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400 scientists from various countries will meet from tomorrow, Sunday, in Toledo to share and discuss the latest advances in the operation of plants and how to transfer them to agriculture, food, biofuels or the fight against climate change .
The professor of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Biochemistry of the University of Castilla-La Mancha Carmen Fenoll chairs the XIV European Congress of Plant Physiology, organized by the Spanish and Portuguese societies of Plant Physiology and which will last until Wednesday 17.
In an interview with Efe, Professor Fenoll has stressed that the "endeavor" of scientists is to know how plants work to apply it to practical questions, but starting from a fundamental premise: that life exists on the planet because there are plants, that They transform the energy that comes from the sun into living matter from which food is produced.
"We humans consider ourselves very important, but we are a ridiculous percentage of everything alive on the planet," explained the professor who has listed that plants not only supply the oxygen we breathe, but also the food we consume, the fuels and many other elements used in medicine, confectionery, cosmetics or clothing.
Therein lies the importance of plant research, a field in which "we are in an unbeatable position to take a leap forward" because the scientific community in this area is dynamic and collaborative, shares strategies and has "a lot of knowledge and tools" .
Fenoll has recognized that they need to excite young researchers, who "working with plants seems less attractive than working with stem cells to fight cancer", and tell them that today the latest technologies are applied "routinely" in plants.
"It is a field with enormous potential and the rewards, if you are successful in research, are applications that can save humanity."
At this moment, the Earth produces enough food for all humanity - another thing is that due to "political and distributional" problems not all people can eat - but all studies warn that in 2050 there will probably be 10 billion inhabitants and today's agriculture will not be able to produce all the necessary food.
To this is added that in many regions production will fall due to climate change, high temperatures and drought.
Therefore, plant research is "essential" to understand the mechanisms they use to adapt to climate change and to increase the productivity of current agriculture, since almost all the arable land on the planet is already under exploitation and to increase this area of soil would destroy ecosystems.
On the occasion of this Congress, on Monday afternoon there will be a conference open to the public on climate change and world food production by two speakers of international prestige, the vice president of the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, José Manuel Moreno, and the president of the European Plant Science Organization (EPSO), José Pío Beltrán.
An aspect related to the above is genetic engineering and transgenic foods, to which the professor has stated that the scientific community supports "almost unanimously" the "responsible and controlled" use of genetic engineering to improve plants and make the rice, potato or corn, for example, accumulate more vitamins or minerals.
"Is a very hot debate in some countries of the European Union, but in other developed countries it is not a great debate ”, has reflected this researcher, who defends using“ all ”available technologies“ in a safe and responsible way ”.
He does not share the approach of "voluntarily dispensing with some technologies" which, on the other hand, "have proven their value and great power" because large tracts of transgenic crops were planted 18 years ago.
He has also stated that first-generation genetic engineering was "coarser", but the current one is "of the highest precision", as evidenced by the fact that genome editing has just received the Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research.
Regarding the Congress that opens tomorrow, Fenoll has underlined the presence of numerous scientists - "this field is full of excellent researchers", he emphasizes - and many participants of less than thirty years as well as top-level researchers.
There will be a session especially dedicated to business research.