The voice of AIRIcerca on GMO research: scientific progress and correct information

Recent statements of Italian Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Maurizio Martina, reported by Senator Elena Cattaneo lit again the debate on the study and the possible in-field applications of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): the recombinant DNA techniques aimed to produce GMOs were reported to be labeled as “molecular games” or “sports”. Such statements discredit the whole biology, biotechnologies and the scientific method. Years of scientific information not properly vehiculated led to a massive anti-scientific drift that spread false concepts among the public opinion and, too bad, also among the Institutions. One of these “false myths” about GMOs is that their use could reduce the biodiversity of an environment. On the contrary, biotechnological approaches can make ancient varieties (no more cultivated due to their sensitivity to pathogens) resistant to pests, without losing the rest of their organoleptic features, so that their re-introduction would actually raise the biodiversity. Another example is the theory that the cultivation of GMOs would be only advantageous of the multinational companies, while nowadays Italy actually depends almost entirely on these enterprises for the import of non-GM seeds. On the other hand, the restart of a public research regarding GM plants (also in in-field conditions) would lead to the development of new patents, to an enhanced competitiveness of the Italian agronomic sector and in a greater independence from multinational companies. Moreover, the belief that GMOs are harmful to health is widely spread, but actually there is no evidence proving that. A French scientist (whose research is heavily affected by conflict of interests) recently tried to prove that GM fodder causes cancer to the animal models of the study, but it was soon discovered that he used a rat strain that spontaneously develops tumors with a higher-than-average incidence. Finally, in the latest weeks, an Italian organization detracting the use of GM plants, Slow food, praised the introduction of a novel “molecular mechanism” that makes plants more resistant to pathogens thus limiting the use of pesticides and, as they said, of GM crops. Actually, that pathogen-resistant plant was itself a GMO, but the author of the praise was unaware of that. This fact, and others, highlight the importance of the commitment of organizations like AIRIcerca in the diffusion of scientifically correct news and in the confutation of “false myths”. Topics like the use of GM crops, that regard the possible gain in benefits for the whole community, should be properly discussed especially considering the voice of researchers, rather than other people following trends and bad information.


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