` ¿Son las aceitunas próximas en la lucha de los transgénicos?

América del norte

¿Son las aceitunas próximas en la lucha de los transgénicos?

Enero 7, 2014
Por Marcel E. Moran

Noticias recientes

More than a year has passed, but tem­pers are still high in Cal­i­for­nia over the issue of genet­i­cally mod­i­fied foods (GMOs). Last Novem­ber, vot­ers in the state were dado una oportunidad to decide if com­pa­nies should be forced to label any prod­ucts they sell that con­tain genet­i­cally mod­i­fied ingre­di­ents. Early polling num­bers indi­cated that the major­ity of Cal­i­for­ni­ans sup­ported man­dated GMO label­ing, but a well-financed cam­paign in oppo­si­tion to the law made sig­nif­i­cant inroads and the bill nar­rowly lost, 51 to 49 per­cent. Nation­ally, this bal­lot ques­tion shed light for the first time for many on GMOs, and raises the ques­tion, have olives, and olive oil been involved in genetic mod­i­fi­ca­tion efforts?
The most promi­nent case of genetic mod­i­fi­ca­tion in the olive took place in Italy, and began in 1982. Researchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Tus­cia, about an hour North of Rome, sought new strains of olive trees that could resist fun­gal and bac­te­r­ial infec­tions, thereby requir­ing less pes­ti­cides to remain healthy. Before any research find­ings were reported, this project came to an abrupt end in the Sum­mer of 2012 when, under pres­sure from anti-GMO orga­ni­za­tions, the uni­ver­sity was ordered to destroy the trees by the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment in order to com­ply with a 2002 law ban­ning all field research on genet­i­cally engi­neered plants.

No such ban exists in the United States, but it seems the olive has so far escaped the atten­tion of Amer­i­can plant sci­en­tists that have mod­i­fied veg­eta­bles rang­ing from the tomato to the soy­bean to corn. Accord­ing to Lil­iana Scarafia, prin­ci­pal researcher at AgBi­o­lab, an inde­pen­dent agri­cul­tural lab­o­ra­tory that per­forms olive oil analy­sis in Durham, Cal­i­for­nia, there has been lit­tle genetic engi­neer­ing in the olive to date. "No hay trabajo en OMG en aceitunas ”, dijo. "I don’t see the inter­est, and I don’t see the ben­e­fits.” Patri­cia Dar­ragh, the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Olive Oil Coun­cil reit­er­ated, "to our knowl­edge there is no GMO olive oil pro­duced in the State of Cal­i­for­nia.”

Por supuesto, los productores seleccionan los olivos por sus cualidades específicas que se desarrollan naturalmente con el tiempo, como las cepas de árboles que pueden crecer en mayor densidad en una cantidad determinada de espacio, y la facilidad con la que las aceitunas pueden ser cosechadas por una máquina. Parte de la razón por la cual las aceitunas pueden haber evitado la bioingeniería es que no se cultivan a escala industrial como otras plantas productoras de aceite. "Hay una gran diversidad de cultivares, riqueza de germoplasma, y ​​puede que no haya un impulso para la agricultura comercial o monocultivar ", agregó Scarafia.

Esto no quiere decir que las granjas y productores de aceite de oliva de EE. UU. Se hayan mantenido fuera de la conversación sobre los OGM. California Olive Ranch, los mayores productores de aceite de oliva virgen extra del país, desempeñaron un papel activo en el apoyo a la legislación propuesta sobre etiquetado de OGM, respaldando la "Yes On 37” coali­tion that was in favor of label­ing, and mak­ing a dona­tion to the advo­cacy group lead­ing up to the Novem­ber, 2012 bal­lot ques­tion. Mike Forbes, the direc­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing at Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch out­lined why his com­pany felt so strongly about GMOs. "Si piensa en nuestra marca, se trata de transparencia, tenemos una fecha de cosecha justo en la parte posterior de nuestra botella, y creemos firmemente que debe saber qué hay en los alimentos que compra ".

Iron­i­cally, some in the indus­try believe that greater trans­parency and aware­ness of genet­i­cally mod­i­fied foods will be a boon for the olive oil busi­ness. The logic goes that as con­sumers start to real­ize that many of the veg­etable and cook­ing oils they use con­tain genet­i­cally mod­i­fied ingre­di­ents (such as soy­bean or cot­ton­seed oil), they will seek out non-GMO alter­na­tives, pri­mar­ily olive oil. These non-olive veg­etable oils may also be the way GMO prod­ucts make their way into any olive oil batch; because olive oil is some­times mixed with other oils, those extra ingre­di­ents may be sourced back to a genet­i­cally mod­i­fied crop.


Olive itself is not the only tar­get of genetic mod­i­fi­ca­tion in the indus­try. In Sep­tem­ber of last year, Olive Oil Times informó that Euro­pean sci­en­tists are begin­ning tri­als of genet­i­cally mod­i­fied olive flies, spear­headed by the com­pany Oxitec, in the hopes that they can engi­neer a species that could sys­tem­at­i­cally reduce the fly pop­u­la­tion and its effects on olive pro­duc­tion. It remains to be seen if these flies will suc­ceed in reduc­ing the dele­te­ri­ous effects of the olive indus­try in the near future, but it is very likely to remain the pri­mary site of bio­engi­neer­ing as far as olives are con­cerned. For now.

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