Speakers and Organizers

Speakers of the seminar


Professor, Director Pirjo Siiskonen, Finnish Organic Research Institute

Member of the seminar steering committee/ChairPirjo_Siiskonen

Professor Pirjo Siiskonen has PhD in Political Sciences (Rural Sociology) from the University of Helsinki (1990). She has been working as the director of Ruralia Institute (2004–2006), vice-director (2007–2013) and director of Mikkeli unit since 1989 until 2013. Director of the Finnish Organic Research Institute FORI she has been since it was founded in the beginning of 2013.

Ruralia Institute has almost 25 years of experience in the organic food sector. Pirjo Siiskonen is a well-known spokesman of the area, organic food and sustainable rural development. She has been rewarded with the Science Communicator of the year award by Mikkeli University Consortium in 2012. Since year 2013 Siiskonen has lead the Finnish Organic Research Institute network with 150 researchers and other experts on organics, who work at the University of Helsinki or MTT Agrifood Research Finland.


Professor, Docent Raija Tahvonen, MTT Agrifood Reserch Centre Finland, Biotechnology and Food Research

Speaker of the seminarTahvonen_small

Professor Raija Tahvonen obtained M.Sc (nutrition) at the University of Helsinki in 1979 and PhD (food chemistry) degree at the University of Turku in 1995. Her scientific career started as a researcher at the Agrifood Research Center MTT 1987–1995 (mainly trace elements and heavy metals) and continued as a researcher, senior instructor, senior researcher, associate professor and professor at the University of Turku (Food Chemistry and Functional Food Forum) 1995–2008 (research interests: lipids in nutrition, berries, functional foods). From 2008 on she has worked for MTT as a professor (research area genomic nutrition). Her special interests are the health effects of total lifetime nutrition beginning even from parents and grandparents. She is also interested on total diet approach, believing that in addition to essential nutrients, many other components of food may affect health.

MTT is a non-profit public research organization operating under the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. MTT is the leading Finnish research institute in the agricultural and food sector. MTT produces and disseminates scientific information and new innovations for the agriculture and food sector as a whole. MTT has participates presently in more than 30 EU-projects. A lot of experience on nutrition, especially elderly nutrition has been gathered in NU-AGE and OPTIFEL projects and earlier domestic and international product development projects (confidential).


Doctor Denis Lairon, Emeritus Research Director at INSERM/INRA, Marseille

Speaker of the seminarLairon_web

Denis Lairon got a PhD Thesis in biochemistry and has expertise in human nutrition. He is emeritus Research Director at INSERM (National Institute of Health and Medical Research) France. He has been Director of the Joint Research Unit 476 Inserm/1260 Inra/Université de la Méditerranée “Human Nutrition and lipids: bioavailability, metabolism and regulations” at Faculty of medicine, Marseille, France (1998-2007).

His expertise is in the fields of lipid digestion and metabolism, food quality and organic foods, gene-diet interaction and nutrigenetics, Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular diseases, sustainable diet. He holds partnerships in European projects (3 COST actions, PI-LIPGENE, NoE-NUGO). He takes part in two on-going granted French research projects (Organic food consumers cohort follow-up and sustainability of Mediterranean diet) and two information/teaching programs directed to Mediterranean diet at school catering (primary and secondary level) and university catering.

He has supervised 19 University Thesis (PhD) and co-authored about 200 original papers in peer reviewed top journals and 80 reviews and book chapters. He has been a member of the Editorial Board of the British Journal of Nutrition and, Nutrition and Metabolism. He is an expert in French and international panel Committees in nutrition-related domains.

Denis Lairon held the position of Vice-President (until 2013), and past President, of the French Nutrition Society. He was the Chairman of the scientific committee of 10th FENS European Nutrition Conference, Paris, 2007. He acted as the President of the Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS), 2007−2011 and is now the Vice-President of the FENS (2012−2015).


Theme: Quality and Origin of Organic Food – Chair: Adjunct Professor Carina Tikkanen-Kaukanen

Adjunct Professor Carina Tikkanen–Kaukanen, University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute, Finland

Member of the seminar steering committee/ChairCTK_web

Carina Tikkanen-Kaukanen has been working as a Research Director in Food Sciences at the University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute, Mikkeli since 2011 and as a Research director of Organic food production in Finnish Organic Research Institute since 2013. Prior to that she worked as a Research Director in the University of Eastern Finland, Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition. Her PhD from the year 1996 in medical biochemistry from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kuopio, examined bacterial adhesion mechanisms of streptococcal bacteria.

