What`s next after the ECJ judgement on gene editing?

“We need a societal discourse in which the political and ethical dimensions of the research in question are explored. What sort of agricultural system do we want? How are the new technologies to be used?” emphazised Prof. Matthias Mahlmann, lawyer and member of the Swiss Ethics Commission for Non-Human Biotechnology, at a recent panel discussion on genome editing at the www.tnam2019.ethz.ch.

The participants of the TNAM 2019 conference take a tri-national view on the main issues and potential consequences of the ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on organisms obtained by mutagenesis. The PSC has summarized the discussions at: https://www.plantsciences.uzh.ch/en/outreach/roundtable.html

Invited guests were:

  • Prof. Holger Puchta, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
  • Franziska Schwab, Small Farmers Association, Switzerland
  • Prof. em. Jean-Marc Neuhaus,  Institut de Biologie, Université de Neuchâtel, Member of the Swiss Ethics Commission for Non-Human Biotechnology
  • Prof. Matthias Mahlmann, Faculty of Law, University of Zurich, Member of the Swiss Ethics Commission for Non-Human Biotechnology
  • Dr. Ortrun Mittelsten Scheid, Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology, Austria

The panel discussion was organized by PlantHUB ‒ a European industrial doctorate program funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 722338.

Co-production of pollination services in coffee plantations

Developing sustainable management scenarios

By Charlotte Pavageau

What was the main impact for policy?

Pavageau et al. (2018) in close cooperation between ETH Zurich and ATREE, India searched the links between pollination service, coffee production and land use in coffee plantations in India.

Land-use allocation has multiple and complex economic and environmental implications. Thus designing optimal land-use is a key challenge for decision-makers and policies aiming at promoting sustainable development for a given region. The results of this study contributed to inform land-use and agricultural policies on the consequences of different collective decision-making scenarios on coffee productivity, economic gain and biodiversity conservation, by using landscape-scale ecosystem services models. This is important for better planning of land-use policy.

What evidence was useful for policymaking?

The study shows which combination of natural resources and land-use type should be favoured at the landscape level and which management practices contribute to maintaining an optimal level of pollination and coffee yield. For instance, conservation of local trees in agroforestry plantations, or better coordination on the dates of irrigation between farmers increase pollination by wild species. It also reaffirms the importance of conserving small forest fragments around plantations, even of small size as long as neighbouring coffee is grown under a diversity of local tree species. Those results show that better integration between agricultural policies, forest policies, land tenure policies are required at the local level. Local institutions that foster exchange and coordination between farmer decisions and forest community management are in particular necessary to reinforce.

What are the outputs for policy and how are they translated?

During the project, local workshops with coffee planters, beekeepers, public officials, local associations, managers from private companies and scientists were organized in Kodagu District, India. These formats are extremely important beyond disseminated the findings of the study. It allows an exchange of knowledge and information between different stakeholders, and discussion on a common vision for the development of the region. Also, a booklet on bees and pollination in the coffee estates was distributed to coffee farmers of Kodagu, India. It contains advice on how to best manage a plantation to benefit from natural pollination services.

Charlotte Pavageau is now programme manager on policy and advocacy at the Biovision Foundation. She supports policy dialogue and policy development on sustainable food system in sub-Saharan Africa. She received a fellowship from PSC and the e European Union’s Seventh FrameworkProgramme, IDP BRIDGES, PITN-GA-2013-608422 to carry out her doctoral thesis in science and policy.

Charlotte Pavageau

I am currently working for the Swiss NGO ‘Biovision Foundation’ as a program manager on Policy and Advocacy. My work is focussed on sustainable food system, agroecology, and ecological development for the Africa region. Our team supports public policies, and champion the interests of smallholders in Africa at international conferences and in discussions with politicians and government officials.

For instance, as part of my work, I help governments on assessing alternative policy options and providing recommendations on how to balance ecological, social and economic factors, through workshops, policy briefs, or direct bilateral meetings. What I found appealing in this job was to turn evidence and lessons from the field and research into action by creating a dialogue with policy-makers. Evidence-based approaches are core to our mode of operation. We collaborate with a diversity of actors: agricultural research institutions, national authorities and public bodies, UN organizations, development agencies, and a variety of NGOs. e

My past experience in environmental research for development is of great help. I started my career on forest issues in tropical regions as a consultant for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), based in Cameroon and later in Indonesia. I was working on climate change and forest management linkages in the Congo Basin. I was combining fieldwork with local communities and assessment of national climate change policies. I then pursued a PhD at ETH on the management of ecosystem services in an Indian coffee landscape. The ability to understand local realities and constraints combined with scientific approaches is increasingly sought in international development work. The experience gained during those years helps me define credible messages in favour of more sustainable approaches.

