The following is my translation of an open letter by Angelo Gaja (above) that was distributed to and reposted by countless Italian wine blogs and media outlets this week.
“Genetically modified vines will be Italian wine’s salvation.”
It’s time to break the taboo around genetically modified vines: they will be Italian wine’s salvation. Modifying plants with genes from the same species (cisgensis) is the only way to ensure a future for the great wines of Italy.
If researchers are not allowed to apply new genetic techniques in their work, our vineyards will have no future. I am well aware that cisgensis is considered a GMO (genetically modified organism) technique and to many, genetically modified organisms are an abomination. But when faced with enemies like peronospora, which dries the leaves and bunches, and oidium, which infects the plant’s green organs, we cannot stand idly by.
With the increase in temperature, good-quality vintages are more frequent. And this makes some winemakers happy.
But there’s also another side to the coin: the heat and the scarcity of rain bring old and new parasitic diseases; the vineyards suffer from extended periods without rainfall; and the grapes arrive at the winery too hot and still covered with antiparasitic agents that haven’t been washed away because of the lack of precipitation.
Our country must allow researchers to make use of new techniques.
The world of wine must avert the greatest danger: that of doing nothing!
Agricultural minister Maurizio Martina has announced a new willingness to consider cisgensis.
“It’s now more clear than ever,” he has stated, “that we have moved past the debate on the pros and cons of GMOs. We are ready to support an organic plan for research initiatives and legislative oversight that will regulate the most sustainable technologies and our nation’s top agricultural products.”
I’m referring to tools like “genome editing” and the “cisgenic approach” that can target genetic improvements without altering the characteristic production of an agricultural food system.
We have asked the European Union to engage in a definitive discussion of why these technologies are recognized differently from transgenic GMOs.
This is a match we should play side-by-side with agriculture and research firms.