4 July 2016 – On 1 July, Dr Trevor Nicholls, CABI’s CEO, and Vice Minister Chen Xiaohua of the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture signed a Letter of Intent to establish a new European Laboratory in Switzerland. The Laboratory will focus on cooperative research in agricultural science and technology. The agreement builds upon a 20-year relationship between CABI and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture that includes the creation of a Joint Laboratory for Biosafety in Beijing, China in 2008.

The European Laboratory will be created at CABI’s Centre in Delémont, Switzerland, and will work closely with the Beijing-based Joint Laboratory on the principles of cooperation, mutual benefit and reciprocity. The European Laboratory will address a number of important agricultural challenges that affect food security. Through collaborative research, scientists will tackle major plant pests, including crop pests, detected in China that originate from Europe, and vice versa. Joint research will be conducted on controlling and preventing the spread of pests, including exploring the use of natural enemies and microbes to help create biological or natural pest control technologies.

The European Laboratory will also focus on scientific and technological training, helping to organise exchange programmes for experts and researchers. These programmes will focus on providing skill development for young and middle-aged research and management personnel, and jointly holding scientific symposia and other meetings. The European Laboratory will also act as an open platform to help cooperation with other national and international agricultural organisations in Europe, the Americas and Africa.

The European Laboratory will be governed by the existing Joint Steering Committee for the Joint Laboratory, which is currently codirected by Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann from CABI in Delémont and Dr Zhou Xueping from the Plant Protection Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. In the near future, CABI and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture will negotiate the organisation, management, operation and financial support for the European Laboratory and sign an implementation plan. The Laboratory will start to be established in 2017.

Mr Jacques Gerber, Minister of Economy and Health of the Canton Jura, gave a warm welcome from the government. He emphasized the importance of industrial SME’s and of the agricultural sector in the economic fabric of the canton. He also mentioned the Memorandum of Cooperation that was signed in 2005 between the Zhejiang Province and the Canton Jura, and, in 2014, the accession of the canton to the China Business Platform. This initiative brings together the cantons of Basel-City, Basel-Country and Jura to facilitate and strengthen economic exchanges between the partner cantons and China. The Chinese delegation noted with interest the next business trip to China in the spring of 2017 under the auspices of the China Business Platform, which will be led by Minister Jacques Gerber.

Talking about the event, Dr Nicholls said, “I am very pleased to sign this Letter of Intent with Vice Minister Chen. The Beijing Joint Laboratory between CABI and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has been an outstanding success since its inception in 2008. The establishment of this new European Laboratory in Switzerland will expand the scope of our technological exchange and strengthen our mutual cooperation. The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by the Chinese Government, offers an exciting opportunity for collaboration and cooperation with China and other countries on the route.”

After hearing the key presentation from CABI’s CEO, Dr Trevor Nicholls, Vice Minister Chen Xiaohua said, “CABI’s strategic goals are in line with China’s national goals, including ensuring national food security, promoting sustainable farming practices and improving farmers’ incomes. China’s agriculture is currently undergoing a significant transformation and increasingly emphasises ‘greening and modern agriculture’, that’s to say adopting environmentally-friendly approaches, and innovation and modernisation in agriculture. There is no doubt that further synergies developed through the extension of the China-CABI Joint-Laboratory to Europe will contribute to these strategic goals, benefiting agricultural and rural development in China and other developing countries, particularly through south-south cooperation.”

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