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Publicly Funded GMO Research Facing Destruction In Italy 245

Posted by timothy
from the for-great-justice dept.
ChromeAeonium writes "Shortly after the events in Rothamsted Research in the UK, where a publicly funded trial of wheat genetically engineered to repel aphids was threatened by activists with destruction and required police protection, another publicly funded experiment involving genetically engineered crops faces possible destruction (original in Italian). The trial, which is being conducted by researchers at the University of Tuscia in Italy on cherries, olives, and kiwis genetically engineered to have traits such as fungal disease resistance, started three decades ago. When field research of GE plants was banned in Italy in 2002, the trial received an extension to avoid being declared illegal, but was denied another in 2008, and following a complaint from the Genetic Rights Foundation, now faces destruction on June 12th, despite appeals from scientists. The researchers claim that the destruction is scientifically unjustifiable (only the male kiwis produce transgenic pollen and their flowers are removed) and wish to gather more information from the long running experiment."
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Publicly Funded GMO Research Facing Destruction In Italy

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  • GE/GMO crops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by andydread (758754) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @11:31PM (#40279471)
    If you are genitically modifying crops they MUST be kept isoated from nature and ensure that they cannot contaminate conventional or organic farms with patented gene. Sealed greenhouse whatever. IF you can accomplish that then carry on and label your product as such.
  • Not so reassuring (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @11:38PM (#40279507) Homepage Journal

    (only the male kiwis produce transgenic pollen and their flowers are removed)

    Until a single seed gets away, then the cat is out of the box.

    Then there's the human factor. If anthrax can get out of controlled labs, I'm quite sure that pollen or seeds can get out that way too.

  • Re:GE/GMO crops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @11:43PM (#40279541) Homepage Journal

    Or just don't patent it. As our population continues to surge we *need* to be able to produce food in greater quantities, and of consistent quality.

    Or cut down on population. Which is doable without resorting to war or murder (but, I repeat myself). Put the money into sex ed uncontaminated by religion, free prophylactics, and rewards for not having children. Positive reinforcements, not negative like China did.

  • Re:stop this crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday June 11, 2012 @12:06AM (#40279659) Homepage

    "GMO just does what human controlled breeding would take longer to accomplish."
    Not really, the change is approached from a very different angle and creates a inherently different result.
    You might get a similar effect if you used both approaches to get a specific desired effect but it would be a very different plant internally and the side effects of the change would be very different.

    Also there are inherent problems with it being so fast. When you can create a new different plant and then have it on consumers plates in a handful of years their is far more risk than a crop strain which was developed over decades/centuries.

  • by decora (1710862) on Monday June 11, 2012 @12:15AM (#40279715) Journal

    the 'green revolution' of pesticides and fertilizer did not end hunger. hunger is not caused by a lack of supply , but by the distribution methods. many countries that experience starvation are also experiencing brutal wars, dictatorships, lack of civil society, property rights, etc etc etc. afghanistan, for example, from 1979 to the present. they had to set aside things like crops and farming so that they could grow opium and fight a proxy war on behalf of the two the superpowers.

    then there is the fact that most costs of food nowdays in places like the US go to marketing, and 'value added' stuff like freezing, dehydrating, processing, and otherwise repackaging basic wheat, corn, soy, etc, into pizza rolls, snack chips, etc etc.

  • Re:GE/GMO crops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Monday June 11, 2012 @12:17AM (#40279727)

    If you are genitically modifying crops they MUST be kept isoated from nature.

    People have been genetically modifying crops for ten thousand years. Banning genetic research makes about as much sense as banning motorcycle repair, because the motorcycles might escape and survive in the wild.

  • Re:stop this crap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @12:29AM (#40279779)

    "GMO just does what human controlled breeding would take longer to accomplish."

    I love how this argument is always wheeled out.
    I've never seen or heard of human controlled breeding successfully crossing a plant with a fish, yet monsanto have genetically modified some plants with fish genes.

    We rigorously test new medicines to make sure there are no side effects, but a new species of plant ?, the test is to put it out into the market and hide its origins so that people dont have a choice.
    I'm not saying all GM food is bad, but some may have deleterious effects upon the human metabolism, and Monsanto will let us know ?
    Yeah, right......

  • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Monday June 11, 2012 @12:33AM (#40279799)

    It is worth noting that kiwis are not propagated by seed (like most perennial fruits they are asexually propagated), so even if cross pollination were to occur, it isn't likely to have an effect. Also worth noting that kiwis are generally pollinated by bees (with a minor role played by wind), which dislike kiwi flowers [slashdot.org] and generally pollinate everything else first, so unless they've got bunch of hungry hives on site pollen isn't likely to go far. I don't know what kind of wind drift you see with kiwi pollen or how long it remains viable, but I'd have to assume they have some sort of distance barrier in place too to account for even that, as most trials do take pollination into consideration when selecting a site. I'm not saying there is zero risk, just that it is pretty unlikely to happen, especially if the orchard is managed as it is, and that expecting completely zero risk is not an exceptionally reasonable expectation.

