L’Etica del mais Bt

13 Feb 2015
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diabrotica_tossico Salve a tutti,

Mi chiamo Enrico Marsili e insegno nel Corso di Scienze Ambientali e della Salute alla Dublin City University. Nell’ambito del corso di Etica Ambientale (quarto anno della laurea di primo livello), ho presentato un progetto, un “mock case study”, basato sulla vicenda di Giorgio Fidenato e colleghi e della loro iniziativa di seminare mais MON810, di cui Salmone si è occupato varie volte (quiqui, per esempio).

Nel progetto, ho richiesto agli studenti di formare una commissione di esperti per valutare la legittimità delle azioni di Fidenato e colleghi, l’opportunità di un risarcimento per I danni causati dagli attivisti anti-OGM e dal governo locale, e in generale, lo stato dell’arte dell’uso di OGM agricoli in campo aperto.

Gli studenti (ho rimosso I nomi per rispettare la loro privacy) hanno svolto uno splendido lavoro, studiando una notevole mole di documenti, e hanno impersonato un esperto di biodiversità vegetale, un entomologo, un esperto del mercato del mais, un esperto legale, un professore di agronomia, e un esperto di etica ambientale.

I rapporti individuali mostrano una comprensione approfondita del problema, al di là di qualche ovvia imprecisione, e la decisione del panel di esperti suggerisce di rimborsare gli agricoltori e di cambiare la legge regionale, in ottemperanza con la normative europea.

Penso che questo progetto rappresenti un buon esempio di divulgazione scientifica mostri come la questione degli OGM agricoli possa essere affrontata con una certa competenza anche senza essere biologi o agronomi, equipaggiati soltanto di una certa curiosita`intellettuale.

Un saluto a tutti I Salmoni e a risentirci con altre iniziative di questo tipo.

Enrico

27 commenti al post: “L’Etica del mais Bt”

  1. MauroNo Gravatar scrive:

    Non ho ancora letto i rapporti individuali e la decisione del apnel degli esperti, quindi non dico nulla sui contenuti.
    Ma, qualsiasi siano le conclusioni, la trovo un’iniziativa encomiabile. Complimenti!

  2. OGM, bb!No Gravatar scrive:

    Caro Enrico, un’ottima iniziativa.

    D’ora in poi per qualsiasi problema agricolo/ambientale/economico/etico/sociale credo che tutti i Governi di tutti i Paesi del Mondo possano rivolgersi ai tuoi studenti.

    Grazie del servizio che hai offerto alla collettività.

  3. TC1507No Gravatar scrive:

    Purtroppo essendo in vigore, qui, il principio di proibizione per legge o per decreto alla coltivazione, lo studio è e resterà una questione puramente accademica. Temo per molto tempo.
    Spero almeno serva a scuotere le coscienze.

  4. Enrico MarsiliNo Gravatar scrive:

    Hi everyone, would you be so kind to post your comments in English, so the students and staff from DCU and other university can read them?

    OGM-BB, I truly appreciate your comments. :)

    I have recently contacted Mark Guiltinan (PSU, USA), a quite famous geneticist particularly involved in the sequencing and annotation of cocoa plant genome.

    In the next few months, he would contribute to the ongoing effort on explaining GMOs to the general public. With the permission of Roberto, I will try to upload here (after translation in Italian) some of his contributions.

    Last, there was a recent episode about disclosure of information related to the GMO debate. Prog, Kevin Folta, from Gainesville, FL, has been issued a disclosure request under the Freedom of information Act (http://kfolta.blogspot.ie/2015/02/silencing-public-scientists.html). Kevin is a knowledgeable and dedicated actor on the pro-GMO debate and amny scientist fear this episode will diminishing the involvement of experts in the debate.

    Is there any risk of something similar in Italy? Hopefully not, but we should keep watching.

    Finally, thanks again to the BE409 students ffor their hard work, thanks to Roberto, Alberto, Vitangelo, and all the other experts I read about here (and whose work I tried to translate to my students).

    An d good luck to Giorgio Fidenato! I hope in the next few years he will become famous as the “Bosman of GMO”, and his case will be a strong case study for further action.

  5. roberto defezNo Gravatar scrive:

    Yesterday I gave an interview to a main Italian radio: Radio 24
    http://www.radio24.ilsole24ore.com/programma/conti-belva/2015-02-14/lexpo-luoghi-comuni-robin-182506.php?idpuntata=gSLAF7N7u&date=2015-02-14

    One question was the concern of (so call) politicians and anti-GMOs about potential environmental damages deriving from GM cultivation in Italy. My answer was that as Italy use 10,000 tons every single day all the year long, we cannot have a so high concern for environmental aspects in Italy, but no concern in using Gm produced in Brazil or Argentina. The comparison was with soccer ball where we said we could not play football with a ball produced using boys as slaves to assemble them.

