Italian anti-GM group wins destruction of 30-year-old olive-tree project

News article originally published on Nature News Blog on 12 June, 2012. For complete article visit the Nature website.

The sudden government-ordered destruction of a 30-year-old publicly-funded research project in Italy involving transgenic olive trees, cherry trees and kiwifruit vines — one of the longest-running trials on genetic modification in Europe – began on Tuesday under pressure from an environmental group.

Eddo Rugini, a plant scientist at the University of Tuscia, launched his research in 1982, aiming to find varieties that are resistant to pathogens, mainly fungi and bacteria, so as to reduce pesticide use, as well as producing shorter trees that would ease cultivation in certain Italian landscapes.

In 1998, Rugini was given permission to grow the trees. But in 2002, Italy banned all field research of genetically engineered (GE) plants. Because the trees were already growing, he was granted an extension for his work until 2008. But in 2010, a second extension to 2014 was denied by regional authorities.

On 18 May, the Genetic Rights Foundation (GRF), a domestic environmental non-governmental organization, announced that it had “exposed the existence of an experimental field of GE trees” even though government permission had long since expired. It sent a formal letter to Rugini and the local authorities demanding that they immediately dispose of the experiment, in keeping with the law. As a result, the university was ordered to destroy the trees on 12 June.

For the rest of the article visit the Nature website.

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