The New breeding Techniques, known in Italy as Assisted Evolution Technologies (or TEA) represent the last frontier of genetic improvement (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 to Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier). They, through the technique of molecular scissors, allow to intervene on the genome of the plant allowing to "silence" some genes that make it susceptible to a certain disease or to activate a controlled genetic mutation that allows to enhance some nutritional characteristics of certain foods. The result: reduction in the use of pesticides, greater resistance of crops to the impact of climate change, improvement of the nutritional qualities of food.
An example? The new tomato 'Sicilian Rouge High GABA 'a variety of tomato an exclusive that thanks to TEAs contains high levels of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a nutrient considered useful for lowering blood pressure.
The potential impact of TEAs in everyday life and in the transition to sustainable agricultural production is therefore very high, but European legislation is still lagging behind. The goal is to define the legislative path within this legislature (2023).
It was discussed at the panel "Innovation in agriculture passes through Assisted Evolution Technologies" moderated by Anna Meldolesi, scientific journalist of the Corriere della Sera, who spoke Luigi Cattivilli, Director of CREA Genomics and Bioinformatics who explained the advantages of new biotechnologies, Paolo De Castro, European Deputy of the Agriculture Commission, George Bergesio, Group Leader Lega Agriculture Commission Senate, Giuseppe L'Abbate, M5S group agriculture commission Chamber of Deputies, which took stock of the regulation.
Paolo de castro he also appealed to the media to ensure that they try to transmit correct information about TEAs: "Citizens should be reminded that they have nothing to do with GMOs - in fact they do not modify the genetic heritage - and are one of the concrete possibilities we have to reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture and keep up with the goals of the New Green Deal. Furthermore, these are technologies that can be easily applied even by small laboratories and can therefore concretely support our production chain ».
Joseph Labbate he recalled that: «The European Parliament is overwhelmingly in favor of the spread of TEAs. Renouncing to use them means for our producers to lose competitiveness. Beyond the European legislation, in Italy we have a further difficulty. In fact, a law prohibits experimentation in the field, allowing only that in the laboratory. We as a political force have presented a bill that overcomes this obstacle, otherwise we will hardly be able to go forward in the studies and applications in this area. There is a real risk that many of the studies already started in Italy will have to be moved abroad to find application ».
Giorgio Bergesio concluded: «The Pandemic before and now the War in Ukraine have brought to the fore the importance of scientific research in achieving new sustainable production models. Our country must strengthen the collaboration between research and the production system, to develop its competitiveness. It will be essential to determine the legislative authorizations that make the TEAs applicable: today the emergency dictated by climate change must be faced with the resources offered by scientific innovation. Otherwise our agricultural sector risks very serious losses with a negative impact on our GDP estimated at around 15% ».