    World wide etics might be a future issue

  6. Enrico MarsiliNo Gravatar scrive:

    Roberto, actually part of the anti-GMO movement simply does not wat to see the GMO in their backyard… They do not know that our non-GMO productionis not enought to support Italian production (e.g., bresaola). Inn the end, it is a matter of accessing information and use a bit of elementary logic and mathermatics!

  7. Fidenato GiorgioNo Gravatar scrive:

    Enrico, I’m sure of esteem of OGM,bb are not sincere, but they are a jack ass !!!

  8. OGM, bb!No Gravatar scrive:

    In Italy, and in other European Union countries, agriculture has functions which are more than the simple production of food or raw materials. Agriculture has a role of fundamental importance for the protection and maintenance of the territory, for landscape conservation and protection (hedges, dry-stone walls, olives, citrus fruit, special rows of trees, etc.), for the protection of flora and fauna, for the preservation of biodiversity, for the creation of areas for recreation, for the preservation of the traditional culture of rural territory, and for the mitigation of the negative consequences on the environment, caused by other production and consumption activities.
    Let’s suppose for a moment that our country could do without agriculture for food production: could it also do without agriculture for territory protection? The answer is certainly in the negative, since the presence of agriculture in a territory managed like ours is synonymous with “safety and protection of the environment”. Our society must therefore adopt agrarian policies capable of protecting the farmer’s income, in order to guarantee him those indispensable rewards that will make him remain on the land.
    Unfortunately, the existing transgenic organisms will not guarantee a higher income for the producer, because in agriculture, as is well known, a cut in production costs corresponds, in the long run, to a fall in products’ sale prices, thus annulling the profits (it should be pointed out that a price fall would also imply a real income loss for the producer: non-agricultural products would cost more in terms of agricultural products).
    The producer’s reduced income is also a consequence of the fact that GMO (= Genetically Modified Organisms) substantially neutralise the production factors directly introduced by the entrepreneur. At the same time, GMO require a major input of external factors of industrial origin, that must be acquired on the market.
    The increase in producer’s income could come from a differentiation of products towards those with an added value (food with more proteins, more vitamins, fewer calories, parthenocarpy, etc.). However, these earning opportunities can come about only if the market is “free”. If production is carried out “on contract” – which is more likely - the profit increase would favour almost exclusively the patent holder of the transgenic plant.
    From a first appraisal, it can be asserted that existing transgenic crops are the first step towards a complete automation of the process of production (precision farming, almost impossible to realise on Italian territory) and towards a standardisation of food production. Production will be controlled by satellites, will not need the farmer and will determine an increase in the return on capital to the detriment of returns destined to the remuneration of other productive factors. It is in this context, among other things, that the premises are created for a shift in control of rural territory, from the farmer (no longer able to obtain an income from his own production factors) to individuals that have nothing to do with agricultural activity, who with their own capital or with capital of third parties will be able to take over not only cultivation but also farm property.
    For a “sustainable development” of our agriculture, the laws regarding the patenting of transgenic products will then have to be revised. It is not acceptable that he who inserted a gene in a plant therefore acquires the right for the “de facto monopoly” on that plant, thus preventing its free cultivation. This assertion is supported by the consideration that, the moment when the transgenic plant is considered equal to the “non-transgenic” and the farmers start growing it, even those farmers who initially did not intend to cultivate it will be forced to do so. This is due to the fact that they will have to operate in a market where the price of that product will be in proportion to the (lower) production costs of the transgenic plant. Therefore, if growers want to remain competitive in the market, they will have to change their production to transgenic. In this way a de facto monopoly for the market of the seeds of that plant could be created.
    In this context we may place the misgivings expressed by some about the relation between “agriculture and the lords of the genes”, or rather between the farmers and the “owners” of the genetic material from which that same product originates. How can this patent be exploited? Are there any limits to the economic exploitation of the invention, or is everything permitted to the patent holder?
    Undoubtedly, these questions need definite answers about the possible consequences on the agricultural sector of the patent’s exploitation. We might even think of a situation in which the farmer does not buy the seed himself, but he receives it from the same company that owns the patent and will also own the final product. Production will be carried out by the grower on the basis of an “agreement” prescribing pesticides to be used, agricultural operations to carry out and everything else necessary for the final product . For his work, the farmer will receive a lump-sum remuneration embracing his labour and the use of special equipment. In such a situation, the grower is relieved of most of the business risks, but at the same time he becomes a supplier of labour and capital, to the advantage of the integrating company, which remains the owner of the seed and the final product. Obviously, in a market economy, the grower’s remuneration for a production on commission would be subject to the law of supply and demand. So what will happen when the company that owns the seed finds a grower able to provide the same services at a lower cost, or when it finds another country with more favourable production costs? Obviously, other conditions being equal and operating on a global scale, it will move its production to where it costs less.
    In a not too distant future, our products will have to face competition with products from countries with much lower production costs, from countries where the use of certain chemicals (either fertilisers or pesticides) is not regulated, from countries where child labour, far from being eliminated, is enforced and exploited, from countries not able to guarantee the genetic material from which the product is derived. This list could go on. That is why in the next few years the problems related to national agriculture may, very probably, stem from market globalisation and from the subsequent setting up of a huge world-wide market of food products, where the absolute rule will be producing more (it doesn’t matter how) at the lowest possible cost.
    Nevertheless, in this context some questions must be asked: are low costs and market globalisation compatible with the quality of production which we all wish for? Do they assure an income for agricultural producers from areas that are at a “disadvantage” as far as production factors’ costs are concerned? Are they compatible with the sustainable development of the territory? Can they preserve the cultural, economic, social and professional identity of a territory?
    These questions must have definite answers in order to verify if, over a long period, the transgenic organisms and the subsequent process of market globalisation represent an opportunity for our country agriculture or rather a dangerous path that could bring harmful effects on the well-being of our society.

