Italian Farmers: ‘Say Yes to GMOs or Agriculture Will Suffer’

At left the Italian government destroys the research of Dr. Eddo Rugini, a plant scientist at the University of Tuscia.

Perhaps the caption should have been “Italian Scientists and Farmers…” This bulletin is from the Crop Site. I cannot locate the original letter. Perhaps because it is only in Italian. 

ITALY – 200 Italian scientists and farmers have written an appeal to President Napolitano and Prime Minister Monti. The letter specifically asks that Italy be given the possibility to compete in agriculture, both scientifically and economically, by putting a stop to the anti-GM (genetically modified) policy in Italy.

“Without research and innovation in agriculture Italian farming is going to disappear. Italian farms must be able to compete in the global market, and, without product innovation, this is not possible,” the letter states.

Most of the food that Italy imports contains GMOs. Without GM feed, “Made in Italy” would not exist.

Italy’s geographic indicators make extensive use of GM feed. The letter also points out the apparent contradiction between the prohibition of GM research, the cultivation, and the import of large quantities of GM feed.

The Italian scientific community has clearly expressed the usefulness and safety of GMOs, calling for further research and testing of these products in the open field.

The petition has been signed by 200 people, including Silvio Garattini, Umberto Veronesi, Luciano Maiani, Chiara Tonelli, Umberto Tirelli, Elena Cattaneo, Felice Cervone, Alberto Mantovani, Bruno Dalla Piccola, Carlo Alberto Redi, Piergiorgio Strata, Giulio Cossu, Luigi Rossi, Franco Nulli, Silvano Dalla Libera, Deborah Piovan, Duilio Campagnolo, and Marco Pasti.

The shorter USDA summary GM Fields Destroyed attributes the letter to the travesty pictured above. The most complete coverage I’ve encountered is by Anastasia Bodnar at Biofortified. Excerpt:

(…)Dr. Eddo Rugini is a plant scientist who has spent his career working on woody plant propagation, using both traditional and innovative methods. A successful and productive researcher, Dr. Rugini has over 170 publications, most of which in are international journals, and over 20 book chapters, in addition to working as a professor, serving on many high level scientific panels, and serving as editor for more than a few high profile journals.

In 1982 (yes, 30 years ago), Dr. Rugini began a groundbreaking project involving transgenic olives trees, cherry trees, and kiwifruit vines. In 1998 he gained permission to grow the trees, with some very specific measures in place to prevent gene flow from the plants.

The following is paraphrased from the Fresh Plaza article Research burnt at the stake is not good for anybody by Rossella Gigli:

The cherry trees in bloom have no need to be covered, because they are not transgenic. Only the rootstock of these cherry trees is transgenic, and being triploid can not produce fertile pollen anyway. There is no chance of pollen spread from the transgenic cherry rootstock.

The olive trees, engineered both for resistance to fungal diseases and shorter trees, so far have not produced any flower. This is likely due to the tissue culture process used during transformation.

The only plants that could bloom and produce pollen are male kiwifruit plants, and every year the flowers are removed before they open. In fact, the flowers that grew this year have already been removed and throughly killed with very high heat in an autoclave. The female plants, engineered for resistance to fungal diseases, do not produce pollen and are pollinated artificially with pollen from control plants. The resulting fruit are tested in the laboratory to verify its resistance fungus, and subsequently destroyed, per the research protocol.