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Open Day on Agrobiodiversity in the Parliament, 2009

Date interview: May 11 2016
Name interviewer: Janka Horváth
Name interviewee: Researcher at ESSRG Ltd.
Position interviewee: Researcher at ESSRG Ltd.

Social-ecological relations Platforms New Framing New Doing Networking Motivation Lobbying Expertise Connecting Breakthrough

This is a CTP of initiative: Magház ‐ Seed House (Hungary)

According to the interviewee she and her colleague chose the 22nd of May in 2009 to organise the Open Day as this date marks the International Day of Biodiversity. The Ministry of Agriculture planned to arrange a series of events on that day and they joined them. "József Ángyán was really supportive and put a lot of effort into the organisation and lobby activities within the Parliament." The title of the Open Day was Land Management, Land Races, Gene Preservation. At the other open days that were previously held in the Parliament the organisers also tried to link policy to science. They arranged open days along diverse areas such as the issue of GMOs and other relevant topics. An open day provides the opportunity for stakeholders and researchers to demonstrate their ideas and thoughts about a specific problem from their point of view. It was also important to give the floor to the participants to present their concepts regarding the issues of gene preservation and land races with a citable policy recommendation at the end. They also wished to set up a National Gene Preservation Strategy because this topic is only discussed in the Biodiversity Strategy. A comprehensive recommendation or strategy on gene preservation has not been produced in Hungary yet. "We agreed with József Ángyán to follow this strategic direction and to use the Open Day as a tool for achieving these goals." They planned to prepare a list of policy recommendations in order to offer it to the participants as a base for mutual thinking on the strategic steps about gene preservation. Basically this was the main goal and motivation of the whole Open Day. The issue of gene preservation is complex and consists of the areas of animal gene preservation, land race plants and the level of microbes. It is generally implemented at ex situ places (i.e. in gene banks) without having sufficient resources and supports that would be necessary for quality work. In situ and on-farm solutions would be also important as it is already proven that protecting gene pools in gene banks is not possible in the long run. "We tried to set up the programme of the Open Day to raise awareness about all the tasks related to these diverse problems, especially to the importance of ex situ solutions and their lack of resources." Including in situ and on-farm resolutions into the discussions was also emphasized as well as farmers whose role is essential in gene preservation. In the general discourses on gene preservation, the biggest Hungarian gene bank of Tápiószele was the only discussant and representative – at least until the open day. The organisers aimed at inviting and involving other gene banks as well, such as the potato breeder in Keszthely and the fruit gene collection site in Cegléd and in Újfehértó. Key role of the farmers and on-farm solutions were emphasized during the programme. In order to further highlight it, the organisers invited a French peasant, Guy Kastler, an activist of the French seed network (Réseau Semences Paysannes) to present about the role of farmers and the European Seed Network. The interviewee also gave a lecture representing the on-farm approach.


The interviewee had several round-table discussions together with Csilla Kiss about the issue of land races, and they also compiled a map of stakeholders. "We wrote case studies under an EU project and this work helped us to boost our professional network mainly in the NGO field." During the organisation of the Open Day they added József Ángyán and the official ex situ gene bank co-workers to their contact list. According to an EU directive about seed regulation, old land races are not eligible for being officially recognized as species. But as another EU directive allows small-scale concession regarding market regulation and makes the recognition possible in limited extent, this controversial legislation induced heavy disputes on its interpretation.   

Related events

In 2011 they organised the Let’s Liberate Diversity conference in Szeged with the participation of Guy Kastler and a colleague of SAVE global NGO (working in the field of animal gene preservation). It became evident for the European Network that a potentially prosperous process had been started in Hungary and they believed that the interviewee together with Csilla Kiss were able to strongly represent the issue of agrobiodiversity in Hungary. According to the interviewee it also had a positive impact on the success of the seed-swapping in Szeged. It was the biggest Let’s Liberate Diversity event that was also attended by the secretary of the ITPGRFA Convention. It was closely related to the Open Day in the Parliament. "We also initiated a strategic planning process based on the list of policy recommendations that was produced for the Open Day." Strategic planning workshops were also arranged where they could elaborate relevant subtopics in details. After two of these fruitful “Future Vision” workshops in 2010 and 2011, the whole process was impeded by political reasons. Katalin Rodics was fired and the whole strategy “went to the trash”.


"There was no contestation, because we kept the process under our control and could enjoy the support of Katalin Rodics." The whole procedure had solid scientific background and was associated with different operational scripts. They asked all participants to fill out a satisfaction survey and received plenty of thank you letters after the Open Day. They provided free attendance for all interested people with the possibility for speaking up. The organisers knew that the representatives of NÉBIH (previously: OMMI) participated at every events and were against the whole process. They were not involved in any discussions or only with negative comments. There were also a few breeders who were basically against the process. But it was also relevant that nobody rejected the invitation. The event was open to the press in order to have stronger influence. Several departments of the Ministry of Agriculture were affected by this topic, but after being active later they became passive without being involved in discussions. None of the management team members of the Seed Marketing Board was represented except one of their officers. They have an online magazine, and the tone of their article published about the Open Day was not positive at all. Those interested in market regulation participated more like observers. A lot of people attended the event in order to attain deeper knowledge and information about the details of the EU directive on seed regulation. The organisers prepared background papers for the workshop discussions and got only positive feedbacks.


The first two workshop discussions were planned and they continued their work along the positive feedbacks and demands that they received. József Ángyán offered his help and support in arranging the Open Day in the Parliament as he worked for its Agricultural Committee. Finally he organised this event and also invited his colleagues from the Ministry. "I had concerns because I previously invited them to the workshops where they were totally inactive and did not take part in discussions." Ángyán invited these people to the Agricultural Committee in order to have a mutual conversation together with the colleagues of OMMI. Finally all the contradictory point of views and interests became transparent. The first two events were informal, but the programme of the Agricultural Committee and the Open Day in the Parliament were formal and strictly scheduled and scripted. According to the interviewee at that time they already felt that the Open Day was a critical turning point related to the Hungarian seed issues. They listened to the presentations and realised that everybody was speaking about the same problems. Urgent demand for further strategic steps was also mutually identified by the participants. It resulted in the decision that the interviewee and her colleagues should follow this strategic direction.


"The whole process was well-structured and well-informed and could serve as a good example for establishing an effective interface between the policy level and research." It was a good practice on how to convey diverse academic knowledge and research outputs to politicians and decision-makers. The presenters demonstrated not only their research results, but also their thoughts and concepts about the possible future ways of developments. Another lesson is that without the support of specific politicians (such as József Ángyán and Katalin Rodics) the whole process could not have succeeded. She thinks that getting their promotion created a really lucky work environment. A politician, a civil servant, a researcher and an NGO started to cooperate with each other in a unified way. There was also a European movement behind them that also provided support and specific knowledge for them. She also mentioned that this process could not work under the current political circumstances. If they had to restart to map all the relevant stakeholders now it would be extremely difficult. Most of the people worked for these authorities and the Ministry of Agriculture have already changed their positions or had been removed. The interviewee also mentioned that they are still trying to keep things alive, therefore they applied for an Erasmus+ call as a consortium together with their Greek and Spanish colleagues. They successfully accomplished two Leonardo projects and also maintain a close cooperation with Arche Noah. But in sum, there is no space for these things now in Hungary.

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