François Meienberg

François Meienberg, Public Eye

François Meienberg is currently working for the Swiss NGO ‘Public Eye’ as a program coordinator with the focus on agriculture, intellectual property rights and biodiversity. His rather unusual and highly unique career path started off with an apprentice as a chemical laboratory technician at ETH Zurich. Subsequently he acquired the degree of a professional actor and performed in various theatres in Switzerland and Germany. Meanwhile being active on stage he founded – together with two friends – a new political party which was dedicated to environmental protection and life quality. It almost instantaneously became a considerable political force in the community Opfikon. In the following years François Meienberg gradually educated himself to the profound expertise he has today through diverse activities such as his political involvement, his positions as Campaign Coordinator for Greenpeace and AKTE, his membership in the Swiss national FAO Committee and the long-term participation in Public Eye (since 1999) as a joint managing director as well as program coordinator. Being asked about his average working day he smiles and lists a number of activities performed today – indicating that one day barely resembles the other. His activities reach from developing, coordinating and conducting campaigns, meeting network partners and other stakeholders, generating/drafting factsheets, lobbying, attend conferences at national and international levels, to participating in awareness raising events of Public Eye’s regional (voluntary) groups. François Meienberg’s dedication for public eye’s mission to reveal issues caused by Swiss companies that conflict with human rights and sustainable resource use becomes very obvious as you hear him speak. Being able to break down complex issues to their core components and communicate them in correct and simple words he sees a crucial ability when being working in the science/policy/society interface. Furthermore, he emphasises on the dedication and enthusiasm required for successfully deliver one’s own message.

François Meienberg, Public Eye

Franziska Humair

Career Portrait_Franziska Humair_FOEN_Photo1

Franziska Humair, Project leader, Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)

I am employed by the Swiss Confederation. Initially I have been hired as the manager for biodiversity communication in the division of Species, Ecosystems, Landscapes Division. Soon after my start in communications, I have been appointed as the project leader for the development of the action plan to implement the Swiss biodiversity strategy. My work builds on the preliminary work of my colleagues who first developed the Swiss Biodiversity Strategy (SBS) with its long-term objective: “Biodiversity is rich and has the capacity to react to change. Biodiversity and its ecosystem services are conserved in the long term”. Second, they started the participative process where measures were defined in order to achieve the objectives of the SBS. Now it is my job to consolidate the respective action plan containing these measures, to make sure that documents necessary for public consultation are correctly prepared (i.e., information on new legal regulations necessary to put the action plan in practice, on costs to implement the measures, on the assessment of impacts of the implementation of the strategy for economy and society), and to maintain the dialogue about the implementation process within FOEN, but also between FOEN and different stakeholders. With regard to an impact at the interface of science and policy/science and society, I feel that I have the chance to move things – slowly but steadily – as well as to enhance networking and dialogue for a the most relevant issue for (human) life on earth: biodiversity!

Franziska Humair, Project leader, Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)

Dominik Klauser

Career Portrait_Klauser D_Syngenta Foundation1

Research and Development, Syngenta Foundation

I work for the Syngenta Foundation, a non-profit organization founded and funded by Syngenta. Our mandate is to support smallholder agriculture in developing countries. We address major bottlenecks faced by smallholders, including access to quality inputs (seeds, fertilizer, mechanization), remunerative output markets, training and finance (credit, insurance).
My responsibilities are to identify and test new technologies that could benefit small farmers. These include crop varieties, seed treatment, fertilizer formulations and smallholder-friendly insurance products. We develop and test innovations in close collaboration with our own staff in Africa and Asia, and with external partners (such as universities, CGIAR bodies and national agricultural research stations). Impact and success depend heavily on the “enabling environment” and therefore on policies and regulations. It is vital to work with and convince not only farmers of the benefits of potential new technologies, but also policymakers and other stakeholders. Recent results include the adoption of new fertilizer protocols in West African rice growing, and the release of improved bean varieties in Kenya. Both these changes improve farmers’ productivity and profitability.
While still a student, I worked for Syngenta in Switzerland and the UK, and enjoyed the company environment. Joining the Syngenta Foundation was an ideal further step. I came here straight after my PhD in plant physiology at the PSC. After a one-year internship, I became a Program Officer. My main motivation was to go “beyond publishing”, and really see research and results going all the way to potential beneficiaries. The Syngenta Foundation takes very pragmatic and promising approaches to achieve this. I can highly recommend working for a corporate foundation in the life sciences field.

