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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



Plant pathogenic viruses and their vectors cause serious crop damage and economic losses in Europe and worldwide. Producers often resort to pesticides to control virus-induced diseases and their vector organisms, a method which is harmful to the environment, and to food quality and safety. A very effective way of fighting this growing problem is to develop crop cultivars or varieties genetically resistant to viruses. European research in this field has made strides, but it has mostly been limited to academic participants and needs coordination. The Coordination Action RESISTVIR combines the work of 49 partners from 21 countries, including associated countries, Israel and Turkey. With the aim of pooling resources as regards research on genetic resistance to plant pathogenic viruses and vectors.


Intensified agricultural practices, climate changes, and extensive exchange of plant material on the global market have led to increased incidence of plant diseases. Of these, virus-induced diseases are especially unpredictable and difficult to combat. A classic example is the spread throughout Europe during the past century of Plum pox virus, which recently reached Asia and the Americas.

Genetic resistance provides effective, environmentally friendly protection against virus-induced diseases. It does not require additional application of pesticides or action by the producer during the growing season, and it is safe for consumers. Spectacular recent developments in genomics and proteomics offer new opportunities to optimise this kind of genetic resistance.

Identifying new gene sources for resistance and developing biotechnological tools for design and transfer of genes are crucial issues to be tackled. Natural host-derived resistance genes have been found in cultivated and wild species and introduced into commercial cultivars by breeders. However, many new gene sources are not European, and even the most promising virus control strategies based on genetic modification are stalled in the laboratory in Europe, because the public has resisted products containing GM ingredients. Consequently, many complex legal, moral and ethical issues need to be resolved before these genes can be exploited.

The three-year CA project RESISTVIR will facilitate European-scale coordination of research into genetically resistant cultivars, minimising duplicated effort. It will bring together institutions active in the fields of virology, genetics, plant breeding, physiology, biotechnology and vector-transmission, with experts in legislation, ethics, policies, patents and agricultural consulting.


RESISTVIR'S chief goal is to improve the range of sources, mechanisms, and applications of durable virus/vector-resistant varieties and cultivars, cutting pesticide use, and thereby contributing to better, safer food. The project will develop guidelines and best-practice recommendations and disseminate these on an online European database linked to existing websites and databases. It will help increase awareness of problems faced by plant breeders, geneticists, consultants and growers, through newsletter advertising, workshops, an international conference, the internet, and by direct dissemination. It will promote exchange of European researchers and collaboration with European industry.

List of Partners

  • PI Bioscience (UK)
  • Institute of Botany (Lithuania)
  • Central Science Laboratory DEFRA (UK)
  • University of Sheffield (UK)
  • Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf (Germany)
  • University of Milan (Italy)
  • Walloon Centre of Agricultural Research (Belgium)
  • Institute of Applied Microbiology-BOKU (Austria)
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
  • Agriculture Research Organisation, Volcani Centre (Israel)
  • Technology Codes (Ireland)
  • Istituto Sperimentale Per La Patologia Vegetale (Italy)
  • Fred Tyler acting under the name/trading as ACRS (UK)
  • Plant Breeding and Acclimatisation Institute (Poland)
  • Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche (Italy)
  • University of Ankara (Turkey)
  • Agricultural Research Institute (Cyprus)
  • Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhems-University of Bonn (Germany)
  • MTT Agrifood Research Finland (Finland)
  • Federal Centre for Breeding Research on Cultivated Plants (Germany)
  • Quadrate Digital Media (Ireland)
  • Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel (Germany)
  • University of Azores (Portugal)
  • NIAB (UK)
  • BTL Bio-Test Laboratory Gmbh Sagerheide (Germany)
  • Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques (Belgium)
  • Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium)
  • Institute of Plant Molecular Biology, Academy of Sciences (Czech Republic)
  • Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen (Germany)
  • Research Institute of Crop Production (Czech Republic)
  • Norddeutsche Pflanzenzucht H. G. Lembke (Germany)
  • AgroBioInstitute (Bulgaria)
  • Plant Protection Institute (Bulgaria)
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spain)
  • Agriculture Biotechnology Center (Hungary)
  • Centrum Grüne Gentechnik (Germany)
  • Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France)
  • John Innes Centre (UK)
  • National Agricultural Research Foundation (Greece)
  • Scottish Crop Research Institute (UK)
  • Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia)
  • Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain)
  • Università degli Studi di Bari (Italy)
  • University of Crete (Greece)
  • University of Helsinki (Finland)
  • Wageningen University and Research Centre (The Netherlands)
  • International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Italy)
Full title:
Coordination of research on genetic resistance to plant pathogenic viruses, and their vectors, in European crops
Contract n°:
EC Scientific Officer:
Annette Schneegans,
EU contribution:
€ 2.3M
Coordination Action

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top