Closing one chapter, opening another

January 29, 2016

PLANTFOODSEC project draws to a successful close, as EMPHASIS projects hold kick-off meeting

EMPHASIS project participants gathered in Brussels to set the new project in motion.

A late-January visit by REC Executive Director Marta Szigeti Bonifert and several REC experts to various European Commission institutions in Brussels was also connected with the closing events of the Plant and Food Biosecurity (PLANTFOODSEC) project, within which the REC was responsible for Work Package 7 ('Dissemination, awareness and communication on plant and food biosecurity'), as well as the second meeting of a new Horizon 2020 project focusing on "Effective Management of Pests and Harmful Alien Species - Integrated Solutions (EMPHASIS)".

The Plant and Food Biosecurity project (2011-2016) has been part of a wider programme of studies funded by the EU to enhance resilience to malicious, accidental and deliberate releases of infectious agents, and there is little doubt that the project concludes having filled a significant number of capability and capacity gaps. The project has brought together key members of the international scientific community who understand plant production methods and who have experience in developing, establishing and using tools to enhance biosecurity and safeguard the plant food chain.

New strategies for responding to and recovering from both intentional and unintentional biosecurity threats to EU agriculture, developed by the PLANTFOODSEC project, were presented in Brussels at the Permanent Representation of the Piedmont Region on January 19, 2016. The outcomes were presented during the final workshop "Tools for Plant and Food Biosecurity". The workshop was attended by an external audience counting around 60 stakeholders. The five-year project that was launched with the support of the European Commission under the Security area of the Seventh Framework Programme. The project was established specifically with the aim of creating a virtual centre of competence at the international level in the field of biosecurity.

Besides the toolbox, project achievements include the identification and regulatory analysis of biosecurity challenges; experimental and modelling approaches applied in plant disease epidemiology; advanced molecular diagnostics; and, more generally, training, dissemination and networking activities to increase awareness of plant biosecurity and food safety among agronomists and food producers and within the scientific, policy and inspection sectors.

More than 30 peer-reviewed papers; almost 200 press articles; 20 dissemination events; 88 courses on diagnostics, plant pathogen forensics, transnational multi-sector training on responding to outbreaks, legislation and contained-use licensing, and the dual-use consequences of bioresearch; 4 summer schools and 1 winter school; and 8 PhD exchanges/internships among project participants. These are some of the numbers that convey an idea of the activities carried out by the project partners over the last five years

Throughout the implementation period, the REC was leader of the Work Package 7 on dissemination, awareness and communication on plant and food biosecurity.

PLANTFOODSEC by the numbers

  • 13 project partners
  • 8 work packages
  • EUR 6 million in EU funding
  • 5 years of project implementation
  • 3 continents
  • More than 150 press clippings (web and print articles) published in the general press
  • 37 courses on plant pathogen forensics
  • Over 30 presentations at several scientific congresses
  • 23 courses on diagnostics
  • 21 transnational multi-sector training courses on responding to outbreaks
  • 20 peer-reviewed publications quoting the project
  • 33 papers in proceedings of scientific congresses
  • 10 consortium meetings with internal, face-to-face dialogue and group discussions
  • 3 articles in edited books published by the scientific press at the end of the project
  • 10 issues of the newsletter
  • 8 PhD exchanges/internships completed among project partners
  • 7 press releases
  • 6 external dissemination events and exhibitions on biosecurity and research
  • 5 academic courses on the dual-use consequences of bioresearch
  • 4 summer schools on field diagnostics, mycotoxin analysis and human pathogen forensics
  • 3 leaflets published
  • 3 workshops (launch, mid-term, closing)
  • 3 posters
  • 2 courses on legislation and contained-use licensing
  • 1 winter school on field diagnostics, mycotoxin analysis and human pathogen forensics
  • 1 roundtable with high-level participants from the EU
  • 1 promotional activity on Italian television
  • 1 video developed by DG ENTR
  • 1 project website, including a public area, a "partners only" area and a press area



EMPHASIS project gets underway

The 2nd EMPHASIS ("Effective Management of Pests and Harmful Alien Species - Integrated Solutions") project meeting took place on January 20-22, 2016 at the Permanent Representation of Piedmont Region in Brussels. The purpose of the meeting was to monitor the project progress and to plan future activities during technical discussions in work groups. The work package progress was presented along with project research activities. The Advisory Board gave important input and suggestions while the overall EMPHASIS management implementation was reviewed.

The REC, as WP5 leader on dissemination and training, described the tasks, responsibilities, timeframes, milestones and deliverables for 2015, and reported on implemented tasks and planning of future activities in 2016. A joint workshop was organised to discuss synergies with other WPs, such as WP 1 ('Plant Health Challenges and Evaluation') and WP4 ('Open-ended Multi-actor Activities: On-farm Validation and Product Development').

Interactions and complementarities were reflected in the joint workshop between WP1 and WP5, while the analytical frameworks for learning, stakeholder engagement and evaluation of technology, implementation and policy were discussed. This will play a significant part in the dissemination strategy to the public, pest management developers and users, and policy makers. The joint WP4-WP5 session coordinated common training plans and outreach to the external audience.