During the years 1998-1999 Tikkanen-Kaukanen worked as a visiting scientist in Paris, INSERM 570 where her research was dedicated to studies on Neisseria meningitidis adhesion inhibition. Tikkanen-Kaukanen is an Adjunct Professor in Pharmaceutical Biology at the University of Helsinki and have worked as a Senior Scientist at the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Kuopio during 1997-2008.

Tikkanen-Kaukanen started her research with natural products as novel anti-infectives after her return from Paris. Her research team has studied anti-infective effects of oligosaccharides from human and bovine milk, polyphenols from Northern wild berries and honey. She and her research team concentrates on important human pathogenic bacteria associated with respiratory infections, but they also study other serious human infections such as malaria. Furthermore, her research team operates in a wide international collaboration and consists several international students.

Tikkanen-Kaukanen’s research is tightly connected to food industry and her aim is to use the scientific results gained to develop novel healthy and functional food products. Tikkanen-Kaukanen’s reaserch team is a parto of the Glycoscience Graduate School, Academy of Finland. The research has been funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (TEKES), the Academy of Finland and the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

In Ruralia Institute, Tikkanen-Kaukanen’s research is further directed to natural products, especially to development of novel functional organic food products for humans and functional fodders for animals.

Professor Ernesto Guzman, University of Guelph, Canada

Speaker of the seminarGuzman_web

Dr. Ernesto Guzman-Novoa is a Professor and Director of the Honey Bee Research Centre in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada. He got a DVM degree in 1982 and obtained M.Sc. and PhD degrees in Entomology from the University of California at Davis in 1989 and 1992, respectively. Dr Guzman-Novoa has worked for several institutions, including the University of California, the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, and the National University of Mexico.

Dr. Guzman has ample academic and research experience. He has taught courses in Apiculture and Genetics and has conducted multiple research projects funded by more than 35 different grant sources. During the course of his career he has graduated more than 40 D.V.M., M.Sc. and PhD students. His research has focused on honey bee genetics, behaviour, and on parasitic mites.

Ernesto Guzman-Novoa is author and co-author of more than 300 publications, including scientific and trade journal articles, as well as books, book chapters and summaries in conference proceedings. Dr. Guzman-Novoa has received numerous honors and awards.


Senior Scientist, Felice Simeone, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Netherlands

Speaker of the seminarSimeone_web

Dr. Felice C. Simeone is Senior Scientist in the Food Authenticity and Traceability group at RIKILT, a research institute of the Wageningen University, Netherlands. Dr. Simeone’s work focuses on developing low cost and portable devices for quick testing of food authenticity.

Dr. Simeone graduated in Chemistry at the University of Florence, Italy. He received a PhD in Chemical Science from the University of Ulm, Germany, with a thesis about nano-structuring of electrodes for enhanced electrochemical sensing. He also developed optical-biosensors that exploit optical properties of nano-particles. He then moved to the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology of the University of Harvard, US. At Harvard, Dr. Si-meone worked on chemical sensing by molecular electronic junctions, and on low-cost medi-cal diagnostics; moreover, he devised electrochemical methods for the study of the metabo-lism of 3-dimensional cell cultures (i.e., artificial tissues).

Dr. Simeone’s interest in Food Sciences, interest spanning from the chemical aspects to the socio-economical and cultural challenges, drove him to RIKILT, where he is particularly active also in projects about effective communication in science, a key topic in food sciences due to their multidisciplinary character.

Theme: Health Reputation of Organic Food – Chair: Doctor Helena Kahiluoto

Prof. Dr. habil. Gerold Rahmann, Director of the Thünen-Institute of Organic Farming, Germany, Board member of ISOFAR and TIPI (IFOAM)

Speaker of the seminarRahmann_web

In 1962, Gerold Rahmann was born on a dairy farm. He has studied agriculture economics and made his PhD in Rural Development at the University of Göttingen. In 2000, he made his habilitation in Agri-Ecology at the University of Kassel, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Science, and became Professor at this faculty.

Since 2000 he became founding director of the German Federal Research Institute of Organic Farming: the Thünen-Institute of Organic Farming. The function is the independend and scientific based advise of the German government in all aspects of Organic Farming and excellent reseach in the development of the organic sector. With more than 100 people staff, an annual budget of 7 million euro and excellent research station and laboratories with the target to help to develop the „Organic farming of tomorrow“. The focus of his research is the interdisciplinary research and development of organic dairy, pig, goat, and stockless systems. He has more than 8 years working and research experience in Africa, Asia, South America and many European countries.

Professor Gerold Rahmann is board member of ISOFAR, TIPI (IFOAM), FiBL, ORCA, and member of other national and international committees and associations. He is chief and associated editor of several scientific and popular scientific journals. As scientists he has published more than 350 papers, 54 are listed in web of science. He wrote or edited 21 books. Beside his job he likes to drive tractor, milking cows or sitting and talking with farmers.

