of the UEAA, as they should participate to the Conference.
The S C Meeting participants discussed two forms of conducting the Conference: a) traditional one in a live regime and b) through on-line participation, or as a hybrid type. Prof. Niblaeus supported conducting a conference in a so called “hybrid format” which, to her mind, would best suit to the existing situation. This proposed format was supported by the majority, though it was decided that the problem would be revisited during the SC Meeting in September.

G. Aleksidze asked the participants to send a list of conference participants from their countries, and the texts of the reports relevant to the conference; He added that detailed instructions about presenting the scientific papers would be prepared and sent to the participants. Both UEAA steering committee and General Assembly would be held back-to-back at that time.

8. Discussion about the Best Scientific Papers – Abstracts for publication in our webpage and after in the book.
Issue on the Agenda which dealt with a“Book of Abstracts”and as a next step, the selection of one or two “Best scientific Papers for a UEAA Prize also raised some different views over specific details.
1 Clearly all SC members agree in trying to create such a UEAA Prize on a scientific basis, as an excellent idea. It is agreed that such a competition with final Prize(s) could rely on Abstracts with satisfaction because of the prior selection process.

2. The predominant idea was that each Academy, member of UEAA, if agrees, should select along one year some Abstracts of excellence. The number of such selected Abstracts could be one per month so that for the 9 “University months” it results approx.: 15 participating Academies x 9 = 135 which is already a considerable number, perhaps hard to reach but maybe at the beginning 10 x 9 = 90.

3. It was well recognized that the situation might quite differ between Academies as far as the process of selecting such Abstracts are concerned, taking into account the distinct way such Academies work, those, mostly in the Eastern Europe directly publishing scientific articles of which Abstracts could be taken and other Academies, mostly in Western Europe, where the scientific contributions come from oral presentations at weekly or so sessions. Such selected presentations should have an Abstract and such an Abstract would be the candidate for “internal” selection, internal to the relevant Academy.

4. Of course the Abstracts should be distributed in some sections according to half a dozen approx. disciplines: Agronomy, Livestock, Economy, forestry etc…

5. Almost all members agreed that those Abstracts selected by a given Academy and sent to the UEAA for this competition should be posted on the web site on a distinct page. Under the responsibility of the President, this could be further published as a book each year.

6. A special UEAA selection committee should be organized so as to select one, two or three Abstracts every year for the UEAA Prize(s).

7. Some members expressed the fact that it would even better if some money could be offered to the winners but this seems irrelevant at the present time.

After such a discussion, the members were asked to address to the President her or his thoughts so that the President can draft a first copy of the rules for such creation during summer.
It was decided that the final decision on this issue be reached in September ahead of the next S C meeting.

9. New Genomic Technologies: Follow up on the E U Commission working document on the “Study on the status of New Genomic Techniques (NGT) under European Union regulations ” – Professor Michel Thibier
The last issue on the Agenda was New genomic regulations and preparing draft for possible modification of the EU regulations.
The President presented the list of EU Commissioners or of officials of the relevant commissions to whom the President had sent letters (23.11.2020) about the “New Genomic” regulations, prepared by the UEAA SC members, see the list in Appendix 1 to these minutes:

He also noted, that he had received some positive responses from the EU (EU Commission of Health and Food safety, Deputy Head of Cabinet Mrs. Annukka Ojala and Head of service of “Food and Feed safety, innovation” at the DG Health and Food safety Ms. Sabine Juelicher) to the sent mails in which they positively assessed results received in the discussion of these issues in the field of Plant Science, where they expressed opinion of further research needed on livestock issues.
Then M Thibier recalled the sequence of these last 8 months or so regarding this approach of the EU Commission.
First, the UEAA, aware of the project by the EU Commission to release by April 2021 a document about how to place the New Genomic Technologies (NGT) in the EU regulations, has published 6 months ahead of time, on 5 November 2020 a:
P O S I T I O N P A P E R on:” GENE EDITING AND NEW EU REGULATIONS URGENTLY NEEDED” posted on the UEAA web site. The UEAA President received acknowledgment from the EU Commission.
The UEAA position paper stated as summarized on the UEAA home page: The U E A A (Union Européenne des Académies d’Agriculture, www.ueaa.info) claims that the Directive 2001/18 / EC has become unsuitable due to advances in scientific knowledge and recent technical advances such as genome editing and hence urges the E U Governance to review and adjust the European regulations on GMOs to recent scientific progress.
The awaited document was published by the EU Commission on time, on 30 April 2021 and entitled: “Study on the status of new genomic techniques under Union law and in light of the Court of Justice ruling in Case C 528/16” (116 pages). In addition, and very importantly, a letter signed by Vice President of the EU, M Defcovic was sent to the Foreign Minister of Portugal (Portugal chairing the E U this semester 2021). This letter was providing some explanation to the UE Governments. However, when the EU Commission document was released (see below), there was no mention of UEAA among the 100 (approx..) stakeholders consulted and this is unfortunate, pinpointing the necessity to get again closer to the EU Commission.

