3rd European Workshop

Summary of the 3rd European Workshop

The 3rd European Workshop organized by the Benaki Phytopathological Institute (BPI) in the context of FP7-REGPOT-2008-1 SUPPORT ACTION: BPI Plant-Heal 230010 -“Development of Benaki Phytopathological Institute as a Centre of Excellence in Plant Health and Crop Protection took place in Athens on December 11, 2012, in the multipurpose room of the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA) and was attended by over 100 participants. Invited speakers included distinguished scientists from Greek universities and research institutes and from the collaborating laboratories/Centers of Excellence. The topic of the meeting was “The Impact of Agricultural Biotechnology on organisms and the environment”. Project coordinator Dr. Emilia Markellou and Prof. Epaminondas Paplomatas, Associated Dean of the Agricultural University of Athens, welcomed the workshop participants. Following the welcoming address, Dr. Vaya Kati, Researcher at BPI, presented an overview of the goals and achievements throughout the duration of the project. In particular, Dr Kati’s presentation focused on the research that came out of the project, as a result of the collaboration with the 3 European Centers of Excellence, the training received by BPI stuff and the recruitment of experienced researchers at BPI. The research areas presented, included host-pathogen interactions, novel detection, identification and characterization methods, functional genomics for the study of herbicide resistance mechanisms, evaluation of the potential environmental & human risks associated with modern plant technologies, chemicals and food products.
Several presentations covered the present status and risk/safety aspects of genetically modified crops. Dr.  Nickolas Panopoulos - (Emeritus, University of Crete and UC Berkeley) developed the aspect reflected in the title of his talk “How safe is safe enough in plant biotechnology?”, making particular reference to the approach followed by EFSA for risk assessment of transgenic crops, and concluding that Society as a whole will ultimately have to decide when and where genetic engineering is safe enough. Dr. Panagiotis Madesis – (The Centre for Research & Technology Hellas [CERTH]), reviewed chloroplast engineering. Advantages of plastid engineering include very high and stable expression levels, compartmentation of protein product, which reduces toxicity, greater precession, avoidance of gene silencing and position effects, maternal inheritance in many crops (which prevents pollen transgene movement), insertion of multiple genes to engineer metabolic pathways, avoidance of gene silencing and position effects, and removal of antibiotic resistance “marker” genes and vector sequences, to produce marker-free plants. Dr. Angharad Gatehouse (University of Newcastle) discussed the prospects of using recombinant fusion-based biopesticides exploiting natural (spider) toxins to help guide the insecticide to sites of action, and thus develop new,  environmentally-friendly pesticides for sustainable crop production. She presented examples of toxicity evaluation to target pests and beneficial insects (honey bees and a parasitoid) and the development of a pre-registration package for prototype fusion proteins. Dr. Henri Darmency – (INRA, Dijon, France) discussed the Impact of transgenic plants on weed management and environment, based on case-studies of gene-flow between crops and wild relatives and consequences for the commercial release of genetically modified crops. Dr. Mona Abirached-Darmency – (INRA, Dijon, France) discussed the topic of genomic rearrangements in transgenic plants, what happens in the genetically modified plants during the transformation process when compared to conventional plant breeding, the techniques used for localization of the integration site, number of transgenes and flanking DNA in the plant genome, and how the induced modifications may impact plant heredity and conceivably, the environment. Dr. Mona Abirached Darmency was not able to attend the workshop and her presentation was given by Dr. Henri Darmency). Dr. Polydefkis Hatzopoulos – (Agricultural University of Athens)  analyzed different aspects of risks and benefits of GM crop agriculture, with particular reference to BT and herbicide tolerance cropping systems, why   many Europeans are uneasy about agricultural biotechnology, and why  plant biotechnology is not only GMOs, using the oleosin system for production of valuable polypeptides as an example. Dr. Alexis Polydoros – (School of Agriculture, University of Thessaloniki) presented the challenges and recent advances in GMO detection, including methods of detection and quantification of GMOs and Derived Products followed by European Network of GMO Laboratories (ENGL). His talk covered topics such as the fate of specific transgenic events, Intrinsic properties of various potential  preharvest, in vivo transgene monitoring systems, the challenges posed for the identification of staked events, unauthorized GMOs and the possibility of incorporating unique molecular ‘biobarcodes’ in future GM crops.   
Several other talks dealt with alternative and novel breeding and other emerging techniques. Dr. George Skaracis – (Agricultural University of Athens) reviewed the current status, future perspectives of novel plant breeding techniques and their great technical potential for producing genetic variation, the first step in plant breeding, their associated risks and constraints for their adoption, whether they fall within the scope of the EU GMO legislation, and the role of breeding in the era of tradition and innovation. Dr. Emmanuil Flemetakis - (Agricultural University of Athens) discussed the prospects of modern “-omic” technologies for Systems Biology in Agricultural Research as an aid to classical breeding, in understanding molecular mechanisms underlying productivity and stress adaptation of crop/model plants and green algal systems, in genome-scale investigations of natural variations in their nesting ecosystems to aid in trait selection and genome/marker-assisted breeding, in the assessment of global changes by CO2-neutral biomass production and the transition from 1st-generation biofuels to 2nd- and 3rd-generation materials. Dr. Kriton Kalantidis (University of Crete and Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotecnhnology [IMBB]) discussed the importance of transgenesis and related techniques such as agroinfiltration and viral vectors, as tools for functional analysis of genes to improve our understanding of various aspects of plant biology. He listed several projects illustrating the power of these tools in a diversity of questions. Finally, Dr. Anagnostis Argiriou - (The Centre for Research & technology Hellas [CERTH]) discussed the prospects of Genomic Technologies, such as whole genome sequencing, epigenomics and metagenomics in the agri-food sector, ranging from food production, to production of healthier but also more 'customized' foods, prevention of diseases, improvement and traceability of food products and optimization of the metabolic pathways of entire microbial ecosystems.
In addition to the scientific value of the presentations and the exchange of knowledge among researchers through this workshop, the wide range of subjects discussed and the plethora of very informative illustrations provided by the invited speakers, constitute excellent graduate-level instruction material.

Presentations Agenda Poster Leaflet

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