Time and time again, initiatives, votes and declarations follow one another, both at European and national level, suggesting that the climate surrounding plant genetic improvement has suddenly changed. But the climate has changed for the time being, the rules have not really changed yet, not yet the technical details that allow to remove the rust that has accumulated on a case that has crippled for a quarter of a century. However, there are many important encouraging news to report, also because the topic is very difficult.
Meanwhile, a collection of pseudo-synonyms has to be made, which makes it difficult to follow the terms used (Anna Meldolesi in Already wrote). I stick to the term Genome editing As an anchor, because it seems to me one of the more neutral terms, but parallel terms thrive. They range from NGT (New genome technologies) to NBTs (New breeding techniques) , to Genome editing (proofreading), site-directed mutagenesis (Site-directed mutations), to the very Italian TEA (Associated Evolution Technologies), but sometimes you also hear terms like “crunchy” plants. I notice that you want to include the purpose of the intervention in the acronym: mutation, crossing over, or evolution. What all these definitions have in common is that they create a lexical distance from the outcast GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) and all opt for a feminine term instead of the masculine term for GMO: as if saying “transformation” or mixing characters between vertebrates is legitimate in the feminine (think in the siren’s sensuality), while in the male version she’s horrific, brutal, and perverted (minotaur example suffices). But maybe I’m just seeing these prejudices.
The signs have already been recognized at the end of the last legislature by two initiatives by the respective chairs of the Agriculture Committees of the Chamber and the Senate (Gallinella, M5S and Vallardi, Lega) who have publicly revealed themselves in favor of the technologies Genome editingto which a more complex “epigenesis” has now joined.
After nearly a year of incubation, between May 31 and June 9, he wasArticle 9 bis of the Drought Decree It sets the stage for 18 months (say eighteen) of botanical testing from Genome editing. I remember that for the field test, it would be appropriate to repeat it for three consecutive years. Reading the text it is difficult to understand what has actually changed: as I said the climate, but also some details that can be discriminatory. Article 9 bis affects the Italian Penal Code 224/2003 which initially set three years of imprisonment for those who grow genetically modified plants without permission, but are required to respect a specifically written procedure to be impossible to enforce.
The nails of this law were cut through by the courage, perseverance, and stubbornness of civil disobedience of three Friulian farmers: Giorgio Vedenato, Silvano Dalla Libera, and Duilio Campagnolo. Vedenato planted GM corn (type Bt, Mon 810, the only modified corn authorized for cultivation in all of Europe) and then reported himself in 2010. This led to a criminal trial against him, which risked imprisonment as well as a fine of up to €100,000. The criminal judge heard various witnesses (I was one of the experts defending Vedenato’s options), realized that the matter went beyond his jurisdiction and requested an opinion from the European Court of Justice, which was entirely consistent with Vedenato’s. Therefore, the European Commission has written to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers noting that Italian Laws 212/2001 and 224/2003 (specifically) and the Friuli Regional Law No. 5 of 2011 have not been notified or approved by Brussels, as all nation-state regulations must be implemented. that intervene in the Constituent Treaty on Free Trade in Goods within the Union. Thus, Italy discovered that it had legislated illegally and repealed part of the three laws. In 2013 Silvano Dalla Libera grew Bt corn legally in his field, harvested (myself in the plural) under the eyes of the police, Carabinieri and Forest Rangers, and sold complete with VAT invoice, and he obviously got that corn The usual community contributions for the cultivation of any corn. For a very short season, the legitimacy was re-established.
Today, Article 9 bis affects that watered-down Law 224/2003, but anyone who doesn’t remember that religious war twenty years ago has a hard time understanding what changed. What has changed are the numbers: before there was the numerical symbol for “infinity”, now the numbers 10 plus 45 plus 10 equals 65. Yes, now there is talk of 65 days between the filing of the trial application and the response of the competent authorities: it seems to me that this is a profound, significant and positive difference In favor of the hope of being able to experiment with research purposes and knowledge of botanicals resulting from Genome editingWhat were GMOs banned from doing instead?