  9. Fidenato GiorgioNo Gravatar scrive:

    OGM, bb is one of those people who in the 60-70 years have heavily subsidized farmers to seek to pass more farmland production possible. And now they want to interfere heavily in the opposite direction. Their aim is always to be central in the decisions, must always create a political role for their self (and consequently live off of those who work). They did not understand and do not want to understand that an economy left to itself does not cause disasters, but only benefits. It is state intervention that created these disasters and OGM, bb wants to continue that same road.

  10. Enrico MarsiliNo Gravatar scrive:

    OGM, BB, thanks for the nice cut and paste job. However, agriculture function is to produce food, as agriculture is not some sort of welfare. Agriculture should operate, as any other sector, under the current market rules. You talk about politics, like most of those that oppose modern agriculture. Scientists talk with data and fact. While scientist have few chances of winning over politics (and that is exactly what is going on in Italy right now), politics should not operate completely detached from science. We will pay the price of politics intervention in agriculture in Italy, when all the other countries (where agriculture is ONLY about food production) would have surpassed us in terms of quality and yield. The slow food movement, including you, is playing a dangerous game, using others as pawns.

  11. OGM, bb!No Gravatar scrive:

    ok, then let us govern accountants, so the accounts will always be positive and we will all live better

  12. Enrico MarsiliNo Gravatar scrive:

    Ogm,BB, not a single fact in your words, as usual. This is the opposite of what scientists do. :)

  13. SCIENZA_79No Gravatar scrive:

    Caro Enrico…mi sembra una bella iniziativa; un modo per apprendere “sul campo” e in maniera attiva questioni così complesse.

    Se ti capita puoi spiegare ai tuoi studenti anche questo? In arrivo la “arctic apple”…sai come è stata ottenuta questa mela? Secondo molti (la notizia è di facile reperibilità) “Le manipolazioni genetiche per la produzione della mela Ogm hanno riguardato due varietà di mele molto note: la Golden Delicious e la Granny Smith. Sono state manipolate geneticamente dall’azienda canadese Okanagan Specialty Fruits con l’inserimento di un gene anti-macchia”.

    Capito Roberto? Possiamo spendere il tempo che vogliamo nel cercare di spiegare come stanno le cose: organizzare seminare, lezioni, scrivere libri ecc, ecc. Poi arriva un pinco pallino qualunque che ci parla del gene “anti-macchia”.

  14. Enrico MarsiliNo Gravatar scrive:

    Hi Scienza_79, thanks for your comments. I have actually told them about the Arctic apple, which has just received the FDA approval. Can you please write your comments to this post in English? Thanks :)

  15. SCIENZA_79No Gravatar scrive:

    You are Welcome…No worries. :-)

  16. OGM, bb!No Gravatar scrive:

    alcune considerazioni sulle mele Arctic

    http://ogmbastabugie.blogspot.it/2015/02/arctic-golden-e-arctic-grannyancora-una.html

  17. Enrico MarsiliNo Gravatar scrive:

    Ogm, BB, can you please write in English here, so that students can (hopefully) say something about this matter? Thanks.

