There is no reason why plant geneticists must watch helplessly as their research on the genetic modification of plants is subjected to prohibitions. They have suffered in silence for too long and now their voice is being heard.
A European Union regulation leaves it up to member states to regulate the cultivation of genetically modified plants within their borders. In Italy, the State Council has used this as an opportunity to ban both research and production. All this now, while for twenty years, transgenic plants have increasingly been grown worldwide. A little less than 200 million hectares, well over 10% of cultivated areas worldwide, are now destined annually to Genetically Modified Plants (GMP). This, while we feed ourselves with GM-derived plants or animals that are fed with GM plants and feed. Slogans such as "acceptance of the precautionary principle" have led to the premise of destroying plants in the experimental fields (recently with the destruction of transgenic plants at the University of Tuscia). This, while all over the world, species that are more parasite-resistant and have less need of water open up a real possibility to the hungry and the undernourished on the world.
We cannot just ask Italy to respect the role of science on a subject that has already had a huge impact application worldwide. We want to recall that researchers have always studied nature to understand its rules and use them for human progress. Modifications based on the transfer of genes fall within this ongoing process.
Let us start by rebutting claims used by GMP opponents.
There is a growing worldwide demand for wood and biomass in response to the needs of the society (paper, energy, etc.), and therefore we are witnessing an increase in forest plantations of high productivity (e.g. poplar and eucalyptus). The latest developments in biotechnology applications will contribute to meeting the global demands of the society by helping to preserve the natural forests and reducing deforestation of large forest areas important for the ecosystem preservation.
The IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Conference is held every two years and is the official meeting of the IUFRO Working Group 2.04.06 (Molecular biology of forest trees). The year 2015 is the thirtieth anniversary of its initial gathering in 1985 in the U.S. (Avon Lake, Ohio), and for the first time organized in Italy, returning to Europe after 8 years.
This conference has brought together academics, scientists, public and private institutions of international, national and regional, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders to discuss all aspects of biotechnology and biosafety of forest trees.
The “IUFRO Tree Biotechnology” has offered a unique opportunity to share information and experiences, and to engage in an open and meaningful dialogue on the state of research.
The main theme of the conference was “Forests: the importance to the planet and society” and how to preserve it in the light of global climate change to meet the growing demands of society for sustainable resources, renewable energy and biomass production.