I say “unlimited” because three major steps were envisioned in the old regulations: The first was to pass the scrutiny of a hostile committee that was only concerned with preventing a single grain of GMO plant pollen from escaping from the concentration camp where the GMO plants were grown. Then it was necessary to designate regional sites for testing transgenic plants: so far 90% of regions have not designated them and will soon be twenty years old. But, above all, in order to experiment with transgenic plants, the so-called experimental protocols must be respected and which specify for each plant what are the methods, restrictions, networks, distances from other plants, control and monitoring systems for rodents, earthworms, insects and birds that can come into contact with plants stained with original sin The indelible symbol of being GMO.
18 years after those texts (Coexistence Law No. 5 of 2005), established during the Alemanno Ministry of Agriculture, there is still not a single approved protocol for any transgenic plant. This is why I am referring to the infinite term of procedures to be met for classic GMOs which can be summed up in the “end of sentence never”. There is now a maximum of 65 days between the submission of the request and the response of the relevant committees: we will see what criteria the committees will adopt.
We will also see if scientists will be able to describe the agricultural and experimental methods of the field of plants from Genome editing Regardless of the legendary “experimental protocols”. Only in practice will it be understood how the new factory appraisal committees intend to act Genome editing. The same is true for plants derived from phylogeny, that is, derived from the exchange of genetic material with plants of the same species. Would it be possible to prepare and purify the DNA of a donor species and then insert it into the recipient variety? With or without a choice system? In short, technical details that, if the choice to overcome, would easily be overcome.
The agricultural diversity risk assessment was also omitted, which is not to say that EIAs were not conducted, but because experimental plots are limited to a few square metres, the same rules apply when crops extend over millions of hectares. Another small sign of moderation and openness to scientific research.
Also at the European level, in these hours, but above all on the 5th of July, it will be understood if the precipitation that has been occurring since 2016 in relation to preventing crops from plants from Genome editing You will finally be able to see the light. During these hours the European Parliament debates a text which is presented as follows:
Newsletter – 12-15 June 2023 – Strasbourg Plenary Session
Ensuring food security and strong agriculture in the European Union
In Tuesday’s debate and Wednesday’s vote, MEPs are expected to call on the EU to strengthen its food security and strategic independence. In light of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the draft text calls for the use of EU strategic food stocks, a protein and feed strategy to enable farmers to become less dependent on third countries, new breeding techniques to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and investments in digital technologies in agriculture. It also requires a special EU program for water management, food waste reduction, and reciprocity in agricultural trade with third countries. MEPs are also ready to demand guarantees to ensure agricultural activity in the EU is maintained during the implementation of the Green Deal. Procedural Codes 2022/2183 (INI)
then Genome editing To combat the risks of food crises caused by war, the consequences of Covid-19, and climate change, and to increase Europe’s independence from imports by reducing crop protection products and fertilizers. As if to say that, after starving biotechnologists of agro-food for a quarter of a century, they are now not told to “get up and walk”, but go and take part in an Ironman Triathlon: 3800m swimming, 180km cycling and a marathon of 42km195m. All this is done by simply pressing the electronic voting button.
Let’s hope that next July 5th we will start the path of agro-food sensibility. It would be a relief after decades of media, legal, legislative and almost scientific struggles. I actually dreamed about it 16 years ago when writing the editorial for my GMO blog, salmone.org. Without knowing when and which new generation of biotechnologists could replace us, it was already clear to me that the GMO game had been irretrievably lost, but it was worse to raise the white flag. These phrases have revived the beautiful book inspired by Diego Briviaro life in scienceSpringer 2023, in which I tried to explain Because I chose salmon as the symbol for my blog: “Salmon” is a fragile and defenseless animal, but it’s designed like few others. At the most important moment of his life, when he ascends the rivers, he is exposed to the aggression of a ruthless predator who slaughters him without risking anything, while he stubbornly swims against the current to reach his goal. Even the few who reach the goal will die, but they do so to give life to a new generation.
The hope is that salmon eggs from the past generation can hatch and that of the new generation of biotechnologists Genome editing It is finally possible to swim in the clear water.
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