“Genetically modified organisms” and “genetic manipulation” are words that divide public opinion, yet agriculture’s remarkable progress is undoubtedly due to humanity’s ability to change the genetic heritage of plants. This process began many millennia ago with the birth of agriculture and the transformation of wild species into domesticated plants, which are responsible for more than half of the growth in crop productivity. Today, however, there is an increasingly pressing need to forgo technological progress in favour of past traditions. In these ten lessons, a leading geneticist explains how new genetic editing technologies improve plants’ ability to exploit environmental resources (such as water and fertilisers) and promote a more “organic” agriculture. Perhaps this is how to best tackle key issues such as climate change, overpopulation, disproportionate land use, and increasing demand for food.
Michele Morgante teaches Genetics at the University of Udine, is the president of the Italian Society of Agricultural Genetics and a member of Italy’s Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.
Caterina Visco is a science journalist and editor-in-chief of the Italian on-line magazine “Look Who’s Talking”: www.sentichiparla.it.