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Minutes of the Union of European Academies of Agriculture, Food and Nature (U E A A) Steering Committee Meeting

9.2. 2022

by Visio conference from Tbilisi Tuesday 6 October 2021, from 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 (Academy of Georgofili, Italy), Vilem Podrazsky (Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences), Elena Horska (Slovak Academy of Agricultural Science), 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).
Absentees : Maria Salome Pais (Academia das Ciências de Lisboa (ACL), Tomas Garcia Azcarate (National Association of Agricultural Engineering, Spain,).

AGENDA

  1. Welcome address by President
  2. Approval of the minutes of the 18 June 2021 meeting
  3. International Conference on “Agricultural Mechanization and Technologies in Europe and Perspectives”. Need final decision to organize this with electronically (online) in November or postpone for the May 2022 (with attendance).
  4. Approval of scientifical papers` “Abstract” Standard.
  5. The Best Scientific Papers` “Abstracts”. Discussion and approval.
  6. EU decision processes of high relevance to agriculture and forestry – Doctor Kerstin Niblaeus
  7. Next steps for “Gene Editing” regulation. – Professor Michel Thibier
  8. Final list of UEAA members for publication in UEAA webpage.
  9. Organization questions: – Approval of next SC meeting (zoom).
  10. Close of the meeting.

1. Welcome address by President of UEAA Professor G. Aleksidze

The Meeting was opened with the welcoming address of the President of UEAA, G. Aleksidze who after greeting members of the Steering Committee, mentioned that if there was not such a heavy pandemic situation in Georgia, considering that only 25% of the Georgian population are vaccinated, the UEAA International Conference planned in Tbilisi in November 2021 would have been maintained but as to be discussed later in the meeting, he was sorry to inform the Committee that this meeting could not be held with attendees in Tbilisi this coming month.

2. Approval of the minutes of the 18 June 2021 meeting

Meeting participants approved the Agenda which had been sent to them prior to the
meeting.

3. International Conference on “Agricultural Mechanization and Technologies in Europe and Perspectives”. Need final decision to organize this with electronically (online) in November or postpone to May 2022 (with attendance)

The meeting participants agreed that it should be postponed to May 2022, by the time when, hopefully, the conference participants would be able to hold the Conference live. Michel Thibier, Kerstin Niblaeus, Ioan Jelev, and other members sustained the idea of changing the date of the conference.
G. Aleksidze also mentioned that the planned Conference in Tbilisi is significant because besides its scientific purpose, it also has another goal –there is the UEAA General Assembly Meeting with the approval of new applicants from European Union who wish to join UEAA. This explains why, to his opinion it is important to hold it with its participants present at the conference. It should be mentioned, he said, that “the Conference Committee has received only two scientific papers so far from the members of UEAA. Incidentally, this means that once the final date is determined, there will be a need for each member of the S C to communicate about it and ask colleagues from their own Academy to actively participate and present papers to the Conference on Mechanization.
In addition, the situation regarding pandemic is deteriorating in Georgia this autumn and the country is in a so called “Red zone”. Considering all arguments against holding the planned Conference online in November, the President also supported its postponement.
In conclusion, the meeting, both scientific conference and UEAA General Assembly will take place in Tbilisi in May (exact date to be determined) with physical attendance. The question to have a mix of physical attendance and Visio Conference remains to be discussed at a later S C meeting.

4. Approval of Publication of scientific papers` “Abstract” Standard.

There were two distinct problems discussed on this topic:

a) Would the UEAA publish some Abstracts of scientific papers (or Abstracts or Short Publications…) directly sent to UEAA by the authors, by posting them on the UEAA web site?

b) With the objectives of setting up a yearly UEAA scientific prize to the “best
Abstract” proposed by the President G Aleksidze, what would be the process to achieve this goal regarding first the substance and secondly the format?

Discussion on a) . Re. the “direct publication” by UEAA of direct sent Abstracts: President Aleksidze shared with the attendees the details of the problem indicating that some had been sent already but not published so far (both under his Presidency and before). Almost all attendees took part to the discussion and referred to the following problems regarding abstract publication: does this concern original, First time, publication of a scientific abstract? , or could it be already delivered at a Conference for example prior to its publication. Kerstin Niblaeus said that in this case the methods of research and references should be included into the abstract (hence not being quite an Abstract), and also, she drew the attention of the Committee that re-publication also could be considered as plagiarism. Michel Thibier, confirmed that he was opposed to the “direct publication” of scientific papers (Abstracts, short communications or whatever).
In conclusion, this option is rejected

Discussion on b) UEEA Prize on best Abstracts
By contrast M Thibier is much in favor of receiving Abstracts possibly competing for the UEAA Prize provided that they are primarily selected and approved by the National Academies members of UEAA and for each case by the National Academy from the country of the author. He said, for example, that only those articles and abstracts supported by the French Academy and sent to UEAA would be published and/or uploaded, so that the scientific quality and interest to the Agricultural Academies would be secured. It would therefore be each Academy’ responsibility to propose on a regular timing, for instance every month – for 9 months a year- one Abstract selected as the best of the month of that given Academy…
Joan Jelev also agreed that abstracts should be selected and then sent for publication. Baiba Rivza suggested that the abstracts should be uploaded on UEAA website, and the majority of attendees supported this idea.
While the debates regarding the abstract format, its selection procedures and the ways of its publication continued with each participant expressing his/her opinion, the UEAA President asked the participants to prepare and send their version of the Abstract format in a written form to him. He committed himself to write a kind of “Instructions for authors” so that consistency appears for all Abstracts sent by the National Academies. When all this UEAA Prize procedure will be ready, it will be necessary to set up a new page on the UEAA website “Scientific News” which will feature all publications received by UEAA.
It was requested that all S C members give some guidelines to the President to draft the rules for the UEAA scientific Prize and the standard format of Abstracts to be received.