    General role of thumb: if though of something about a thing you just heard about something three minuted age, chances are the people who have been working on it for three decades thought of it too. Zero risk

  • Pest cold war (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grayhand (2610049) on Monday June 11, 2012 @12:46AM (#40279865)
    A major problem that isn't generally discussed is the pests and diseases don't just cry uncle and move on to non commercial food sources. The problem is evolution kicks in and they get resistant. They are already finding it in some GMO crops. Ultimately the pest and diseases get tougher so they potentially are even more damaging to traditional crops while GMO crops go back to the drawing board. It's very similar to what is happening with antibiotic resistant diseases. It's very much like the old cold war where each side builds bigger weapons. Eventually one side looses and I doubt it'll be nature. The problem is if we loose this war billions potentially starve. Basically all staple crops are being genetically modified so the entire food supply is at risk. I know the belief is science always solves every problem but the antibiotic analogy proves that isn't the case. There are now many incurable strains of diseases with no solution on the horizon. Do we really want to go through the same nightmare with food? It'll take 20 pr 30 years for us to be in the same position with food production but by then it will be far too late. If you don't believe it's happening in GMO crops do some web searches.
  • Re:GE/GMO crops (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Monday June 11, 2012 @01:06AM (#40279949)

    ensure that they cannot contaminate conventional or organic farms

    In the Italian case, these are perennial asexually propagated crops, so even if cross pollination did occur, it would have zero effect on a farm. Second, I grow in my garden open pollinated plants. I save the seed because they are some oddball varieties that cannot be bought in stores. If they are cross pollinated, I lose the pure variety, and I'm out of luck. If you do the same on a farm, the same holds true, and this is for any gene. Singling out transgenes does not make sense. Sure, I get that there is a market for it, but that shouldn't put undue burdens on other growers. I mean, what if suddenly there is a market for rice without the sd-1 gene, should every rice grower out there bend over backwards to prevent cross pollination?

    with patented gene

    Perhaps you missed the first two words in the title. What you are saying would be like bashing Linux because you hate Microsoft because you saw a documentary about how Microsoft goes around kicking puppies.

    label your product as such.

    Please read this. [slashdot.org]

  • Re:GE/GMO crops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @01:21AM (#40279997)

    No, they're not.

    Plus, nature has been doing this on its own as well. Bacteria swap DNA all the time. Look up 'rafflesia', it's a plant that exchanges DNA with the organism it's a parasite on.

    Just because humans are involved, that doesn't suddenly make it new territory. We're just mimicking nature, yet again.

  • Re:GE/GMO crops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Monday June 11, 2012 @01:24AM (#40280017)

    The argument is neither obvious, nor correct.

    While he has some points about damage already being done, and preventative measures being put into place to prevent cross contamination, it is disingenuous at worst, and at best ignorance to claim the GMO is the same thing Mendelson was doing playing with peas.

    What Mendelson did, and what others have done for thousands of years is hybridization. Not just plants, but animals too.

    To understand the difference, think of like Tetris. Hybridization is arranging the blocks to form patterns. Some patterns can be advantageous and desirable, while others are not. GMO, is altering the blocks themselves to form the patterns.

    At least with hybridization you are taking two species and breeding them together. This could have happened naturally, and is much less prone to danger. There is still danger. Non indigenous species have already damaged and changed ecosystems countless times since Man started carrying so much crap with him from one place to another.

    GMO, involves methods much more dangerous. Death codes anyone? It is beyond hubris to think that we know enough to mess with the fundamental codes of life itself, and downright insane to proceed like you know with certainty the complete consequences of your actions over any meaningful period of time.

    Now I am not arguing that the very field itself should be banned and not pursued. Just use some fucking prudence and make absolutely sure to protect the current ecosystems that we have right now.

    Biological warfare is conducted in protected laboratories for this reason, and GMO is biological warfare in that you cannot possibly state with credulity and assurance that the consequences of your actions will not bring great harm to our current ecosystems.

    Just have some god damned patience. Science is not done over night, and the field of genetics does not have to progress so dangerously fast out in the open.

    Most of our food production problems ARE POLITICAL, and not about resources. There is enough food thrown away every day in the US to feed Africa (or at least really damn close), and Ethiopia, the poster child of starvation is starving mostly due to political and economic reasons (agricultural policies).

    It's funny that people against GMO get accused of having their heads in the sand, being anti-science, etc. when most people who are for GMO, purportedly based on science and reason, want to completely ignore even the mere possibility that things can go wrong.

    Hubris.

  • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Monday June 11, 2012 @01:27AM (#40280031)

    Create plants with sterile seeds, so Monsanto can then grab all of the farmer's money? Sue farmer's whose fields are next to Monsanto seed fields, alongside the blowing winds, and get the courts and government's to side with them against small farmers?

    So which is it, are they sterile or spreading everywhere? Second, this is publicly funded research. As in, not Monsanto. The only antiquated ideas I see here are placing superstition & conspiracies over science in the name of politics & anti-corporatism.

  • Re:GE/GMO crops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Monday June 11, 2012 @01:34AM (#40280073)

    He did not say ban, he said isolate.

