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Harvest of Events

Date: 21.10.2009 

September and October bring in our country harvest of potato, sugar beet and many fruits. However, they are also rich on various conferences, symposia and similar meetings.
As referred previously, September started this year with the Symposium on plant biotechnology in Szeged (September 1 -5) where the Czech participation was quite wide.

Szeged meeting was followed by two-day conference in the frame of the project METPOPULI on science popularisation in Olomouc (Sep. 11-12). This topic is of general importance for both: the cultural state of public as well as for the development of science, particularly in these days when the financial crisis pushes governments to reduce expanses. Public attitude based on correct information is of key importance for biotechnology. Its development and application is vitally dependent on regulation rules set by politicians. The idea of regulations based on science is pure sci-fi. Politicians' carriers depend on voters not on scientists. Therefore they set the regulations to please the public with no regard to scientific facts. EU regulations of GMO are a classical example. This is why public information in biotechnology is the key factor in application of its achievements. Several presentations of the conference in Olomouc dealt with biotechnology.

The use if GMO in agriculture is a new technology in the Europe as only one GM crop - Bt maize - is approved there for planting. Most experience is gathered in the USA where the technology was developed and has been used for 15 years. Therefore the Czech Agrarian Chamber (CzAC) in cooperation with the USA Embassy in Prague organized a Conference "Biotechnologies and they Role in Providing Food and Industrial Resources" in Prague (Sep. 17- 18). Jan Veleba, President of the CzAC, introduced the conference by a brief survey of the global food security, arable land situation and demands for renewable energy sources from plants. This was underlined by the US speakers - Chief advisor on biotechnology of the State Department Jack Bobo who added information on contribution of biotechnology to global challenges and by Jill Eulken discussing the role of biotechnology in the biofuel production. Czech participants informed about the White Book of Czech scientists, food security and the situation on the Czech market of agricultural products. Two farmers - one from the Republic of South Africa and another from the USA presented their view.

Next event in the raw was the Seminar in Brussels organised by the Czech Liaison Office for Research and Development (CZELO) and the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences: Estimation of risks (and benefits?) of novel agricultural biotechnologies on September 23. The purpose of this meeting was the presentation of the White Book and concise information and explanation the position of Czech scientists. Participants of the seminar were from Germany, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Poland. The seminar was also attended by Jens Hoegel from the Unit E2 "Biotechnologies" of the Directorate General for Research and Technology Development of the European Commission. The contributions and the discussion brought up-to-date information on the state of biotechnology regulation in countries of individual participants. We have to be sorry particularly about Poland and also about Italy where biotechnology is under heavy pressure of ideology. However, it was very pleasant to talk with members of the academic community of these countries who developed scientific field which is not welcomed by politicians. Very important was the topic delivered by Justus Wesseler from the University of Wageningen - evaluating the benefit and costs. The cost of EU biotechnology regulation is quite high whereas the benefit of it is very questionable.

October was open by the seminar organised by the Czech Ministry of Agriculture that similar to the Conference by CzAC confronted the use of biotechnology in the CR and the USA - this time in the State of Georgia. Deputy Minister of the Czech Ministry opened it by stressing the importance of biotechnology. An overview of Czech agriculture after the 2nd war was the next contribution. Second block was devoted to the renewable energy resources provided by agriculture. Ms Jill Stuckey (Director of Energy Innovation Center) informed about the use of agriculture producing these resources in Georgia. She stressed that the future is in second generation sources. Third block covered GM crops. Each block included two Czech contributions and one of our guests. The topic of GMO "The environmental issues connected with the use of GMO in Georgia" was presented by Donnie Smith (Agricultural Liaison to the Governor). Also in this meeting our guests were informed about the White Book of Czech scientists.

Making the account of all the events dealing with biotechnology that occurred during this fall we can be pleased with the presentation of Czech contribution to the field. We hope that this will be reflected by the official support from competent governmental authorities now and next year when new government will be elected.

Author: Prof. Jaroslav Drobník




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