Aims and Themes

The 2nd iPLANTA Conference will be focused on the unique aspects of Double-stranded RNAi technologies to induce resistance to pests and pathogens. The small RNAs (sRNAs) that mediate cross-kingdom RNAi in plant hosts represent a novel class of pathogen effectors that inhibit host immunity for successful infection. e.g. sRNA trafficking from fungal pathogens to host plants. Plant transgene-derived artificial sRNAs can induce gene silencing in certain interacting pests and pathogens, a phenomenon called host induced gene silencing (HIGS). To improve the use of RNAi technology, bidirectional cross-kingdom RNAi and two-way sRNA trafficking between pests/pathogens and hosts need to be better understood.

Furthermore, information is needed on the specificity of silencing and whether the produced dsRNA may also trigger non-specific (off-target) effects that affect plant physiology or non-targets. Information is also required on the efficiency and specificity of RNAi systems so that they can be designed to maximize the desired gene silencing and minimize off-target effects. The main focus of the 2nd iPlanta conference will be addressed to understanding RNAi mechanisms and specificity (WG1) and the novel pest and disease control applications (WG2) that are unlikely to be developed by other new breeding technologies (NBT), such as gene editing.

The conference will also consider the issues discussed at iPlanta Ghent workshop on RNAi biosafety (WG3), which relate to data requirements for environmental risk assessment of RNAi systems for pest and disease control and to the likelihood of off target and non-target effects. The conference will consider what form future risk assessments should take so that they are proportionate to potential risks and proportionate for organisations developing new systems.

The WG4 plan for creating a framework of existing knowledge on the socio-economic impacts of new technologies on the food production, processing and marketing, will be presented. In addition, a study of the contribution of RNAi technologies to this production and marketing chain is being considered. A proposal for a survey of EU scientist’s attitude and perceptions of RNAi and NBT technologies, will be also presented and discussed.

The WG5 communication plan to stakeholders and consumers will be presented and discussed, including the identification of a specific message to be communicated with a podcast based on a “story telling approach” and an event to be organized at the EU parliament.

Depending on the number of abstracts received, parallel sessions will be organized for topics related to WG1 and WG2. A session will be dedicated to topics related to WG3 and one to WG4&5. Finally, a session will be addressed to discuss the demand from stakeholders and consumers.