    Why is that so unreasonable?

    Your hyperbole aside, it makes no sense at all for you to claim that people have been genetically modifying anything for ten thousand years. That's hybridization, which is not remotely the same as GMO.

    GMO can be fine. Just keep the shit separate and labeled until the science has progressed to the point where it can be said with real confidence that current ecosystems will be protected for generations. Don't tell me that you know what will happen in the wild, because even the best scientists cannot state with any reasonable certainty that they know either. They hope. Gutcheck says yes. No hard data to back that up, and that will take time. Not 5 years, not 10 years, but more than likely 50,100, or more years.

    Everything does not have to be so fast. Take your time. Not such a bad idea either, because contrary to popular belief, the Earth is not that big of a place. We have ONE Earth right now. That's it. Fuck it up and we are a toast. We are doing a good enough job of that already with the ecosystems that we have. Hmmmm.... Let's add some GMO to it as well.

  • Re:GE/GMO crops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by king neckbeard (1801738) on Monday June 11, 2012 @01:38AM (#40280103)
    Clones aren't a big deal. Identical twins are, strictly speaking, clones.
  • Re:GE/GMO crops (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @02:15AM (#40280239)

    So you don't believe in Darwinism then ?

    Here's why I'm asking this question btw : the economics of evolution mean that if some subgroup of people decided to limit their children, they'll simply be outcompeted (much quicker than you'd expect btw) by a group that doesn't. Therefore the correct course of action, evolutionary speaking, if there is a food shortage, is to do your very best to have as many kids as possible, and worsen the food problem as much and as quickly as possible.

    And just so you don't pull the "enforcement" card "a group that doesn't" can of course be the group that's better at evading laws.

    And if your answer is that humans are somehow "above" that, I would say that you don't really believe in darwinism at all. After all claiming you believe in something, then completely disregarding it's predictions is about as believable as the US government's (or China's, or Saudi Arabia's, or ...) "belief" in global warming. It's deception at best, fraud at worst.

    There's the card of "but western states have declining birthrates". That's true, but that's only because you somehow feel the need to make "a nation" the deciding divider line. If you include levels of religiosity you see an entirely different picture unfold, where instead of a stabilizing population, you see a replacement of non-religious population with religious population that's proceeding at a pace that will make most nations majority-extremists (of whatever religion) usually in less than 100 years. Or if you split by ethnic group, again a different picture will unfold (then again, maybe that's really the same picture). That a bunch of spoilt, extremely rich, never been forced to deal with the real world kids do not see the need to procreate is not very strange (and exactly what happens in nature. If you just overpopulate a region, the animals will fiercely compete to have as many kids as possible, while the food source dwindles. If you overpopulate a region, and make sure the food source more than keeps up with population, large groups of animals lose interest in procreation, and die off. This can stabilize a population number, IF AND ONLY IF there is no food shortage (anywhere), and at the cost of extreme instability in ethnic groups (which leads of course, to most ethnic groups disappearing).

    We *think* that we are somehow "rational" (the fact that different people don't agree on what rational is, and that there is no obvious flaw in any of their reasoning, of course mathematically means that there is in fact no rational course of action. If you define a rational the way economists define it, of course), but we're not. Every subgroup, and this is equally true for militant atheists as for extremist christians, is simply wrong. As illustrated above, if atheists truly believed in science, they would do what science predicts to be optimal for themselves and for their group, and have as many kids as possible. Extremist christians, despite being opposed to science, are in fact much more rational in the way they live their lives.

    I guess my point here is that atheists run afoul of the basic principle that there is no amount of knowledge about gun mechanics that will protect you if you shoot yourself in the head.

  • Re:stop this crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Intropy (2009018) on Monday June 11, 2012 @02:28AM (#40280273)

    You obviously cannot cross a plant with a fish through selective breeding. But you're arguing the method not the result. (CS analogy, "I've never heard of a merge sort successfully sorting an array by repeatedly swapping adjacent items like bubble sort"). Just because you can't breed a fish and a plant doesn't mean you cannot get the same resultant organism through breeding. You can, but it takes a whole lot longer.

  • Re:stop this crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Intropy (2009018) on Monday June 11, 2012 @02:36AM (#40280313)

    I think you're vastly overestimating people. I think the controversy controversy comes primarily from the fact that most people don't understand genetics at all; it sounds scary to them, so they fear anything that deals with it. Natural is good, and unnatural is bad. It's a similar deal with nuclear power, really, where the thing I can't see and don't understand is inherently too scary to permit.

  • Re:GE/GMO crops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stranger_to_himself (1132241) on Monday June 11, 2012 @04:59AM (#40280893) Journal

    hah, sane population control? not fucking likely.

    It will happen with improved education and rights for women. Birth rate in Europe (1.59 births per female) / US (2.0 births per female) / Japan (1.37 births per female) is far below replacement rate (which is 2.1), evidence from South America is that women given the choice and access to edcuation and contraception have fewer children and birth rates are falling there (Brazil at 1.86 from 2.81 in 1990). The same will be true for the rest of the world (eg India 2.63 from 3.92 in 1990).

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