Doctor Helena Kahiluoto, MTT Agrifood Research Finland/Finnish Organic Research Institute

Member of the seminar steering committee/Chair


Helena Kahiluoto is agroecologist. She leads interdisciplinary research on sustainability transition of food systems, operationalising resilience approaches at the interfaces of food security, climate change and eutrophication. She applies mixed methods and innovative approaches. The cases vary from regional to global level. She contributes to university education and supervises PhD students and mentors post-docs in the field, being also a demanded research reviewer.

Helena Kahiluoto pioneered in establishing the first research unit focusing on sustainable (organic) food and farming in Finland. She initiated a national research network and built up the first university degree program in organic food and farming in the country. She contributed to the first international assessment of agricultural science and technology for development (IAASTD).

Helena Kahiluoto is principal research scientist in MTT Agrifood Research Finland and research director of Finnish Organic Research Institute (Organic Production and the Environment).

Doctor Michael Walkenhorst, FiBL, Switzerland

Speaker of the seminarWalkenhorst_small

Michael Walkenhorst studied veterinary medicine at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany 1992–1998. In 1998 he received his approbation as veterinarian at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, and obtained his PhD in 2006 at Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Zürich, Switzerland on “Vergleich von homöopathischer mit antibiotischer Laktationstherapie zur Behandlung von Mastitiden des Rindes“ (comparison of homeopathic with antibiotic lactation therapy of dairy cow mastitis).

Since 1998 he has been working as a scientist in the Department of Livestock Science of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL, Switzerland) in different research projects. Since 2014 Wankenhorst has been leader of the research topic animal health of the Department of Livestock Science of FiBL with the main focus on preventive veterinary medicine including reduction of antibiotic input as well as the preventive and therapeutic use of medicinal plants and natural products in livestock.


Doctor Minna Mikkola, Research Director of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki/Finnish Organic Research Institute, Finland

Member of the seminar steering committeeMikkola_web

Minna Mikkola has an educational background in natural sciences and environmental protection (MSc). She has been working as a vocational teacher in food hygiene and environmental protection at the Espoo Hotel, Restaurant and Catering Institute and as an educational developer in the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.

Her research interests pertain to sustainable developments of the food systems and her dissertation (PhD) dealt with social dynamics for sustainable food systems. In her current work, she has been exploring the roots of change towards sustainability as co-operation and conflicts, (dis)connections and learning tend to result in reorganization of the production and consumption by the food system actors; investigated are the structures of supply chains, farmers’ freedom, processors’ sustainability strategies, constructions of hygiene, public caterers’ interests for sustainable food systems, retail chain’s local food policies and consumer orientation, particularly by adolescents and children, towards increasingly sustainable and organic food consumption.

Minna Mikkola’s researcher position represents wide sustainability interests and organic food offers a societal platform for empirical investigations with deep theoretical cuts into the social reality of actors. This kind of research orientation sees the Social as the source of building increasingly sustainable food systems, which become idiosyncratically organized between producers and consumers. Minna Mikkola has published a number of research reports in Finnish and articles in journals such as Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, British Food Journal, Agronomy Research, Appetite and International Journal of Sustainable Development; furthermore, her conference papers have been published by Wageningen Academic Press and work for edited volumes is underway with Wiley and Emerald Books.

Minna Mikkola is senior researcher at the University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute and Research Director of Finnish Organic Research Institute (Organic Food and Farming and the Society).


Theme: Organic Food and Society – Chair: Doctor Sinikka Mynttinen

Doctor Sinikka Mynttinen, Aalto University, School of Economics, Small Business Center, Finland


Sinikka Mynttinen (PhD in forest econ.) works as a senior advisor in the Aalto University School of Business, Small Business Center. Mynttinen graduated in forest economics from the University of Helsinki, where she also defended her doctoral thesis. Besides marketing her special interests are in relationship management and networks of SMEs in rural regions.

In the Small Business Center Mynttinen is involved in research and development work to enhance the activities of rural SMEs and to adapt to changes in their operational environment. Since 2007 she has been involved in several projects related to organic and local food together with entrepreneurship and business management. She has studied the new business concepts of rural high quality restaurants in the Nordic context, as well as, the significance and potential of regional research organizations as partners of SMEs in the food sector. Another theme has been the potential of food tourism based on local and organic food supply of the South Savo region. The recent projects have dealt with enhancing organic food chains in South Savo and developing the businesses of organic entrepreneurs. In addition, Mynttinen has attended the research strategy work of the food sector in the South Savo region.


Return to seminar home page