|Report on the XVth EUCARPIA Congress 1998, Viterbo, Italy
By G.T. Scarascia Mugnozza, Past President of EUCARPIA
EUCARPIA celebrated its XVth General Congress in Viterbo, Italy, at the Teatro dell’Unione, September 20-25, 1998. The theatre, built in 1846, is a splendid neoclassic building designed by architect V. Vespignani and located in downtown Viterbo. The posters’ exhibition was held in a historical church of the 16th Century, called “Chiesa degli Almadiani”.
The city of Viterbo is situated 326 m above the sea level, on the gentle hills between Lake Bolsena and Lake Vico. Of Etruscan origin, it was then romanized (Vicus Elbii), never achieving, however, particular importance. It was handed over to the Church in medieval times and was the scene of disputes between the Empire and the Papacy. It was unsuccessfully besieged by Frederick II of Swabia (1243). From that date, the town was almost constantly a papal ally, and the seat of a number of conclaves for the election of popes. After the turbulent period of the “Signorie” (14th century), in 1431 the town finally came under the influence of Rome. The historical centre has an interesting structure, is still surrounded by turreted walls (11th - 13th century) and preserves much of its medieval appearance, especially in the attractive S. Pellegrino district. All the historical places, and the pleasant surroundings, were highly appreciated both by the Congress participants and by their accompanying persons.
Viterbo is also the chief seat of the University of Tuscia, of whom I have the honour to be the Rector. The University awards master degrees (“laurea”, five-year courses) in Agricultural Sciences, Biological Sciences, Business Economics, Conservation of Cultural Heritage, Environmental Sciences, and Foreign Languages and Literatures, and five “diplomas” (three-year courses).
The inaugural ceremony was attended by: Senator Professor Tullia Carettoni, president of the Italian UNESCO Commission; Senator Professor Edoardo Vesentini, president of the Academy of the Lincei; the Mayor of Viterbo; and the representatives of the Minister for the Agricultural Policies, the Minister of the Universities and Research, the Latium Region and the National Research Council.
The main theme of the XV EUCARPIA General Congress was “Genetics and Breeding for Crop Quality and Resistance”. This theme was addressed in six different sessions. Each of them was introduced by a key-note speaker, and included different oral presentations and a poster synthesis. Session on Quality, which was the largest one, was assigned two key-note lectures, respectively on agro-food quality and on the quality of wood plants.
I wish to thank all authors, rapporteurs, speakers, poster reporters and scientists joining the debate. They contributed to the good development and success of this XV Congress of EUCARPIA. A deep appreciation I must express to those scientists which accepted to develop the introductory lectures of this Congress. They let us know about the state of the art of the basic and applied research, the application and results of the biotechnology methods, the facts and perspectives of the genetic engineering in the improvement of crops, in their quantitative, qualitative and nutritional characters, in their adaptation to the environment, to the ecosystems, in their resistance to pests and diseases. This corpus of research will have a direct consequence in terms of reduction of environment and food pollution, of a slower erosion of natural resources (soil, water, atmosphere, biodiversity), and, ultimately, of a reduced consumption of energy. All with a final aim: the sustainability of a modern agriculture.
The following key-note lectures introduced the different Sessions:
Session 1 “Resistance to Fungi”- P.J.G.M. De Wit, The Netherlands. Avirulence and pathogenicity genes of Cladosporium fulvum.
Session 2 “Resistance to Bacteria”- H. Laterrot, France. Resistance to bacteria in tomato.
Session 3 “Resistance to Insects”- P. Carbonero, Spain. Cereal (alfa-amylase/trypsin inhibitors and transgenic insect resistance.
Session 4 “Resistance to Nematodes”- W.J. Stiekema, The Netherlands. Resistance to nematodes.
Session 5 “Resistance to Viruses”- G.P. Martelli, Italy. An appraisal of pathogen-derived resistance for the control of virus diseases.
Session 6 “Quality”- R. Casey, United Kingdom. Genetic manipulation of lipoxygenases for the agrofood industry.
Session 6 “Quality”- W. Boerjan & M. van Montagu, Belgium. Molecular markers and genetic engineering strategies to improve wood quality in Populus.
The following special lectures opened and closed the Congress:
Opening Ceremony - E. Porceddu, Italy. Agricultural production and natural resources.
Closing Ceremony - F. Salamini, Germany. Where do we go from this point?
This XV Congress, with its 36 oral presentations and nine key-note lectures, gave the most recent information on topics of major interest at both basic and applied levels, with examples in many different crops. The Congress was attended by a large number of scientists not only from Europe but also from Japan, South Africa, Americas, North Africa, thus demonstrating the great interest of the Congress theme and the prestige of EUCARPIA also in extra-European countries. Mention is to be made, in this respect, of the financial support awarded by EUCARPIA to numerous scientists travelling from Eastern Europe.
The Assembly (September 24), among other items, discussed about: 1. the opportunity for EUCARPIA to establish a Forestry Section; the proposal gathered a large consensus, and Dr P. Tigerstedt, and a number of scientists representing various countries, will follow up and co-operate in the organisation of the new Section; 2. the need of organizing a Working Group on Tropical Fruits; 3. G.T. Scarascia Mugnozza’s suggestion to consider the bioethics aspects of the plant genetic engineering .
