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

14.3. 2022

by Visio conference from Tbilisi Friday 10 December 2021, from 10.00 a.m. Paris time (Approved by the Steering Committee on 11 March 2022)

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), Lili Yanse (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

Welcome address by President
Approval of the minutes of the 06 October 2021 meeting
“Best Abstract`s” procedure and problem with Prizes (all SC members)
Results of SC members zoom meeting with EU Agricultural Department in “Forestry strategy”
Dr. K. Niblaeus
Results of EWG meetings on “Gene editing” and future relation EU Commissioner of Health
(DG Santé)
Prof. M. Thibier;
Renovation of UEAA website, purpose – publication of “Scientific Abstracts”
Prof. M. Thibier;
Organization questions:
Approval of next SC meeting (zoom).
Close of the meeting.

Welcome address by President

Opening of the Meeting:
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 all the issues which were on the Meeting Agenda. Accordingly, the members approved the Meeting Agenda.

Approval of the minutes of the 06 October 2021 meeting

The President also asked the Committee members to express their opinion about the Minutes of previous SC Meeting held in October 2021, which had been sent to each of the member prior to the present Meeting, and also asked to SC members their agreement for posting the minutes on the UEAA web site.
The members said they agreed with the information included in the Minutes, and consequently, approved posting the minutes on the UEAA web site.

“Best Abstract`s” procedure and problem with Prizes

“Best Abstract’s” procedure and problems in regards to the Prizes.
President Aleksidze presented the existed problems regarding presentation of the best abstract and discussed the procedures in connection with it. He said that he had already received comments from the SC members in regards to the instruction sent to the members how to present scientific abstract, and asked the members to express their opinion on this subject.
Prof. Michel Thibier said that he and the French Academy of Agriculture support the idea of granting the first, second and the third prices to the authors of the best abstract. He also talked about the way how French Academy and some of the Western European academies’ members present orally their opinion, their review of the scientific projects during weekly meetings. He also mentioned that in other academies, such as Rumania and Georgia, the members publish scientific papers, articles. Second point, he said was that the selection of the best abstract which would not be difficult for the Academies, as, for example, French Academy goes through this selection anyway; and the last, third point is that, after the abstract is checked whether it corresponds to the instructions by the academy it proceeds, the abstract will be sent to Marek who agrees to fulfill this obligation and post the abstracts on the UEAA Web site for 300 Euros a year.
Prof. Ioan Jelev from the Rumanian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences shared M. Thibier’s position and said that it is possible to get financial contribution for the prizes from Rumanian Academy as long as the UEAA set up a common agreement in this regard. Based on this decision, Rumanian Academy will be able to make financial contribution. Prof. Jelev also concentrated on the two types of abstracts which could be presented. The first type, he said, could be based on oral presentation of a certain scientific problem, as it is in the French Academy, and a second type , the abstract could be the result of an individual research or scientific study of a scientific research institute on a broader issue, such as, GMO, or forest policy.
The next speaker who extended his opinion about publication of the abstract was Prof. Vilem Podrazsky, Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences, who said that first, they could send two or three abstracts a year, which seems to be maximum for his Academy; Second, he stated that there would be a financial problem for his Academy to contribute money for the best abstract prize winners. It acknowledged the fact that selecting best abstracts from the UEAA member Academies will be quite a job and should be well organized ahead of time.
Zenonas Dabkevicius from Lithuanian Academy of Sciences also expressed his concern about the possibility of financing this Best Abstract competition and said that he was not very optimistic about this problem initially, but since other academies support the idea, he would also join the majority and try to work out the final rules. He added that the financial support affordable from his academy could be about 5 or 10 Euros.
Kerstin Niblaeus, Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, spoke positively and said that it is important to start and see how it works. She explained that Swedish academy usually organizes discussions and debates about the current policies, invites decision makers; therefore, she doubts that this format will quit fit in. As for the finances, her concern was clear stating that it would be easy to get this money and that the process would be a difficult and long procedure.
The Chairman presented the representatives of National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine and mentioned that Ukraine is very active sending scientific abstracts, and the last two abstracts, sent recently, which fully corresponds to the standards would be published after their officially reading. The speaker Lili Yanse, National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine, presented herself and her husband and said that she had a message to deliver in the name of their SC member. She was positive in supporting the idea of in general and pointed out two aspects: First, she said, to promote the activity of the academy, the best way is to do it through the website which presents each academy separately. Second, in Ukraine competition to promote young scientists is very popular as in the result of competition, 6 scientific works are selected and the best ones are awarded. In this case, she explained, each country should develop some rules to promote the best scientific work, because they had both – oral publications and written production.
Baiba Rizva, Latvian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, supported the project and added that she had discussed it in her country, and that a small amount of money would be available.
At the end of ‘Best Abstract” discussion, Prof. M. Thibier asked to all SC members if they are ready to take part into the procedure of the “Best Abstracts” competition. Each of SC members expressed their willingness to participate in this process. The question about Prizes will be discussed later for example at mid-year once the first Abstracts will have been received and posted . The SC did not commit itself at this stage to offer any money to the UEAA Best Abstract competition prize winners.