ENGAGE with Society: Noch 8 Tage bis Bewerbungsschluss

Noch acht Tage können Fragen und Anliegen an unsere Forschenden formuliert werden! Das neue partizipative Forschungsformat gibt Forschenden des PSC und Partnern aus der Öffentlichkeit und Praxis die Möglichkeit, für Fragestellungen und Herausforderungen einer nachhaltigen, ökologischen und ressourcenschonenden Landwirtschaft eines alternativen und regional-orientierten Ernährungssystems Forschungswissen zu generieren und dieses gemeinschaftlich für die Praxis zu übersetzen.

Wir freuen uns über das Interesse. Bereits sind mehrere Anliegen und Fragen an uns herangetragen worden.

Die Frist für die Eingaben wurde bis zum 24.04.19 verlängert, um allen die Möglichkeit zu geben, ihre Anliegen nach den Osterfeiertagen einzureichen.

Wir freuen uns bereits auf die Ideenwerkstatt am 10.05.2019, 13:00 – 17:00 Uhr, in Zürich!

Hier geht es zur Ausschreibung.

Gemeinsame Planung von Forschung: ENGAGE with Society

Nachhaltigkeitsinitiativen, Landwirte und pflanzenwissenschaftliche Forschung engagieren sich gemeinsam für ökologische Landwirtschaft und alternative Ernährungssysteme.

Bewerbungsschluss für die Formulierung der Anliegen am 20. April 2019 und Teilnahme an der gemeinsamen Ideenwerkstatt am 10. Mai 2019, 13:00 – 17:00.

Worum gehts?

Wir laden Sie ein, Ihre Fragen und Anliegen an die Forschenden des Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center (Universitäten Zürich und Basel, ETH Zürich) in den Themenbereichen ökologische Landwirtschaft und alternative Ernährungssysteme zu formulieren.

Wir möchten mit Ihnen zusammen eine evidenzbasierte, naturwissenschaftliche Lösung oder Ergebnisse zu Ihrer Fragestellung erarbeiten. Zusammen definieren wir die wissenschaftliche Fragestellung und den Forschungsprozess und stossen gemeinsam Transformationsprozesse an – damit wir etwas bewirken für Nachhaltigkeit und Ihre Initiative.

Wir sind eingeladen aus Ihren Anliegen bis zu vier Dissertationsprojekte zu formulieren und einer namhaften Stiftung zur Förderung vorzuschlagen.

Wer kann mitmachen?

Mitmachen können VertreterInnen von Vereinen, Interessenverbänden im Bereich Umwelt und Landwirtschaft, lokalen und regionalen Bürgerinitiative, der Exekutive, der Umwelt- und Landwirtschaftsämter auf kommunaler bis nationaler Ebene, der regionalen Tourismusverbände, sowie Landwirtinnen und Landwirte.

Was bekommen Teilnehmende?

Für die teilnehmenden Organisationen bietet dieses Programm die Möglichkeit, ein Anliegen durch die Forschenden und Experten des PSC begleiten zu lassen. Wir generieren gemeinsam Expertenwissen für ihre Praxis. Sie bekommen Zugang zur Zusammenarbeit mit den Wissenschaftlern und Forschenden in den Pflanzenwissenschaften an ETH Zürich, Universität Zürich und Universität Basel. Wir erarbeiten einen gemeinsamen Stiftungsantrag, um diese angewandte und partizipative Forschung in die Praxis umzusetzen. Zusammen werden wir die Wirkung und die Sichtbarkeit der Projektergebnisse sicherstellen.  

Die Teilnahme ist für Sie kostenlos. Spesen und Sachaufwände, die während der Zusammenarbeit entstehen, können teilweise vergütet werden. Ihr Zeitaufwand in der Initialphase liegt bei ca. 1 Tag. Danach definieren Sie selbst, wie stark Sie sich in die Forschungszusammenarbeit einbringen möchten.


Sie formulieren Ihre Anfrage als Fragestellung oder Anliegen an die Forschung bis zum 20. April 2019 auf maximal 2 Seiten. Wir laden die von Ihnen genannten VertreterInnen Ihrer Organisation, dann zu einer gemeinsamen Ideenwerkstatt am 10. Mai 2019, 13:00 – 17:00 ein, wenn wir Ihre Fragestellung oder Ihr Anliegen in unserem Netzwerk bearbeiten können und erarbeiten einen Stiftungsantrag.

Zur Bewerbung hier