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Genomics Forum · Research

Plant Genomics and the Bioeconomy

Emma Frow

Start date


Affiliated staff

Steve Yearley


This project is broad in scope, taking a holistic look at plant genomics research in its wider socioeconomic and policy context. Genomic approaches can be used for a number of purposes, for example, to help identify and classify plant species, to develop indicators of biodiversity and environmental health, to track the spread and movement of organisms (including exotic species and diseases), and to help create bespoke products or processes for the ‘bioeconomy’ (see below).

Workshops and activities to date have revolved around the following themes:


This project is an exercise in synthesis and coordination. We aim to foster dialogue between stakeholders involved in many aspects of plant genomics research, funding and policy — identifying trends, areas of consensus, possible synergy and pressing need, and also linking with issues that cut across the themes listed above (for example, climate change, food security, and ecosystem services). Ultimately we hope to use the discussions and findings to inform policy development.

The steering committee for this project comprises:


The core activities for this workstream consist of interdisciplinary workshops, together with a number of smaller, high-level discussion meetings.

December 2009 — Workshop on Reconciling Land Use for Biodiversity Conservation and Agriculture

As part of Mike Christie's visit to the Forum as a VRF, this workshop brought together colleagues from the Edinburgh Geosciences department, the Scottish Agricultural College and the Macaulay Institute to discuss land use management in the context of the emerging bioeconomy.

June 2009 — The Politics of Plants at the OECD

On 8 June 2009, Emma Frow attended the 25th Session of the Working Party on Biotechnology at the OECD Headquarters in Paris, where copies of our Politics of Plants article were distributed and discussed.

April 2009 — EGN Cross-Centre meetings on the Politics of Plants

In April 2009, the Genomics Forum hosted two one-day meetings for researchers across the Genomics Network with an interest in plant genomics. The first workshop focused on emerging issues relating to the bio-based economy and the politics of plants, and the second workshop explored recent changes in public and policy debates concerning GM crops.

June 2008 — Workshop on Plant Breeding and Intellectual Propertya>

A workshop on the topic of plant breeding and intellectual property was held on 3 June 2008 at the Genomics Forum in Edinburgh, timed to coincide with the visit of Wayne Powell as a Forum Visiting Research Fellow. This meeting brought together an interdisciplinary group of experts to discuss the following question: Does the current European Intellectual Property Protection regime stimulate or impede investment and innovation?

Workshop presentations are available online, together with a short meeting report on Plant Breeding and Intellectual Property.

April 2008 — A Green Future for Bioenergy?

In April 2008, the Genomics Forum and Innogen organised an event on bioenergy at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Professor Christine Raines and Dr Jeremy Woods spoke to a full auditorium about some of the challenges and opportunities facing bioenergy development.

Autumn 2007 - Spring 2008 — Expert meetings on 'The Politics of Plants'

In November 2007, February 2008 and April 2008, the steering committee for the Plant Genomics workstream held a series of one-day meetings with senior academics from different disciplines, to discuss and refine their emerging agenda on 'the politics of plants'. A commentary article on The Politics of Plants has been published by the steering committee in the new multidisciplinary journal Food Security, and is free to access.

March 2007 — Workshop on Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy

A workshop on the topic of bioenergy and the bioeconomy was held on 22–23 March 2007 at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge. This meeting brought together an interdisciplinary group of experts to (1) discuss the socioeconomic, scientific and policy context in which bioenergy development is taking place, and (2) map out different stakeholder perspectives and activities in light of this context, with the aim of identifying possible opportunities, synergies, conflicts and pressing needs.

A meeting report on Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy is available for download.

Also available are working papers on Genomics, Farming and the Bioeconomy [PDF] and Plant Genomics and the Bioeconomy: Case Study on Bioenergy [PDF]. December 2006 — Food for Thought: A GM Debate

Steve Yearley and Emma Frow participated in 'Food for Thought: A GM Debate', a pilot project developed by the Scottish Science Centres with sponsorship from the Scottish Executive. These full-day events are designed to encourage Scottish Highers students studying biology to explore some of the social, environmental and scientific issues surrounding GM crops. Steve and Emma were 'expert scientists' for the two events at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, and will help to roll out the project at some of the other Scottish Science Centres in 2007.

November 2006 — Workshop on Genomics for Biodiversity, Conservation and Land Use

A one-day workshop on the topic of Genomics for Biodiversity, Conservation and Land use was held in November 2006 at the Natural History Museum in London. A working paper on Genomics for Biodiversity, Conservation and Land Use [PDF] is available to download.

April 2005 — Plant genomics scoping meeting

A one-day scoping meeting on the topic of Plant Genomics was held at the Genomics Forum in Edinburgh. A Plant Genomics - meeting report [PDF] is available to download.


Frow, E.K., Ingram, D., Powell, W., Steer, D., Vogel, J. & Yearley, S. (2009) The Politics of Plants. Food Security 1(1):17-23.

Frow, E.K. (2009) A Forum for 'Doing Society and Genomics'. EMBO reports 10(4):318-321.

Frow, E. & Yearley, S. (in press) 'People, Policy and Plant Genomics.' In Principles and Practices of Plant Genomics - Volume 3: Advanced Genomics, edited by C. Kole and A. Abbott (New Hampshire: Science Publishers, Inc., 2010).

Working papers

Frow, E. Plant Genomics and the Bioeconomy: Case Study on Bioenergy. ESRC Genomics Forum Working Paper, March 2007.

Frow, E. Genomics, Farming and the Bioeconomy. ESRC Genomics Forum Working Paper, March 2007.

Frow, E. Genomics for Biodiversity, Conservation and Land Use. ESRC Genomics Forum Working Paper, November 2006.

Meeting reports

Frow, E. Plant Breeding and Intellectual Property. ESRC Genomics Forum Meeting Report, July 2008.

Frow, E. & Hirvonen, M. Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy. ESRC Genomics Forum Meeting Report, May 2007.

Plant Genomics Plant Genomics - scoping meeting report, April 2005.


Frow, E. 'Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy,' invited talk at the PISCES Consortium & University of Edinburgh Bioenergy Symposium, Edinburgh, 19 June 2009.

Frow, E., Powell, W. and Yearley, S. 'The Politics of Plants,' invited seminar at the Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, University of Aberystwyth, 12 May 2009.

Frow, E. 'The Politics of Plants: Emerging issues for plant genomics and the global bioeconomy,' CSG International Conference Genomics & Society: Setting the Agenda, Amsterdam, 17-18 April 2008.

Frow, E. 'Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy: linking science, social science and policy,' UKERC-RELU Bioenergy Meeting, Oxford, 24 April 2007.

Frow, E. 'Plant genomics for biodiversity and conservation,' Presentation to the SEERAD Science and Analysis Group, Edinburgh, 7 February 2007.

Further information

For further information about the Plant Genomics workstream and related activities, please contact Emma Frow.