Published 2017-10-31

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High profile of Mistra research at Almedalen

It will soon be time for the politicians’ week in Almedalen in Visby, Gotland, and there will be plenty of Mistra-related seminars. A buffet of genetically modified food and a discussion on how Sweden can be better at recycling clothes will be among the events on offer. Mistra’s Chief Executive Åke Iverfeldt will also debate Swedes’ outdoor recreation.

Among Mistra’s research activities that will be on the agenda during the politicians’ Almedalen Week are those of Mistra Biotech. Representatives of this programme are to address the subject of what changes may take place if Sweden adopts a new food strategy that emphasises the need for a neutral view of different improvement techniques to produce new plant varieties. Such a change would mean that product-based approval of new crops could be based instead on their overall impact on people’s and animals’ health and the environment, irrespective of which plant-breeding technique is used.

Would this clear the way for growing genetically modified (GM) crops? This is one of the questions Mistra Biotech will tackle at a seminar on 4 July. Researchers and representatives of government agencies and the business sector will gather and discuss this new possible approach, which does not conform to the EU’s attitude towards modern biotechnology.

‘Among the EU member states, Sweden is far ahead. We’ve accepted the scientific conclusions that state that there is nothing to suggest that certain techniques entail more risk than others,’ says Anna Lehrman, the deputy programme director and communication officer at Mistra Biotech.

At the seminar, a mini-buffet will be served with the plan of provoking reflections on acceptance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The food offered will include cheese in which the curdling enzyme often comes from GMOs, fruit beverages in which GMOs are used for clarification and sausages made from cattle that were fed on GM soya.

‘The buffet will also be served on a cotton tablecloth, because most cotton these days is genetically modified,’ Lehrman says.

Breadth and depth at seminars

Another of the roughly 15 Mistra-related programme points will be Mistra Future Fashion’s seminar on how Sweden can become best at recycling textiles. Maria Sandow, Senior Expert at the Swedish Trade Federation, and Sigrid Barnekow, Programme Director for Mistra Future Fashion, will discuss the Swedish fashion industry’s route to becoming world-leading in terms of recycling textiles.

Swedish companies may be well ahead with their initiatives to create sustainability in the fashion and textile sector, but other countries in our proximity are better at collecting textiles. Measurements show that Swedes are inclined to donate clothing but less fond of wearing second-hand clothing themselves. What is required to bring about change?

Other issues raised by Mistra researchers are how the circular economy can become a competitive advantage; how we should create a new social contract for Swedish forests; and how social sustainability can generate business benefits. Seminars on these themes will be held by three Mistra research programmes: Mistra REES (Resource-Efficient and Effective Solutions), Future Forests and Misum (the Mistra Centre for Sustainable Markets). Mistra Urban Futures, too, will be holding a series of seminars on sustainable urban areas; and Sif Johansson, Programme Director for Mistra EviEM (the Mistra Council for Evidence-based Environmental Management) will take part in a debate on resistance to research findings and facts that is being held by the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Mistra’s Chief Executive Åke Iverfeldt will also participate in a panel debate on Swedish outdoor recreation.

‘We’re working on the idea of a funding call about outdoor recreation and sport, associated with health and the environment. We’ve touched on this area before in, for example, Future Forests. Their research dealt not only with forests as production areas or from a biodiversity perspective, but also as places we use for our outdoor activities. Mistra’s Board has given the go-ahead for putting together a working group to develop a possible new programme on outdoor recreation,’ Iverfeldt says.