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Successful launch of the “Fascination of Plants Day” at the European Parliament

Date

15 May 2012

Sections

Agriculture & Food
Climate & Environment
Since time immemorial, plants have been crucial to our survival and prosperity. From the world’s first “green revolution” – the invention of agriculture – in the Middle East, to today’s high-tech agribusiness, plants have been at the centre of our diets, economy and much more. Plant cells produce biomass from simple chemical building blocks in the air and the soil, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water, using the sun as a ‘for-free’ energy source.
 
Plants are not only our food and fodder for animals but we also use them to make clothes, paper, paints, oils, medicines, and biodegradable plastics, among many other things. We all know that money does not grow on trees, but plants are a big part of our economic prosperity.
 
To mark the European kick-off of the “Fascination of Plants Day” (http://www.plantday12.eu), the European Technology Platform “Plants for the Future” (Plant ETP) organised on 9th May 2012 at the European Parliament in Brussels the high-level event “Fascination of Plants – Opportunities for the Future” with an attractive and interactive exhibition and three interesting discussions sessions highlighting the day.
 
Scientists, farmers, European companies and organisations active in the plant-based sector, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and their assistants, representatives of the European Commission, policy makers and administrators with responsibility for the EU’s research and innovation funding schemes and the agricultural policy, came together to network on the latest state-of-the-art research and breakthroughs in the plant world and to explore all the new potential applications and benefits plants can offer. They visited the interactive exhibition and discovered how fascinating plants are and how extraordinary and vital their role is in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, the non-food sector - such as paper, timber, textiles, chemicals, energy, and pharmaceuticals - and environmental conservation. They discovered for instance how enhanced cotton fibers characteristics can improve textile processing and enhance consumer benefits; how smart plant roots are and how equipment you may know from medicine is used by plant scientists to watch and improve root systems; how wheat was developed from mankind towards the bread wheat of today; what is molecular farming about; how the increasing knowledge on the genome of our crop plants starts to find its way into the plant breeding process; where does the taste of tomatoes come from and many more exciting experiments.
 
During the discussion on “The Fascinating World of Plant Research” hosted by MEP Giles Chichester, Mr Chichester underlined the importance of maintaining plant science as a cornerstone of the future Horizon 2020. Jean-Claude Guillon, chairman of the European Technology Platform “Plants for the Future”, whose major stakeholders are ESA (European Seed Association), EPSO (European Plant Science Organisation), Copa-Cogeca (the European Farmers’ and Agricultural Cooperatives Organisation), Bayer, KeyGene, Limagrain, KWS and Nestlé, underlined the key role plants, and especially crop plants, play in addressing major societal challenges such as ensuring food security, managing natural resources, reducing dependence on non-renewables, mitigating and adapting to climate change, creating jobs and European competitiveness. Ulrich Schurr, former vice-president of EPSO and member of the Plant ETP Executive Committee welcomed better link between research, farmers, industries and consumers in a circular way.
 
MEP Britta Reimers chaired the discussion on “The Extraordinary Abilities of Plants as Primary Producers of Biomass for Agriculture”. Mrs Reimers underlined the importance to maintain in Europe a healthy and diverse agricultural sector by taking into account the needs of farmers who are required to produce more and more with less resources. Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General of Copa-Cogeca and member of the Plant ETP Steering Council outlined what is at stake for the farming sector in Europe: innovation needs to be put forward at the farm gate in order to accelerate the transfer of knowledge to the farmers, create jobs and add value to the European economy. MEP Maired McGuinness stressed the intrinsic link between agriculture and the environment. The sustainable intensification of agriculture through research efforts is vital for a healthy environment while maintaining productivity of the agricultural sector.
 
The closure session was hosted by MEP Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl who chaired the discussion on “Plant breeding – Starting Point for a Competitive European Agri-Food Chain”; Mrs Quisthoudt-Rowohl underlined the importance to regulate plant breeding, seed production and marketing, plant health to enable the free movement of plant material and plant research material in international trade for the benefit of our economies and our societies. Lauro Panella, member of the Cabinet of Commissioner Tajani for Industry and Entrepreneurship, recognised the importance of the plant breeding sector which is the main pillar of the food supply chain and stressed that a better functioning food supply chain is crucial for consumers and for ensuring a sustainable distribution of value added along the chain, thus contributing towards raising its overall competitiveness. Garlich von Essen, Secretary General of ESA and member of the Plant ETP Executive Committee, emphasized the contribution of plant breeding and the seed industry which over time has managed to create an unparalleled variety and genetic progress that today is the very base of our food security and nutritional value as well as the beautiful diversity of our landscapes while preserving our environment.
 
For more information, please contact Silvia Travella, Coordinator of the European Technology Platform ‘Plants for the Future’ at silvia.travella@plantetp.org and visit the plant ETP website to read the report on this event.
 

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