24 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM techniques be used for such purposes in the future. It is impor- tant that breeders share their experience in this regard with the relevant authorities. ES: HOW CAN BIOMOLECULAR TECHNIQUES HELP IMPROVE THE QUALITY AND EFFICIENCY OF DUS TESTING? AW: As mentioned above, the first impact is certainly to be found in the management of the reference collection. That can be reached by using a reliable similarity threshold, based on the comparison of DNA profiles, to safely exclude varieties of common knowledge from being grown. That means that the compilation of common databases including DNA profiles, which are the basis for calculating genetic distances, are a valuable tool for exami- nation offices to organize the DUS trial. Instead of todays’ need to maintain a living collection of varieties of common knowledge with a phenotypical description under the environmental con- ditions of the examination office, the comparison of DNA could reduce the maintenance of the living material to a single place in the EU and limit the need to acquire and grow this material to a minimum. This application thus helps to improve the quality and to reduce the costs by carrying out smaller trials. In addition, biomolecular information about varieties could usefully comple- ment phenotypical observations, rendering it possible in some cases to take a decision on D, U and S more rapidly, the duration of the test is shortened. ES: WHICH OTHER FUNCTIONS COULD SUCH TECHNIQUES HAVE IN THE REALM OF PLANT BREEDERS’ RIGHTS? AW: For example, for the purpose of variety identification in an enforcement situation, DNA samples from an official and trust- worthy source can be made available to titleholders in case of infringements. The titleholder can use DNA profiles to compare his protected variety with a supposed infringing sample. The results are available rather quickly compared to a growing trial. Although comparisons on a genetic level are not always conclu- sive as regards identification, they can give the parties a very good prima facie idea as regards a potential infringement. ES: WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE IMODDUS PROJECT AW: The CPVO R&D Strategy 2015-2020 states that one of the main objectives in this area is to promote the use of bio-molecular techniques in DUS testing and variety identification. In essence, IMODDUS works on the one hand as a think-tank on how to best integrate and promote molecular techniques into DUS testing. It assesses and discusses new developments in molecular tech- niques and their potential or immediate use for DUS of certain species, variety identification and enforcement. On the other hand, there is a practical side whereby IMODDUS experts express an opinion on the priority of R&D project proposals applied for co-funding by the CPVO. ES: THE FIRST REPORT OF THE IMODDUS GROUP HAS BEEN PUBLISHED. CAN YOU SHARE THE (PRELIMINARY) RESULTS OF THE PROJECT? AW: During the two first meetings, experts, breeders and sci- entists had very fruitful discussions. Based on inputs from the members of IMODDUS, the CPVO drafted a first version of a Strategy paper. In its function as a Think Tank, it was agreed to continue the work by assessing the consequences of a model where exclusively DNA would be used for the DUS test, and to analyse all aspects, positive and negative, of such an approach. A further result is to join forces in order to seek financing out of the Horizon 2020 programme of the EU Commission for the work we wish to carry out. ES: WHAT IS IN THE PIPELINE OF IMODDUS? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE IN THE NEAR FUTURE? AW: In addition to continuing to work on the Strategy paper, there are some R&D project proposals supported by the IMODDUS experts that are now in the CPVO decision making process. We are revising the R&D procedure under which funds can be made available by the CPVO, in order to be more efficient. We hope to be in a position to reply to a call for a project in the framework of Horizon 2020. That would be an important step to improve collaboration of the relevant players by creating a consortium for that purpose, and to levy the required financial support. ES: HOW WILL DUS TESTING LOOK LIKE IN 10 OR 20 YEARS FROM NOW? WILL THERE BE MORE USE OF BIOMOLECULAR TECHNIQUES? AW: First of all, I would like to emphasize that any development will take place after a thorough discussion with all stakeholders, including breeders associations. There are rapid developments and a great potential to apply them in our work. Their use will certainly be an integral part of DUS testing. If reliable methods can be developed, the use may be extended beyond the manage- ment of reference collections, so that distinctness and uniformity would at least partly be determined by these means. As I see it, the candidate variety must nevertheless be grown in order to establish the variety description, and that description would be complemented by the description of its DNA profile. Thanks to the integration of biomolecular techniques the costs for appli- cants could be maintained at an acceptable level, which would be of particular benefit for small and medium sized breeding companies. “CPVO has the firm conviction that biomolecular techniques could help to improve quality and efficiency in DUS testing and provide useful tools for the enforcement of plant breeders’ rights.” — Anne Weitz