Results of SC members zoom meeting with EU Agricultural Department in “Forestry strategy”

Brief information by Dr. K. Niblaeus
On 30 November some representatives of the UEAA had a digital meeting with Alfonso Gutierrez and his colleagues who deal with forestry issues in the Directorate General for Agriculture in the Commission. The UEAA was represented by Professor Vilém Podrázský from the Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Professor Bernard Roman-Amat from the French Academy of Agriculture as well as Kerstin Niblaeus (Head of the group as member of the Steering Committee of UEAA) and professor Göran Örlander from the Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry.
The aim of the meeting was to underline and elaborate on the UEAA Position Paper regarding the New Forest Strategy of the EU Commission.
The UEAA representatives underlined that they share the concern about biodiversity decline and the climate change and agree that the forests play an important role in mitigating these threats. However, they also reiterated the criticism in relation to the scientific basis of the strategy which is too limited, dealing mainly with climate and biodiversity aspects and not with the vast pool of forestry science available in the member states. Neither does it address economic aspects. It is also biased, « cherry picking » reports that support a political direction that has already been decided. The relevant information about forestry management is hardly found in the “top” scientific journals. Importance of forests in the biosphere and practical forest management are often two different worlds. In addition, a report from the EU Commission Joint Research Centre based on satellite images has been done using incorrect methods.
The differences between types of forests in the member states and the different natural and socio- economic conditions have not been sufficiently taken into account.
Thus the UEAA concludes that there is not a solid scientific base for requesting significant changes in forest management practices in the member states at this stage. The UEAA group explained that there is a vast pool of scientific knowledge in forestry science in the member academies of UEAA and that UEAA would like to put at the disposal of the Commission for sound-based decision The UEAA group had a constructive discussion, thanks to the DG Agri colleagues and all agreed to meet again in a few months’ time.

Results of EWG meetings on “Gene editing” and future relation with EU Commissioner of Agricultural Department

Brief information by Prof. M. Thibier
Following our last meeting on 6 October 2021, I started to constitute this Electronic Working Group (EWG) , starting to exchange with some colleagues during the second half of October and at end of October I managed to have 8 colleagues accepting to be involved in such a EWG dedicated on Gene Editing in Plants and Animals. They were all well-known experts on either Crop Plants or Farm Animals genome editing. They were from 7 countries (France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain, and Sweden). Five of these colleagues actively participated to the task to draft a text about the frame concerning Genome Editing Research and Development for Plants and Animals.
The sequence was divided into consecutive steps of two weeks each:

  • Step 1: Introduction of each member and definition of the objectives of the group.
  • Step 2: define the type and structure of the paper to deliver: it was decided to write a
    recommendation paper using bullets points and leaving the UEAA S C to decide whether they will use it as such in its interaction with the EU or whether UEAA will make it then into a Position Paper. It was decided to have a 2-3 pages paper but no longer.
  • Step 3: starting around the 20th November in drafting the document properly speaking.

This document will include three sections:

  • Section 1 : “the considering that”…
  • Section 2 : Crop Plants : two sub sections : (a) the stating that…. and (b) the recommendations
    : 4 for plants
  • Section 3 : Farm Animals, same two sub sections and similar number of recommendations.

The UEAA EWG is planning to deliver the document by week 50 (13-18 December) to the UEAA President.
Regarding the follow up, the question addressed to the UEAA President and the SC were the following:
Will this recommendations document be transferred as a Position Paper? I am not in favor, it might be better to leave it as recommendations, to further discuss..
Ask the President to send a letter with which will be attached these recommendations, to the EU Commissioner of DG Health and Health Safety and her staff and collaborators and ask for a presential or Visio meeting with the adequate people.
Post these on the UEAA Website
Communicate to all UEAA members.
Regarding those actions to the EU Commission and all communications, might it not be advisable to wait for the 1st week of 2022 to do so?1

Renovation of UEAA website, purpose – publication of “Scientific Abstracts”

-Prof. M. Thibier;
Professor Michel Thibier expressed his view that according to him, the UEAA web site was now obsolete and too old in its setting.
He reminded the members that the last update dated from 2016 thanks to the Royal Swedish Academy which very generously had provided UEAA with some money for this updating and thanks to the technical help of the Czech Academy.
Things have evolved so much since then that it urgently needs some renovation with possible applications of videos etc..
The fact that UEAA has now this Best Abstract competition on the site and which will draw more people to connect would emphasize even more this need.
Of course this will cost some money and the question is opened : how could we finance this and it seems that it is necessary to make a call to the UEAA members for some financial support and technical expertise for such a renovation.

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 in 11th of March 2022, and the participants agreed on each of them.

Close 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 the competition “Best Abstract”. 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 11.55 am

The President Guram Aleksidze

 


1 A final document by the EWG was ready to be proposed to the SC for approval on 17 December 2021, approved and published on 3 January 2022 on www.ueaa.info