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The Drought Decree declares war on Biodiversity

The Drought Decree declares war on Biodiversity

It is news of the last few days of the approval of the so-called Drought Decree by the Italian Government.
In this provision, in article 9-bis of the Decree Law, an attempt was made for the umpteenth time to insert an amendment entitled: “Urgent provisions on agricultural genetics”.
It establishes that, in order to allow research activities to be carried out in “authorised experimental sites”, and pending – by the European Union, an organic regulation on the matter, the authorization for the deliberate release into the environment of organisms produced with Genomic editing techniques (TEA) by means of site-directed mutagenesis or cisgenesis for experimental and scientific purposes is subject, until 31 December 2024, to the provisions of the national law contained in article 9-bis of the Law.
For clarity of information, we recall that TEAs are a series of techniques that operate what is called genomic editing, i.e. an intervention on limited points of the DNA of a living being.
These techniques are promoted in agriculture as biotechnologies capable of making plants express desired traits and properties. For example resistance to disease, drought, insects, herbicides and pesticides.
It should be emphasized that the EU Court of Justice, in a 2018 ruling, equated the new species thus obtained in all respects to Genetically Modified Organisms.
In all of this, the thing that leaves you most amazed is both political and scientific.
– On the political merits as the amendment on the matter is out of context given that the Legislative Decree dictates “Urgent provisions for the fight against water scarcity and for the strengthening and adaptation of water infrastructures”, therefore nothing to do with the issue of models of agricultural production.
– On scientific merit because in a country, like Italy, where for years there has been a fight on several fronts to recover the priceless heritage of agricultural biodiversity, increasingly endangered by intensive and specialized farming techniques, the introduction of species assimilable to all effects to alien or non-native ones represents a further threat, as highlighted by the latest ISPRA data.
In doing so, there is a risk of further erosion of that biodiversity which, already at a global level, is at an all-time low. Suffice it to say that recent FAO data tell us that out of about 6,000 cultivable plant species, those actually used in food production have eroded down to only about 200 and that 66% of global agricultural production consists of only 9 species (canna sugar, rice, corn, wheat, potato, soybean, the fruit of oil palm, sugar beet and cassava).
If we then consider that Italy is the largest repository of both natural and agricultural biodiversity in Europe and that this heritage has been in sharp decline in recent decades, we understand how this concern is founded.
We recall that native species and breeds represent for agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry a heritage of resilience not only against climate change but also against the overall loss of fertility of ecosystems, both natural and rural.
If we add to this that agricultural biodiversity is the fruit and the legacy expertly left to us by the selection of generations of farmers, all this can make us understand in which obscurantist abyss one would like to trade a pseudo science for pseudo motivations.
Since the second half of the last century, it has been known by now that it is precisely biodiverse systems that can ensure better resistance and Primary Productivity even under conditions of greater stress (in this discipline we recall that the Nobel prize for chemistry was awarded to Y. Prigogine in 1997; Nobel prize awarded for the merit of the discoveries related to the dynamics of complex systems).
We recall that the energy dissipative mechanism of these systems is the basis of agroecology and how this discipline, strongly desired by the European Union also with the two Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030 strategies, is the starting point on which to build more resilient production models , both in ecological and economic and social terms.
Among other things, we underline how the current agricultural sector (with its hyper-specialization system, as opposed to the thermodynamic needs inherent in biodiverse systems) represents a threat for 86% of species at risk of extinction; this data has already emerged from the report “Food system impacts on biodiversity loss”, published on 3 February 2021, by the British study center Chatham House with the collaboration of the United Nations Environment Program (Unep) and Compassion in world farming; one of the largest international animal welfare organizations.

We recall that the Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House, is a British study centre, specialized in geopolitical analysis and global political-economic trends and among the most accredited think tanks worldwide (and therefore not the last arrived).
Furthermore, according to the FAO, to all this we must add that, in recent decades, on a global level, an average of 13 million hectares of forest have been destroyed (an area equal to that of Greece) per year.
What is worse is that not only does the Italian Government disavow the provisions of the Directives, Strategies and Court of Justice of the European Union, but also itself.
Firstly because the current Government has renamed the competent ministry with the wording: Ministry of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forests. If the Italian has a complete sense with the concept of Food Sovereignty it means: “… the right of peoples to nutritious and culturally adequate, accessible food, produced in a sustainable and ecological way, and also the right to be able to decide their own food system and productive…”.
Secondly, as if the obvious oxymoron between the ministerial etymology and the authorization to experiment in the field of assisted evolution techniques (TEA) were not enough, it should be remembered that Italy had already issued a substantial document in the past, from part of what was, in the first decade of 2010, the Ministry of the Environment and the Protection of the Territory and the Sea.
This document entitled – The Impact of Alien Species on Ecosystems: Management Proposals, was drafted by various researchers for the approval of the National Biodiversity Strategy.
In it, a series of guidelines of a technical-scientific, and obviously political, order were outlined, in which the priorities to be followed and respected were highlighted:
– the protection of both natural and agricultural biodiversity;
– measures to contrast allochthonous species;
– the promotion of structures suitable for the reproduction or breeding of native species;
– avoid favoring the spread of undesirable species (obviously including GMOs);
– etc.
If we then add to all this that the first Italian research center dedicated to biodiversity was born in recent days: the National Biodiversity Future Center, which kicks off with 300 million euros and 1,300 researchers, we seem to be in a ring in which the country is like a puglie played that take punches from all directions without a referee who intervenes to stop the match.
The incredible confusion (certainly not naive but certainly ill-prepared) in which a certain policy navigates today is evident, thrown into the waves of the great interests of multinationals and lobbies which, obviously, depose scientific, ethical and holistic discourses at all that we want the only principle they know: profit.
We seem to be able to say that the only thing that is sovereign in Italy is not the wording of the Ministry of Agriculture but the confusion in which the entire national political panorama has entered.
A panorama that, after years of struggles between the left and the right, has forgotten that ideology is to politics what epistemology is to science.
Ideology is the compass with which to navigate the course of politics and democracy of a country and, while we worry about the loss of biodiversity, political ideology has already become extinct.
In the age of social networks, of everyone knows everything, of electoral campaigns won with tweets, the only thing that has been lost is the principle on which Life is founded and consolidated, with its Biodiversity, its Rights, its Rules, and from which every healthy ideology is born.
For this reason we must continue to be vigilant in order to avoid the ever vigilant attempt of those who want to subject our planet to the interests of a few against the interests of all humanity.

Guido Bissanti

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