Bad news for GM arborio rice in Italy

Bad news for GM arborio rice in Italy

PAVIA: Area is known for its arborio rice Photo credit: CC/Yorick 39

Vandals shattered scientists’ hopes of producing Italy’s first fungus-free arborio rice by devastating a plot of land planted with a genetically-modified strain.

The outdoor trial in Pavia was the first of its kind since regulations were recently relaxed and experts quoted in a Science magazine article said the destruction came as a huge blow.

“What happened is very tragic, especially for colleagues who lost an important experiment,” said Silvio Salvi, plant geneticist at the University of Bologna and president of the Italian Society of Agricultural Genetics.

Arborio rice, essential when making risotto, is particularly vulnerable to Pyricularia oryzae which causes crop-destroying rice blast, usually killing the plants. To date, only fungicides can control the disease.

University of Milan researcher Vittoria Brambilla and her team began experimenting in 2017, eventually coming up with a fungus-resistant type of arborio rice they call RIS8imo.

Laboratory trials were successful but field trials impossible until  the Italian government adjusted existing regulations in 2023.

The scientists planted the prototype rice on a 28-square metre plot, surrounded by 400 square metres of fenced fallow land to prevent pollen dispersion last May.

On June 21, the team learnt that practically all of the plants had been uprooted  or scythed down.  They have no idea who could have been responsible.

“Naively, I didn’t expect it,” Brambilla admitted.

All of the farmers in the area knew about the experiment and were in favour of it, she added.

For his part, Silvio Salvi stressed that the team were not intimidated by the destruction of the experimental rice paddy. “There will definitely be no stepping back,” he declared.

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Written by

Linda Hall

Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca province and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.

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