So, the intensive course in France is finished (more here), and now I am back to Uppsala. I have to say that it was a good course, because I learnt many new things. Now, I am more knowledgeable about plant breeding, intelectual property in plants, project management and agriculture in Europe. Actually, it was interesting to see the French countryside and realize how much of a leading country in agriculture France is.
As part of the course I got to visit GEVES (read more here), started a pilot breeding project together with students from other universities and met plant breeders who helped us to formulate the breeding project idea and told us what exactly a breeding company is looking for in a future plant breeder.
In all, the lectures were very good and I personally believe that project management in plant breeding is crucial to complement my background education and research interest (molecular plant pathology). However the experience was outshone because of the poor organization of the course by the host university, which I hope will work on it for a next time.
The Intensive Study Program (ISP) (Read more here) is part of the European Plant Breeding College (EPBC), an initiative of five European universities: LaSalle-Beauvais Institute (France), Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain), Ghent University (Belgium), Ege University (Turkey) and of course, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sweden).
The EPBC is EU-funded, has been going on for almost a year and aims to create a hub for plant breeding in Europe, specially among European universities. To achieve this, mobility strategies such as the Intensive Study Program in project management applied to plant breeding – which I followed in France, were created.
It has been a nice opportunity to be part of it indeed, because I have met very interesting master students from the universities mentioned above, and stakeholders in the plant breeding sector in France. Particularly, I had many nice conversations about agriculture and culture with students coming from Liberia, Kenya, Ghana and Malawi in Africa. Throughout my education I have not learnt many things about Africa, but now I agree with Catherine, a Kenyan student who told me that “Africa is the new frontier” .
The EPBC has other activities planed, and I hope I can take part on some of them, including a course in hybrid breeding in Ghent. Actually, in the website there are interesting webinars and more information about it.
As part of the Intensive Study Program (ISP) at LaSalle-Beauvais, I had the chance to visit GEVES – the Variety Seed Study and Control Group in Angers, a city in western France. GEVES conducts studies for registration, legal protection, and certification of seeds. So basically, they make sure that seeds to be sold are good. To make that happen, they have a scientific station in which they provide services for seed companies interested in registering new plant varieties.
For breeding companies and seed producers registration and protection is a key aspect, because on that will depend the economical return for their companies. And of course it is important for the growers and the agricultural industry in general, because registered seeds are trustworthy and safe to maintain production standards.
GEVES also has a field in which they test DUS (Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability) in new varieties. They essentially grow in plots the varieties that breeders want to introduce to prove that in effect, they are new to the market and suitable for growers. Actually, I got to see gigantic beetroots used for animal feed. Quite impressive, hehe.
Collaboration is one of the strongest points of SLU. Besides taking courses at other Swedish universities I have been allowed to take an intensive study program at LaSalle-Beauvais, a french university focused in agriculture and located in Picardy a region close to Paris.
The program is about project management applied to plant breeding, which is perfect because it complements a course that I already took at SLU (read Genetic Diversityt and Plant Breeding 15c) and also because project management is useful to formulate research projects and apply to grants which is essential in a scientific career- which I pretend to follow.
The course goes for two weeks, so I am staying for that period in France. The lectures so far have been mostly good, but to be honest accommodation has not been very comfortable and organization in general has felt a bit chaotic. Maybe I am spoiled by the Swedish system, in which everything is neat, beautiful, organized and working smoothly (heeh, it sounds like I am missing Sweden indeed). Nonetheless, it has been interesting to compare universities and agriculture in France and Sweden.
These weeks will focus my posts on my experience in France, including some traveling I have done 🙂
Last week I got some fever that sent me to bed for a few days, therefore I was not able to write any posts! however, I have recovered and I am back to writing now 🙂
After I started feeling bad I decided to call 1177, which is the Swedish healthcare number. There I talked to a nurse and she booked an appointment for me that same afternoon. As soon as I got to the healthcare office in Uppsala I met a German friend at the entrance- she had also been sick for weeks now. Apparently every time Autum arrives, and temperature decreases everyone gets some kind of virus/cold/flu as I did myself.
After many cups of tea and some good rest I recovered and I am back on track.
Disclaimer: I am not an historian, nor an expert on political sciences. Therefore, I tried to make this as simple as I could to fit it in the format of this blog. I apologize beforehand for omissions, bias or inaccuracies.
Today is one important day in Colombia: people are voting to end a 52 years war. Many of my friends in Sweden have asked me to explain how a country could have such a long war and why are they voting to decide whether the war will continue or not. Well, it is not that easy to explain. Therefore, I decided to write 2 posts about the peace agreement to share what I know and think about it. In this post I will try to briefly frame the problem by summarizing how it all started.
In 1947 Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, a left-wing presidential candidate was murdered in Bogotá. He was a famous leader among the less favored, and his death unchained the most violent days Bogotá has ever seen. The people became mad and started destroying basically everything during three days. The message was clear: there was no space for left-wing ideas. This made the violence sharper in the cities and the country side, as the government would literally chase any left-wing sympathizer, and those who would feel underrepresented and chased by the government would start forming guerrillas to fight back. After some years of unfortunate and subsequent violent events, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) were officially founded in 1964- 52 years ago. Besides fighting for not getting killed by the government, the FARC started to implement social activities in the countryside, where they had more adepts. They even played the role that the state should have played by providing education and health services in those isolated areas.
However, things got only uglier with time. Both sides became more violent, but specially the FARC started to commit awful crimes that affected both people involved in the war and civilians. This included terrorist attacks, kidnaps and killings. Furthermore, the FARC found in drug trafficking a way to support themselves, and this became such a good business that for some of the militants the fight was not anymore about political participation, communist ideas or a land reform. It was a fight for keep up the drug trafficking business.
In the early 2000’s, when the war reached one of its more violent points (not only because of the FARC and the goverment, but also because of other many new actors including drug cartels and paramilitary groups), the USA government decided to help, fund and train Colombia’s army. This led to a sharp decrease in the FARC forces, as many of their leaders were killed and some other guerrilleros surrendered (It is worth saying that Colombia’s army killed innocent civilians too during this time).
After all this, at some point negotiations to end the war between the FARC and the Colombian government started. These were held in La Havana, Cuba since 2012 between a commission created by the President and FARC leaders- who were allowed to leave the country and fly to Cuba to negotiate. After 4 years, negotiations came to an end and the 26th of Septemeber this year in Cartagena both sides signed the agreement.
Colombian president and FARC leader shaking hands in Cartagena. Picture by Semana.com
However the government decided that Colombians should be the ones to approve and legitimate the agreement they came up with. Therefore today people will vote to decide if they approve the agreement or not. Although the polls show a tendency for the approval, people against it are numerous.
But, what is it so important the approval? It is mainly because besides the terms of surrender (which are already complicated), the agreement includes changes in land management and drug policies. But about this, I will elaborate further in a next post.