A Workshop on "Further the Use of Underutilised Species in Europe" was jointly organised and held by the International Plant Genetics Resources Institute (IPGRI) and the EUCARPIA Genetic Resources Section. The meeting was attended by some 60 EUCARPIA members and was chaired by Dr S. Padulosi of IPGRI and Drs K. Hammer and P. Perrino, members of the EUCARPIA Gene Bank Committee. An important point stressed in the IPGRI’s presentation was that a successful promotion of these species can only succeed through a better use of their genetic resources and, in order to achieve this goal, the role of breeders and research workers at large is paramount. The potential role of a closer co-operation between IPGRI and EUCARPIA in the area of underutilised species was hence stressed. The proposal was recommended to establish an ad hoc Working Group within the Gene Bank Section of EUCARPIA.
The Congress’ organisation offered the participants two concerts, respectively at the opening ceremony, by the “Camerata Polifonica Viterbese”, and before the Gala Dinner, by the “Associazione Musicale Armonia Antiqua”, whose members played historical musical instruments.
During the Congress, the participants were offered a book, a compendium on the “Italian Contribution to Plant Genetics and Breeding”. The proposal to publish the book was advanced by G.T. Scarascia Mugnozza in 1995, then discussed and accepted by Italian plant geneticists and breeders, with the aim of presenting the book itself to foreign scientists attending the XV EUCARPIA Congress. I wish to express gratitude to the Italian Society for Agricultural Genetics (SIGA) and its President, Professor E. Porceddu, for supporting this publishing initiative. The book was made possible by the co-operation of more than 100 co-authors, which generously accepted my proposal of writing an update relative to their respective field of competence and activity. It has a rich table of content and in its about 900 pages quotation is made of more than 2,000 scientists. The period of studies, research and experiments considered covers mainly the last 40-50 years, and reports the increases in productivity and qualitative progresses achieved with various crops, which have been obtained in virtue of research in genetics and breeding, with specific reference to the Italian agriculture.
I express deep gratitude to the EUCARPIA officers, the Executive Committee, the Board Members, the Presidents of the Sections and the Country Representatives, for their support and advice, for the wisdom of the decisions taken together during my presidential triennium, and the suggestions expressed with reference to the theme and the proposals for carrying out this Congress. I also wish to express sincere gratitude, mine and on behalf of EUCARPIA, to the Viterbo Authorities, which have included this Congress as an official event of the City of Viterbo for the year 1998. Their help has made this international Congress (initially planned in Rome) feasible in Viterbo. A feeling of personal gratitude I want to express to both the Scientific and the Organizing Committee, and to my direct collaborators (first of all, Dr M.A. Pagnotta, and Ms M. Dionisi, mentioning them for all) with whom the plan was laid down and the program carried out.
The organisation of international gatherings as the EUCARPIA Congress is becoming an increasingly complex undertaking. It represents, however, an important opportunity for debates and focalizations, not only on scientific themes and their progresses, but also on the interactions between agricultural genetics and biotechnological innovations and world-ranging, global problems, as: feeding increasing populations in developing countries; fight against poverty, and increase of rural classes income, particularly in developing countries; erosion of natural resources; modernisation of agrosystems in a global frame of sustainable, fair and solidaristic development of mankind.
In conclusion, the prospect of EUCARPIA, in the scientific and technical world, in the production and impact on the modern agricultural and food systems, crosses over the boundaries of Europe to reach global size, interests, attention and consensus. In this respect, it must be recalled that EUCARPIA counts about 1,000 members, representing 47countries of all five continents. The range of crops, objectives and fields of research, the newly-developed methodologies and technologies, the disciplinary sectors which have been steadily growing in EUCARPIA, stimulate us to an ever closer co-operation and interaction among Sections. The wealth of human resources, scientific knowledge, experimental materials and innovations, developed within EUCARPIA, invites us to move toward the extension and improvement, both in Europe and elsewhere, of the co-operation with scientists and technologists working in other institutions, in professional organisations, in private enterprises and farmers associations. In particular, it is our duty to improve our partnership with our colleagues in the developing countries.
Although in this generally positive context, it is our duty, however, to point out the slow, but steady, decline observed in recent years in the number of EUCARPIA members, accompanied by an increasingly scarcer attendance of its General Congresses. It is perhaps time, for a scientific association as EUCARPIA, to question itself about the deep roots of this malaise, and to improve its sensitivity to the new needs and requests arising from the world of research, economy, market and civil society at large. It is probably my last duty, leaving the EUCARPIA presidency, to remind to our members that our association was born more than 40 years ago, giving itself a statute and regulations aimed at creating a network among geneticists and breeders of a small six-country community in Western Europe. Isn’t perhaps coming the time to make that statute, those regulations more fit to the size, potentialities, goals and responsibilities of our Association?
During the General Assembly, the EUCARPIA members have accomplished an act of fundamental importance for the life of our association: due to the resignation of the Vice-President, Dr M.D. Hayward, Dr G.R. Mackay (UK) was unanimously elected as new President. In his presidential address, he kindly showed the members the venue of the future XVI EUCARPIA Congress in Edinburgh. Dr P. Ruckenbauer was elected as Vice-President. I wish to convey to Dr Hayward the warm gratitude of all EUCARPIA members, and to express to the new President our best wishes for his work for the future of EUCARPIA.
Viterbo, October 10, 1998
G.T. Scarascia Mugnozza