HomeIdeaThe Minister of Agriculture in favor of GMOs and against ancient grains

The Minister of Agriculture in favor of GMOs and against ancient grains

The Italian Minister of Agriculture Francesco Lollobrigida commissioner of two strategic public bodies for the agri-food sector (CREA and ISMEA), confirms support for the new GMOs (or NGTs, New Genomic Techniques) and even distances itself from ancient grains. What 'food sovereignty'?

1) CREA and ISMEA, the new commissioners

The decree law of 22 April 2023 n. 44, 'Urgent provisions for strengthening the administrative capacity of public administrations', introduced drastic reforms of two public bodies serving the Ministry of Agriculture, ISMEA (Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market) and CREA (Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of the Agricultural Economy). Commissioner, direct appointment by the Minister of Agriculture of the three members of the Board, statutory reform. (1) The Minister of Agriculture Francesco Lollobrigida thus appointed two extraordinary commissioners:

– for ISMEA the lawyer Livio Proietti, former coordinator of Movimento Sociale Italiano and Alleanza Nazionale in the province of Rome, former deputy, former director of Sviluppo Italia and of the disastrous ISA (Institute for Agri-food Development),

– at CREA Professor Mario Pezzotti, professor of Agricultural Genetics at the University of Verona and manager of the Research and Innovation Center of the Edmund Mach Foundation. A great expert on NGTs (New Genomic Techniques), or new GMOs. (2)

2) Ancient grains, conflicting opinions

The ancient grains and the farro which is part of it have made it possible to enhance agroecology, even in disadvantaged rural areas, and the Italian gastronomic tradition. (3) International consumers show that they appreciate these products 100% Made in Italy:, which in fact express interesting growth potential.

The book 'Our bread. Ancient grains, flours and other lies' by Luigi Cattivelli, director of the CREA Research Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics, however, rails against any prospect of sustainable development based on agroecology and ancient grains. Adducing hypotheses that are widely questionable from a scientific point of view.

The dialectic between the custodians of biodiversity and those who believe that genetic engineering can save the world is nothing new and it is indeed good to continue, so that every citizen can get an idea of ​​the possible effects of two antithetical agri-food systems. Also in the light of the experiences gained, between pesticides and GMOs designed to resist them. (4)

3) Ancient grains, the institutional attack

The new commissioner extraordinary CREA organized the presentation of the book 'Our bread. Ancient grains, flours and other lies', on 13 July 2023, at the headquarters of the public body. The frontal attack against ancient grains has transcended from the level of personal opinion of the author of a book to that of the position of the top of the Council for agricultural research and analysis of agricultural economics:

– the new commissioner Mario Pezzotti congratulated himself for having dedicated his first public engagement in CREA with the presentation of 'a work that manages to captivatingly combine history, genetics, evolution and correct scientific information on wheat’,

– the CREA press release follows his words 'assuming that modern [wheat] varieties are better than ancient ones' and 'in the transformed product (bread, pasta, etc) taste and smell depend on the transformation process and not on the raw material used'. (5)

4) The minister of agriculture pro-GMO and against ancient grains

Francesco Lollobrigida, Minister of Agriculture of the Italian Republic, spoke at the first public event of the new extraordinary commissioner of CREA he had appointed to celebrate the book, declaring the following.

'A very useful book for politicians like me, to be able to correct the mistakes into which citizens who consume are induced, but also an opportunity to learn about the history of an exceptional product, which has evolved thanks to technology'.

The 'errors into which citizens are led' to which the minister refers – assuming he has had the opportunity to read the book and consult the literature, as well as market data – would concern the valorisation of ancient grains. (6)

Politics agro-industrial sector of Minister Lollobrigida is therefore inspired by research, with the confidence to find 'those solutions to implement a strategy that increases production and that can also be put at the service of developing countries', with the 'technology applied to our agriculture'. The new GMOs, in fact.

5) The pro-GMO eco of the Italian Parliament

Luke DeCarlo di Fratelli d'Italia is in turn a tenacious supporter of the new GMOs. The IX Commission of the Senate - Agriculture and agri-food production - chaired by him has in fact acclaimed the open field experimentation of NGTs (or NBTs, or TEA, if you prefer). In turn, the senator spoke at the CREA event, stating that 'this book opens up a world of truth and against fake news: a large country like ours does not need to tell lies about its products'. (5) What truths, what 'fake news'?

The rhetoric of 'genetic improvement' has also been revived in recent years in Argentina and Brazil. Where once again – under the false narrative of drought resistance and increased production – a GMO wheat variety resistant to glufosinate ammonium, a toxic reproductive herbicide, has been introduced. (8) But European consumers do not seem inclined to buy pasta made from GMO wheat, and it is for this reason that LOBBY di Big Ag aim to hide the presence of the new GMOs on food labels. (2) And the Made in Italy: what does it has to do with it?

6) Provisional conclusions

The indifference towards the environmental sustainability, often also economic, of the agronomic practices required to cultivate varieties of wheat that require ever more fertilizers and pesticides has already caused a disaster in our local cereal cultivation. The unsustainable costs have caused the loss of 400.000 hectares of areas cultivated with durum wheat in Italy in the last 20 years.

Italy it will never be able to compete on volumes and prices of durum wheat with Canada, the USA and Australia. Our only salvation lies in the distinctive identity and quality, all the better if associated with organic productions and the cultivation of native grains. Ancient grains have adapted over the centuries to the territories they belong to and retain traits of environmental sustainability and qualitative characteristics that are better than the new varieties in various respects.

Let's start then to consider the possibility of drawing on the genetic heritage of native grains to create varieties of wheat that respect the environment and our health. Persevering in the search for only an increase in yields, neglecting the amount of input agricultural chemists who associate with it, is institutionalized suicide.

Dario Dongo and Paolo Caruso

Footnotes

(1) Law 23 June 2023 n. 74, conversion with amendments of Legislative Decree 44/23, article 23.3-bis https://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/eli/id/2023/06/21/23A03641/sg

(2) Dario Dongo. New GMOs, NGTs. The European Commission's deregulation proposal. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Dario Dongo, Paolo Caruso. Sustainability of pasta, ancient and modern grains compared. Scientific study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.11.19

(4) Dario Dongo, Donato Ferrucci. Pesticides, acute toxicity in the US agricultural system. Scientific study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(5) Wheat: the role of research is fundamental in supporting innovation and promoting correct information and more informed choices. https://tinyurl.com/2p8svd99 CREA. Press release 13.7.23

(6) Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, for once, appears not to have consulted Coldiretti. Whose former Emilia Romagna director Mauro Tonelli – now president of SIS (Società Italiana Sementi) Srl, controlled by Bonifiche Ferraresi SpA – declares that the cultivar Senatore Cappelli is one of the 'ancient grains' (although its selection only took place in the last century). The site of 'The Seasons of Italy', managed by BF Agro-Industriale Srl (controlled by BF SpA) even attributes to this wheat a 'demonstrated' 'high digestibility', pace of Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC) No 1924/06. V. The ancient Senatore Cappelli wheat is back on the table. https://tinyurl.com/nhkxkdav

(7) Dario Dongo, Marta Singed. Italy. The 'drought decree' becomes a Trojan horse for new GMOs. Civil society protests. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(8) Dario Dongo. GMO wheat from Argentina and Brazil, soon on our tables? GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade).

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