First International Legume Society (LS) Conference, organized and hosted by Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops, Novi Sad was held on 9 – 11 of May, 2013 in Hotel Park in Novi Sad. International Legume Society was officially established and registered on April 1st, 2013, with headquarters in Cordoba, Spain, headed by the president Prof. Dr. Diego Rubiales, one of the most significant world experts in the field of legumes research.
On behalf of the organizers, Dr. Vuk Djordjević welcomed the participants and announced Dr. Diego Rubiales, who pointed out that such a great organization of the conference provides an excellent opportunity for meeting old friends and new generations. The guests were also welcomed by Dr. Jegor Miladinović, Acting Director of the Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops.
Academician Prof. Dr. Srbislav Denčić proudly presented the Institute, stating that it was established back in 1938. Academician Denčić presented the current organization of Institute, employee structure and facilities that the Institute owns:the experimental fields, greenhouses, machinery and modern laboratory equipment. The results of several generations of scientists are reflected in total 1,039 varieties and hybrids that were registered in the period 1950-2012. He also pointed out that it is now the largest institute under the auspicies of Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia. During the period 1970-2013, scientists and researchers of the Institute have participated in 136 domestic and 40 international projects, and are currently implementing two FP7 projects, 8 bilateral projects with institutes or universities and 14 national projects. The publishing activities of the Institute, which include editing and publication of three scientific journals, numerous monographs, books, and conference proceedings of manuals for the production of various crops certainly should not be ignored.
Mrs. Annette Schneegans, representative of the European Commission, spoke about the positive context of cultivation and legumes research, current situation and perspectives of protein crops. She is optimistic that area under grains and legumes will increase if amendments of the common agricultural policy in the EU are adopted, or if policies of increasing the share of grain legumes in the rotation are enacted.
On behalf of the Minister Prof. Dr. Žarko Obradović, Prof. Dr. Ivica Radović from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic Serbia welcomed all attendees to Novi Sad, the so called Neoplantum, and emphasized the special value of this conference, which brought together over 250 participants from 37 countries around the world, which makes us proud and happy that we host this special audience. He informed the participants that we are in the midst of scientific period 2011-2014, and that after two years of work we can conclude that the government funded 784 national scientific projects (72 projects are from the field of biotechnology and agriculture and 20% of these projects are managed by the Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops). He said that the Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops is one of the strongest in the field of biotechnology and agriculture, and probably one of the largest institutes in Serbia. He wished the conference to be successful and useful, pleasant stay to all participants in Novi Sad and proclaimed the First Conference of the International Legume Society opened.
Opening was followed by press conference. Dr. Jegor Miladinović, Acting Director of the Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops, Novi Sad, spoke first and introduced Dr. Svetlana Balešević-Tubić, Assistant Director for Seed Production and Processing, then Prof. Dr. Ivica Radović, Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development of Republic of Serbia, Mrs. Annette Schneegans from the European Commission and Mr. Richard Thompson from the French national agricultural institute INRA in Dijon, France, as well as Dr. Dragana Miladinović, Assistant Director for Science. The reason for this conference is the opening of the first International Conference on legumes, which is being held in Novi Sad, with 250 registered participants from 37 countries. The aim of this conference is to improve the production of legumes in Europe, as quality protein feed of plant origin in Europe is deficient and necessary. Audience asked many questions and received interesting information, so variety of topics was open for discussion. Dr. Jegor Miladinović said the emphasis at this conference was put on soybeans, alfalfa and peas, with the aim to raise the intensity of livestock. Our goal, as well as other institutes’, is scientific research to be transferred into practice, and it is necessary that farmers have access to quality seeds of different varieties of legumes, as well as to be provided with the necessary production technology to use the genetic yield potential to the fullest extent. In addition, it is necessary that the government create a suitable economic ground in order to make cultivation of such species profitable.
When asked if our country which grows GMO-free soybean has advantage, Mr. Thompson said that the general advantage of GMO-free countries is that they have products that are widely accepted in the EU, but there are traits for which GMO varieties can have an advantage, especially in the major markets that do not have restrictions on the cultivation of GMOs. Mrs. Schneegans pointed out that we should find a balance between what consumers want and what producers are able to grow on their land. Regarding the growing of certified seed, she said that currently there is no consenses in the European Parliament on this issue and believes that in the future a balance will be found and larger market that would be available for certified seed created, as well as space for income generating by growing local varieties will be made. In terms of the negotiations conducted on GM organisms between the U.S. and the EU, she believes that the U.S. will seek at least some kind of benefit to trade GM organisms, but it will still take into account the rules of food safety. When asked if and how the consumption of GMOs affect human health, Dr. Jegor Miladinović said that, although it has been used as food for 15 years, the answer still cannot be given, which was confirmed by Mr. Thompson, because there are no results regarding safety of GMO soybean for which someone should be worried. Dr. Miladinović emphasized that our interest in production of GMO-free soybean is of economic character, as this makes us competitive to GMO soybean that is widely spread in the market and proudly pointed out that Serbia is the only country in Europe that is self-sufficient in this matter.
After the press conference scientific lectures of the participants of the First Conference of International Legume Society from around the world continued. Details about the scientific part of the conference can be found on the conference website.