In conclusion, The President will write a note on the procedure to follow to set up the UEAA scientific Prize with Instructions to authors including the format of Abstracts.
It is hoped that this would be ready for our next meeting so that after reviewing such a note a consensus could be reached by all members.

5. The new EU Forest Strategy for 2030

This point was introduced by Kerstin Niblaeus. The problem of forestry, in Sweden and in other EU countries, is among most urgent problems which needs an integrated approach; though, she said, the EU has no right to meddle in the country’s forestry problems, the issue will be dealt during the meeting in Brussels. Kerstin added that she had a meeting with the representatives of EU Commission members and that she expressed her dissatisfaction in regards to scientific researches carried out in the field of forestry, in Sweden. “We are also in contact with the Swedish Parliament, which will be discussing the problem of protecting forests in the coming session”.
Two points emerged from the discussion:
a) Write a note that could become the Position Paper of UEAA(1) (+ see below)
b) Take contact with the right offices in the EU Commission in Brussels in order to
envisage a visit over there when appropriate.
Regarding the contacts with Brussels offices, the President said that he would write to the Commissioner on this issue but as far as the physical presence in Brussels was concerned, because of some reasons which he shared with his colleagues, he will not be able to lead the meetings planned in Brussels. Kerstin Niblaeus asked if the Vice President of UEAA, Elena Horska, would be eligible to take a leading role in this process. The President G Aleksidze approved her candidacy, and added that, “she is the one who is supposed to be elected as the next president, therefore, she is a proper person to take a lead in the meetings held in Brussels”.
The members of the SC discussed the issue and how to present the problem of forestry during the meeting in Brussels. When such a meeting in Brussels, if it happens, will be organized, G Aleksidze requested to send documents and information about the meeting and other relevant materials which would be very useful in the process of formulating some approaches towards the problem. Also, Kerstin asked her colleagues to make a valuable contribution and send their opinion regarding the problem.
In the end of the discussion, President G. Aleksidze asked K Niblaeus to prepare a draft, which would be posted on the UEAA website. Ioan Jelev consented with the idea to address EU Commission in Brussels with some position paper, which will also appear on UEAA website.
Dr Podrazsky added that the paper should be prepared by the forest specialists, after which it should be discussed by the members(2).

In conclusion, it was asked to Kerstin Niblaeus to be kind enough to develop a Position Paper of the UEAA on this topic with some colleagues and experts and further take contact with the Brussels offices.

6. Next steps for “Gene Editing” regulation.

President G Aleksidze asked Michel Thibier to summarize the situation and where the UEAA was up to on this issue. Michel reiterated the sequence of events and papers released by UEAA these last 5 months as parts already reported in the minutes of our last meeting. There is now an urgent need to make some proposals regarding the EU future regulation of both Gene Edited Plant and animals.
Following the suggestion to approach the EU Commission then stated, M Thibier proposed to set up a UEAA Electronic Working Group (EWG) including half a dozen of members of Academies of Agriculture of different countries with the objective to release a document as a follow up to the UEAA actions. Such a document will have to be discussed by the group on its format: recommendations, communiqué or guidelines etc. Of course, the document in question will be provided to the UEAA SC for its validation and publication. Then M Thibier explained briefly how such EWG’s work and according to quite an experience of his with such groups, he underlined the fact that to work efficiently, the number of members should not be too large, otherwise impossible to manage. With exchanges between the EWG members every week, it seems possible to come out with a document by the end of the year.
The Steering Committee agreed and the President G Aleksidze asked Michel to go ahead with such a group and report when ended.
The question remained as whether it was appropriate to contact the EU Commission offices before the end of this work, this will be dealt with as the work will progress or else at our next S C meeting.

In conclusion, a green light is given to Professor Michel Thibier to set up a UEAA Electronic Working Group (EWG) on the regulation of both Gene Edited Plants and Animals in order to develop a document as a follow up of the previous papers from UEAA to be addressed to the EU Commission.

7. Final List of UEAA members for publication in UEAA webpage.

Thanks to the President, UEAA is currently in a position to hold the full list of its members with e-mail addresses and for most, names of contacts. There is still one small problem with Hungary which should be solved in the few days ahead. This list will be posted on the UEAA web site in the next few days.

8. Organization questions: Approval of next SC meeting (zoom).

At the end of the meeting some Organization questions were discussed, such as, approval of the next UEAA SC Members meeting online (Zoom), which will be held at the end of 2021, in December, and the participants agreed on each of them.

9. Closing of the meeting

The SC members who participated in the meeting expressed positive opinion regarding the questions raised and discussed during the meeting, and they have once again expressed their willingness to continue working in UEAA and actively participate in discussions held round global agricultural problems, such as, forest management and gene editing. Also, they mentioned that a further discussion is needed in reference to the format of publication of abstracts. In their closing remarks, the participants summarized the results of the meeting, and the consensus which have been reached regarding a number of problems.

The meeting ended at 11.45 am

The President
Guram Aleksidze


(1) This has been done and posted on the UEAA web site on 11 10 21, thanks to Kerstin Niblaeus
(2) See foot note # 1