On May 4 2021, i. e. 4 days after the release of the E U document… the UEAA was able to publish and post on the UEAA web site a Press release about its position in regards to this EU study. In brief, it was stated by the UEAA that it was acknowledged (a) that the E U recognizes that “the applicable legislation is not fit for some NGTs and that it needs to be adapted to scientific and technological progress” and (b) “that NGT products have the potential to contribute to sustainable agri-food systems in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy”. The UEAA noted then, that “the commission open-mindedness is somewhat reassuring at this stage”.)
However, and by the same token the UE stated that “the other organisms (other than plants) will remain, at this stage, subject to the current GMO legal framework. Such a position is devastating as it has not taken into consideration at all the formidable potential of NGTs in animals to generate insensitive animals to viral (or bacterial) pathogens leading to panzootic diseases. Yet during this very period, many countries outside E U actively invest in some research in this area.
In the following discussion, SC members reiterated on the need to reestablish new contacts with the E U Commission but no decision has been taken of who would do what. Such contacts would try to make the EU people aware of the importance of allowing some research on the NGT for animals in the context on disease insensitivity.

A live discussion was held round the abovementioned issue raised by the M. Thibier. Each participant expressed his/her attitude and came up with different suggestions, such as, M. Thibier argued that this problem is very urgent; for instance, such New Genomic Techniques should be able in the future to contribute to the prophylaxis of dramatic panzootic diseases such as African Swine Fever of which the virus has generated disastrous economic consequences in China particularly.

Professor KerstinNiblaeus proposed to arrange meeting in a zoom format of the members of the Academy with the representatives of the EU Parliament to discuss the named problem. “Since, we, researchers are not politicians, we can discuss this problem with them, GMO problem should be connected with the pandemic”, Kerstin argued.

G. Aleksidze mentioned “We should think about the further steps to take in this direction”.

In the end of the discussion, Kerstin Niblaeus proposed to continue discussion around this problem in September, which was supported by all participants of the SC meeting.

10. The next SC meeting (zoom) will take place in late September (precise date to be determined by the President).

11. Close of the meeting.

 

APPENDIX 1

List and addresses of the E U Commissioners and officials of the E U Commission to whom the President’s letters were sent to, about the New Genomic Techniques (genome editing/ Crispr Cas 9) .

Commission of Agriculture
1. EU Commissioner of Agriculture Mr. Janusz Wojciechowski
2. EU Commission of Agriculture, Head of Cabinet Mr. Maciej Golubiewski
3. EU Commission of Agriculture, Director-General Mr. Wolfgang Burtscher

Commission of Health and Food safety
1. EU Commissioner of Health and Food safety Mrs. Stella Kyriakides
2. EU Commission of Health and Food safety, Deputy Head of Cabinet Mrs. AnnukkaOjala
(received positive answer 23.11.2020)
3. EU Commission of Health and Food safety, Head of Cabinet Mr. GiorgosRossides
4. EU Commission of Health and Food safety, Director-general Mrs. Sandra Gallina
5. EU Commission of Health and Food safety, chef de service: Crisis preparedness in food, animals
and plants Mr. Bernard Van Goethem

Commission of Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth
1. EU Commissioner of Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mrs. Mariya Gabriel
2. EU Commission of Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Head of Cabinet Ms. AdriennKirály
3. EU Commission of Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Assistant of the Commissioner Ms. DorinaByanova
4. EU Commission of Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Director General Mr. Jean-Eric Paquet

1. Head of service of “Food and Feed safety, innovation” at the DG Health and Food safety Ms. Sabine Juelicher (received positive answer 23.11.2020).

1. Head of office of Biotechnology at the DG Health and Food safety Ms. Chantal Bruetschy.