Olive & Oil 02/07/2012

No mercy for the olive trees. The complaint of Italian science

Do you have in mind all the words about saving Italian science? They are just words, indeed. What happened in the experimental field of the Tuscia University is incredible. According to professor Eddo Rugini the decline of Italian science is determined. First a big research project is funded, and then the results are trashed. It was enough the word of Mario Capanna to halt the ministers Mario Catania ad Corrado Clini

Professor Eddo Rugini is shaken. This is understandable. In Italy there are no people that sincerely believe in research. They are all good in their speeches, but then they don’t match up with their roles.

On the 12th of June 2012 the Italian institutions allowed the uprooting of transgenic olive, cherry and kiwi trees from the experimental field of the Tuscia University. This orchard was the result of a research project open air licensed and funded from 1999. Just recently professor Eddo Rugini asked an extension for the experiment, not to waste the long work paid by taxpayers, but it was refused and the orchard destroyed.

Professor Rugini, then you had the license for the orchard. It was a research paid by taxpayers. It was not underground…
Of course it was legal. We had a license for ten years, from 1999 to 2010.

Then, what happened?
It happened that in 2009 we asked for an extension of the project.

And the extension was not allowed, right?
Indeed, we didn’t have the extension from the Ministry of Environment.

The Lazio region didn’t find an agreement on the location of the experiment, while the Agriculture Ministry didn’t find an accord on experimental protocols.

Then apparently it was not an ideological decision, but bureaucratic inefficiency…
Yes, it was. The two authorities didn’t make what they are supposed to do. Both the aforementioned agreements should have been signed and decided years ago according to EU directives.

But you did everything in your power to solicit politicians…
The Tuscia University officially asked local and central authorities to reconsider this decision and not to waste 30 years of our work.

So this official petition was addressed to all the involved authorities?
Yes, it was. We sent it to the Ministry of Environment, the Agriculture Ministry and the Lazio region.

Then they are guilty of wasting so much public money, right?
The funding originated from many different funding bodies, actually: European projects, Ministry of University, Agriculture Ministry, National Research Council.

And you didn’t receive any answer to the official appeal, until the incredible epilogue.
Yes, indeed. We just received an official answer from the Ministry of Environment on the 1st of June 2012 (sent on the 25th of May).

And then what happened is known…
Tuscia University couldn’t do anything else than starting the uprooting on the 12th of June, applying the protocol suggested by the Lazio region: administration of an desiccant, uprooting, burning and monitoring of the field for three years.

Destruction of public research by public authorities. Incredible! Many people discussed about this event, both in Italy and abroad. But not the media…
Many news websites and blogs discussed this story. And Nature, as well.

And after that nothing happened?
On the 13th of June the Ministry of Environment wrote a letter to the Genetic Right Foundation (which first asked for the suppression of the research project), the Agriculture Ministry, the Lazio region, the Health Ministry and the Tuscia University, the Arsial, Ispra and Cra (in CC). The letter said: “… given our priority to dismiss and clear up the site, we can not consider further researches related to the research field considered”. And it is worth noting that these were researches suggested by the Genetic Right Foundation!

That’s terrible. Other reactions?
Today, the 14th of June 2012, I receive from the Lazio region a fax saying: “we recall the necessity of monitoring the filed”, as routinely done in the past.

And what else?
And that “as for the possible genetic contamination of wild type cherry and olive varieties in the area feared by the Genetic Right Foundation, none of the numerous tests performed in the area gave results supporting this hypothesis”.

What a terrible story. So where are we now? Is the destruction of the research site by institutions completed?
Tomorrow we will keep killing and uprooting other trees. I still take some experimental data but nothing useful for the application of our research to agriculture. That would be the output of the complete research. I sadly notice that nobody cares about research, though. We will progress by importing knowhow from abroad.

di Luigi Caricato