  18. roberto defezNo Gravatar scrive:

    Question One for students:
    In your analysis you said: “Since 1% of pollen travel was within 28m of the MON810 field, it should be that distance must be at least 30m wide on all sides, to create an adequate buffer-zone to limit any possibility (however infinitesimal) of hybridisation as much as possible.”

    You thus propose 30m distance between a traditional and a Bt maize field, but I would add few more rules. First all farmers should state in advance what they are planning to cultivate and under which system of cultivation (GM, traditional or organic) and thus the buffer zone are on charge of the GM farmer if he is the “new entry” in the area, but are on charge of other farmers is they in the past was cultivating grapevine and then decided to shift to maize or the organic maize. Second the 30 meters distance should not be respected (by the GM maize farmer) in any case but only if the neighbour declare he is going to plant maize again or if he is in a rotation system alternating a legume and a cereal.

    Second Question for Students.
    The main coexistence methods adopted in Friuli was not a distance (30 meters) with a buffer zone of non-GM maize, but a more clever strategy based of shift flowering. Thus GM maize was flowering after the end of flowering of the neighbour traditional maize field. This strategy leads to no cross-breeding among the two fields (that was 4m apart) after the Forest Guard analysis. How would you include this second system of “pollen no fly zone” into your proposal?

  19. SianNo Gravatar scrive:

    Hi Roberto,
    I took the role of the plant scientist, so hopefully I can answer your questions.
    Firstly, corn pollen is pretty useless, extremely heavy (difficult to carry on wind or insect), remaining active for a meer 2 hours after release, meaning a significant number of coincidences would need to occur for pollen to be a problem:
    The pollen would have to be extremely lucky not to immediately fall to the ground after release, and be captured by the wind or a suitable insect;
    It would then need to travel to another plant in a nearby area, within 28m as you stated;
    It would have to happen upon a plant which was pollenating at that exact moment (or within 2 hours);
    And such a plant would have to be compatible with the corn pollen, which is simply not an issue at all (I’ll talk about that below).
    Perhaps requiring farmers to state their business isn’t such a bad idea, but I’d argue that was the whole point of the original farmers in this case, that if planted quietly, local fields will experience no ill effects of proximity to Bt-corn. I think this could stigmatise and marginalise the GM farmers to an unfair degree.

    Your second question:
    I did indeed propose a system whereby plants of incompatible genes would plant in the vicinity of the GM field, though the current research I could find suggested this was entirely unnecessary, as corn itself is non-native to Europe (and most of the world), and has been bred into its current form over centuries by humans, so has no naturally compatible species. Secondary to this, other farmed crops (wheat, barley, hops) are not naturally compatible with traditional or organic corn, and therefore not compatible with Bt-corn.
    I’m afraid the pollen no fly zone was out of my area of expertise, but I’m sure one of the group can answer that one for you.

    Thank you for your questions!

  20. roberto defezNo Gravatar scrive:

    Question for the insect biologist specialized in biodiversity

    I was not aware that there are now 600 B.t. strains producing delta toxin: do you have a reference for this?

  21. Enrico MarsiliNo Gravatar scrive:

    @Roberto and Sian: obviously the implementation of technical rules for co-existence has to do also with the economy of the area. Buffer zone are much easier to implement where many small farmers cultivate different products (this is the case of some regions in Italy). As for the maize pollen, it is mostly spread by the wind, not by insects, as Sian said correctly. We mentioned only briefly in class the shift flowering strategy, thanks for your reminder.

  22. OGM, bb!No Gravatar scrive:

    coexistence impossible ……….. a German study

    http://linkis.com/enveurope.com/Environmental_Scienc.html

  23. Enrico MarsiliNo Gravatar scrive:

    Come on OGM, bb! You can do better than that! Our students are pretty smart :)

  24. roberto defezNo Gravatar scrive:

    It would be surprizing that the leading State in Europe for pesticide procuction would say that coexistence with plants preventing the use of those pesticide would be a good idea.
    Come on OGMbb, start thinking with your own head.

  25. OGM, bb!No Gravatar scrive:

    “mutatis mutandis” we could say the same thing about the US, which are the largest exporters of GMO

  26. Alberto GuidorziNo Gravatar scrive:

    pic.twitter.com/66F0MP56sa

  27. Enrico MarsiliNo Gravatar scrive:

    Very interesting data, Alberto, thanks. Do you have the source of this information? It does not support the “Indian farmers suicide” tale, of course.

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