Prof. Stefano Marchetti, plant geneticist at the University of Udine has realized together with his team a transgenic rice which contains genes for the production of human enzymes useful in treating various genetic diseases affecting the metabolism, such as Gaucher’s syndrome, which has very serious consequences for those affected. Today, these enzymes are produced in hamster cells genetically modified and those people with the disease have to take them all their life with very high costs (up to € 350 000 a year in sick). Prof. Marchetti ensures that the enzyme obtained from rice is plentiful and safe and would cost a tenth of that of the enzymes from hamsters, also with a few acres of cultivation it will possible to cure all patients in the EU and some tens of hectares will be enough to cure those worldwide. The professor presented an application for the outdoor cultivation, to check the quality and productivity of the enzyme in the rice field, before marketing it. The Ministry of Agriculture till now has blocked the project (three years have already passed) not granting permissions. Marchetti then went abroad and has applied for authorization to the U.S. government that granted it to him. The experiment will take place in the U.S. and if things do not change from us, the rise will be put on market there, with a loss for our country in terms of scientific know-how, work and income generated. The project was also challenged by Greenpeace, although Marchetti ensures that the pollen of this rice travels only a few feet in the air and the rise would not be used for food, just as there isn’t any risk of hybridization with other species. At the moment, however, all is quiet in Italy. (News reported on Venerdì of La Repubblica, on 30 March 2012).
Insights: the other sections