planta3 webbThe Swedish Board of Agriculture has, after questions from researchers in Umeå and Uppsala in Sweden, confirmed the interpretation that some plants in which the genome has been edited using the CRISPR-Cas9 technology do not fall under the European GMO definition. This is important for the wide use of such plants to contribute to solving some of the escalating challenges of mankind.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a technique, invented in collaboration with researchers at Umeå University, allowing scientists to make small edits in the genetic material of an organism, edits that can also occur naturally. Instead of hoping that such edits occur by natural recombination, they can now be deliberately introduced in a targeted and precise manner. CRISPR-Cas9 can thus be used in many ways in plant science and breeding.

Plants that fall within the scope of EU GMO legislation are subject to a very strict regulatory regime (in reality making it impossible to grow them in the field in most EU countries). Plants that fall outside the scope can be grown without restriction. Since “inside or outside of the GMO definition” will decide whether or not plant scientists will be able to use the technique for practical applications, plant scientists and breeders have been waiting for the authorities’ decision concerning CRISPR-Cas9.

Outside the EU, countries such as Argentina have announced that similarly edited plants fall outside their GMO legislation, but no decision has been taken yet inside the EU. A complicating factor is that the technique can be used in several different ways with the consequence that some of the resulting plants may fall outside while others may fall inside the GMO legislation. Now, for the first time, concrete examples have been evaluated by a competent authority, and the Swedish Board of Agriculture announced today their opinion that some Arabidopsis plants that have been modified using CRISPR-Cas9 fall within the scope of the legislation while others do not.

Signature INUPRAG 2015

The Franco-Swedish laboratory without walls "UPRA" opens at CRAG, a Spanish research center.

In 2005, the connections between the research projects of the UPSC (Umeå Plant Science Center, Plant Science Center, Umeå, Sweden) and INRA (French National Institute for agricultural research) in the fields of biology and plant genomics led to the creation of a virtual European Open Laboratory called "UPRA" and to the signature of a cooperation agreement between the institutions. In continuation with this action, a new cooperation agreement opens to a new partner, the CRAG (Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics, Barcelona, Spain).
October 7, 2015, on the INRA site Champenoux, the UPSC, two divisions of the INRA ("Biology and Plant Breeding", "Ecology of forests, meadows and water bodies") and the CRAG have signed a new agreement. The UPRA became INUPRAG, contraction of INRA, UPSC and CRAG. These three research institutions have strong complementarities in areas of plant integrative biology and genomics.

PhDstudents WWSC AcademyThirty graduate students from the Wallenberg Wood Science Center Academy, accompanied by their coordinator Prof. Paul Gatenholm from Chalmers will be visiting UPSC during three days in the early fall. The students have a background in biopolymers and fluid mechanics and want to learn about our research on wood formation and build bridges to UPSC PhD students and postdocs.

We have prepared an exciting programme for this WWSC-UPSC meeting with

  • lectures by Ove Nilsson, Ewa Mellerowicz, Rosario Garcia Gil and Nathaniel Street on wood biology, wood biotechnology, genetics and genomics
  • a poster-session and a research seminar slot where WWSC-Academy PhD students and UPSC PhD students and postdocs will present their research to each other
  • a team-building activity “5-kamp” and a BBQ that will foster closer connections of WWSC and UPSC members
  • and finally a common workshop of UPSC and WWSC students/postdocs on topics such as “Design of new trees for growth of materials” and “New materials from transgenic trees”

The detailed schedule for this meeting can be found pdfhere
Don’t miss this stimulating opportunity that will bring new valuable connections to UPSC!

You are invited to come to the poster-session and dinner on August 31st, the research presentations and social activities on Tuesday September 1st and the workshop on Wednesday September 2nd. We hope to see many of you!
pdfList of poster presentations

Ewa Mellerowicz, Hannele Tuominen and Judith Felten

Photo: PhD students of the WWSC Academy

FVD webblogo 45kThe third Fascination of Plants Day will be celebrated in Umeå on
May 23, 2015 at Umeå Arts Campus.  
Plant scientists invite you to 25 stations with experiments and demonstrations. Learn more about the secrets of photosynthesis! Find out about the pigments, structures, and hidden energy storages in plants; taste the fascinating flavours of plants;  listen to short presentations by UPSC researchers on current research topics; discover your creativity, inspired by the colors of plants at the Bildmuseet’s workshop! Join a tour through the "Residensparken"!
Welcome to the fascinated world of plants!
23 May, 11:00-17:00, Umeå Arts Campus, Sliperiet and Bildmuseet

The Fascination of Plants Day Umeå is one of around 950 events worldwide which are organized under the umbrella of the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO). UPSC initiated the event in Umeå and are coordinating the day. Collaborating organisations are Bildmuseet, several departments from SLU and Umeå University, Arboretum Norr, and the local group of the Swedish Bonsai Organisation.
More information:
"Fascinerande växters dag" in Sweden and Umeå

Fascination of Plants Day, international

Contact: Stefan Jansson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SPPS prizes gruppbild 2 webbDuring its  26th annual meeting 9-13 August in Stockholm, the Scandinavian Plant Physiology Society (SPPS) will grant four prizes to UPSC scientists.

Gunnar Öquist, professor emeritus at the Department of Plant Physiology (UmU), will receive the SPPS Award, which is given "to a scientist (...) in recognition of his/her outstanding merited contribution to the science of plant biology in Scandinavia".

Nathaniel Street, PI at the Department of Plant Physiology (UmU), will receive the SPPS Early Career Award together with Ari-Pekka Mähönen, University of Helsinki. This award is granted to "a young, highly talented scientist, who has shown good progress and made significant, independent contributions to Scandinavian plant biology". 

The Physiologia Plantarum Award, the prize of the organisation's journal, will go to Torgny Näsholm, because he is considered a scientist, who "has made outstanding contributions to plant science in the areas that are covered by the journal". Torgny Näsholm is PI at the Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology (SLU).

And Stefan Jansson, PI at the Department of Plant Physiology (UmU), will be awarded with the SPPS Popularization Prize, which is an award of honor "to encourage plant biologists to bring research results to the public".

More information about the prizes (webpage of the Scandinavian Plant Physiology Society, SPPS

Press release of Umeå University (in Swedish)

Information about the scientists research:
Gunnar Öquist's contact information

(Picture by Ingrid Söderbergh; from left Torgny Näsholm, Nathanial Street, Stefan Jansson)

Agrisera Award 2014 Delphine Gendre20141216 webThe 2014 Agrisera prize is awarded to Delphine Gendre for her excellent scientific contributions involving highly skilled work looking at protein trafficking. This has lead to important publications in prestigious journals such as Plant Cell and PNAS. Delphine is also a very collegial and helpful person and has contributed to important dicussions about UPSC working conditions through her work on the UPSC board.

The award was presented by Greger Nordlund, Agrisera, on Tuesday, 16 December 2014, at UPSC.
(Picture: Joanna Porankiewicz-Asplund (Agrisera), Delphine Gendre, Greger Nordlund (Agrisera), Ove Nilsson)

SVD article bildDebate article in Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, 2014-12-16

Åsa Strand and Stefan Jansson, both professors at Umeå Plant Science Centre, are two of the six leading scientists who criticize Swedish and EU politicians acquiescence to non-science based arguments to halt research on genetically modified plants (GM). Moving away from current rules based on scientific assessments is a step backwards, the scientists write in a debate article in Svenska Dagbladet, SvD.

Article in Svenska Dagbladet, 2014-12-16 (in Swedish)
Gunnar Oquist Danish Research Foundation Dannebrogorden lrGunnar Öquist, professor at UPSC, was honoured by the Danish National Research Foundation with the Royal Order of the Danneborg. He received the Order of Knight for his "invaluable contribution to Danish and international research including the Danish National Research Foundation", the foundation stated in its press release on 4 December 2015. Gunnar Öquist has contributed to the first evaluation of the Danish National Research Foundation in 2003 and accepted in 2005 to become a member of the Board, where he during eight years played a central role in the success of the research foundation's activity.

The research foundation credited Gunnar Öquist's  extensive knowledge which involved him in research evaluations world wide. Gunnar Öquist is one of the main authors of the important Swedish report Fostering breakthrough research: A comparative study, which highlights Danish elite research as a success story.

Press release of the Danish National Research Foundation

(picture: Danish National Research Foundation)
152219 gunnar oquist webbProfessor Gunnar Öqvist, Professor emeritus at Umeå Plant Science Centre, Umeå University and the former Chairman of the Royal Academy of Sciences was recently conferred the Order of the rising sun, gold and silver star, by the Japanese government. He receives the honour as a recognition for his contribution to promote academic exchange and a mutual understanding between Japan and Sweden.

Press release (In Swedish)
More than twenty of Europe's most prominent plant scientists today (Thursday 30 October 2014) signed a joint letter warning that Europe may lose its research lead unless plant science is adequately funded, GM (genetically modified) plant varieties that have been found safe are allowed and field trials are protected from vandalism.

The signatories include world-leading plant scientists from Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden, all of whom are concerned that Europe may fall short on its current 'Horizon 2020' goals of producing "world-class science" and removing "barriers to innovation" unless European policymakers take a more pro-science stance.

The scientists, world-leaders in disciplines ranging from botany to ecology to molecular biology, state that the current EU "de facto moratorium on transgenic plant approvals has been detrimental for applied plant science and has effectively eliminated possibilities for publicly funded scientists and small companies to address the big challenges for society".

The open letter continues that "the resulting reduced competition has enhanced the dominance of major seed and agrochemical corporations" and calls for a "fundamental revision of GM regulation... that strictly follows the principles of science-based evaluations and approvals". This call is particularly timely because the European Parliament is currently considering European Council proposals to allow GM crop cultivation in those countries that choose to allow it.