GMO Journalists: Riotta

Someone still remembers me. It’s Riotta in one of those not-to-be-missed editorials entitled: “The true danger for Italians: not being able to get out of the choir”. That he’s not a participant of. He writes: “Grillo… when he assures you that genetic research will kill you on the spot is a conformist of the purest kind. He is talking about things that he knows little about and he is harming those poor people that need that research.” Before reading my article repeat with me: “Riotta is not a conformist, Riotta is a journalist - Riotta is not a conformist, Riotta is a journalist.”

“What is a transgenic organism? It’s a new type of living being that is created from molecular engineering. By using a strong electric charge the genes (that is a few molecules) of one species are incorporated into the molecules of the genome of a reproductive cell of another species. In the rare cases that this transplant is successful, a transgenic organism is created. This technique is even used to transplant genes between species that are very different, for example between a cod and a tomato. If instead we want to mix the genes of animals that are very similar like a horse and a donkey, it’s not necessary to use genetic engineering, it’s enough to facilitate copulation between the two animals and nature does the rest.
However if I bring a cod and a tomato together, even very close, it’s difficult that nature will induce them to mate. But the molecular engineers can. They did it hoping to make the tomatoes resistant to frost with a substance that is present in the blood of the cod. In the USA, for instance, they have created a spider-sheep, a sheep that produces silk.
They took the gene that produces thread and they fixed it into the genome of a sheep. Perhaps with a tiny modification, one day it’ll be possible to make them lay eggs, perhaps even hard boiled. The silk thread from the spider-sheep is milked from its breasts: it’ll be used by the US military for their bullet-proof vests.
There are no limits to the fantasy of genetic engineers, apart from most of the transgenic organisms inability to survive. This is why it is more correct to talk about manipulation rather than genetic modification. They have fixed bacteria genes into plants, human genes into pigs and mice, fish genes into strawberries.
Years ago the marketing of the genetic multinationals thought up an advertising slogan that went: Man has always been creating new species: it has created the mule from the donkey and the horse; it has created today’s species of dogs, it has created today’s species of roses, it has created today’s species of maize. Genetic engineers are doing the same as agriculturists and animal breeders have done since long ago. They continue this work of improving nature, helping it create new species where it doesn’t manage to do it on its own.
This advertising argument by which a mule and a spider-sheep are equally “unnatural” has cast so much ridicule on the multinationals that for many of them, their shares have slumped.  According to surveys, most Europeans do not trust the transgenic foods of these companies and they tend to not believe them even when they are speaking the truth. 
In Great Britain, for example, the journalists have given a good explanation for the difference between a mule and a spider-sheep and the need to be circumspect in relation to commercial propaganda. However in Italy, many of the biggest daily newspapers are campaigning for acceptance of transgenics using arguments that the advertisers of the multinationals have already abandoned as being counter-productive.

The best example that I’ve found that hasn’t yet been bettered is an editorial in La Stampa a few years ago (Gianni Riotta, "Our daily bread", 17.7.2000) (the exclamation marks are mine):
“Our Alpine soldiers during the retreat from Russia were loathe to eat their beloved mules, those that had died of hunger. It was transgenic (!) meat, obtained artificially (!) by mating a donkey with a horse. The mule is an animal whose hybrid DNA is identical (!) to that created in the laboratory amidst great fear. No alpine soldier suffered from the transgenic food (!), it saved the lives of many.” (…) “ …. Dogs and cats that we love, the species of sheep, cows, pigs that we protect with care are not natural(!). They are hybrids, grafted, selected, by ancient genetic engineers (!) that were called farmers and shepherds.” One of the missions of a journalist is to make complex things clear. When instead they spread confusion we are faced with a mutant journalist. To define as “transgenic food” the meat of a mule and as “genetic engineers” farmers and shepherds of long ago is such stupidity that it would not save a scholar from a bad mark. To define as non-natural, sheep and pigs that have been created by causing the mating of different varieties is furthermore socially dangerous. In the same way it would be “not natural” for a mixed race child to be the issue of a man from Piemonte and a woman from Nigeria.
The mutant journalist attributes the diffidence towards transgenic foods to “fear” (3 times) to “irrationality” (twice) and to “phobia”. Perhaps he doesn’t realise that it is the confusion that favours irrationality.
The mutant journalist then defines transgenic foods as innocuous and assures us that they will reduce the use of pesticides and will remove starvation from the world. However, the multinationals admit that no one, not even them, can for now be sure that a transgenic plant or  food will be really innocuous in the medium and long term. But the mutant journalist seems to be the only one to know.
The two promises of genetic engineering “fewer pesticides” and “more food for the starving” have already been disproved by biologists and agronomists. Even the multinationals are now more prudent on these issues.
If a PR person of the genetic engineering multinationals were now to write in their press releases that a mule’s meat is “transgenic meat”, they would probably be sacked and cited for damages. But Riotta continues to be a journalist even though he is genetically modified.

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 10:27 AM in | Comments (39)
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Paola I am not upset at all,but nobody can tell me I am against progress,I more in line with Enrico,progress for the sake of it without thinking at the repercussions,it not progress at all,progress for the sake of only profit,that's is cruel to animals,I am complitly against it,I feel very passionate about,ciao :-)

Posted by: evakulnura | September 2, 2006 04:33 AM

And now good night you all, it's late enough;)!!

Posted by: Sandra Minelli | September 2, 2006 03:32 AM

Ja Enrico you're right, I share what you've written totally. Scientists, Doctors, make mistakes all the time, because making mistakes is natural, we're humang beings. But we cannot afford to make mistakes with nature, and especially with genetics. We're already letting scientists and researchers going too far ahead, take the atomic bomb for instance. The knowledge by us created is going one day to destry ourselves and our planet. We need a brake to that, like a brake to anything which is no innatural like OGM.

Posted by: Sandra Minelli | September 2, 2006 03:31 AM

Science works best when approached with humility and a very open mind. We, as a species, are just scratching the surface of knowledge and yet many scientists talk with a finality that allows little debate. Look at our western doctors, constantly preoccupied with the effect while ignoring the cause.
Got a headacke? Take an Aspirin. But wait a moment, what caused the headacke in the first place? Never mind, do as you are told because we are the experts.
Ten years ago I was diagnosed as a potential candidate for narrow angle glaucoma. I was sent to a surgeon who promptly booked me for laser surgery to correct the problem. A consultation with a second surgeon dismissed the surgery as unnecessary and maybe useful in my older years.

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | September 2, 2006 02:12 AM

my dear Eva why are you so upset??? you shouldn't get all wind up here...every one is entitled to express his opinion (good or bad) after all:

"Se scambiamo un oggetto si rimane con un oggetto solo, se scambiamo un'idea alla fine ognuno ne ha due."

Please don't get me wrong I have had my share of health problems too and they weren't all my fault but we are living in a deteriorating world and we have to trust someone; if this is called science or research or whatever then lets be it...

Companies like Monsanto or Pfizer (mentioned by Enrico) are run by men, it's them we have to go after not progress or evolution.

Posted by: paola filinesi | September 2, 2006 01:01 AM

Afini, I am for a progress,that use science in our favor,scientists would be better use to find cures, like one for Cytomegalovirus, ,cytomegalovirus if a pregnant woman cacht it the result is a baby with cerebal
palsy,very easy to cacht,so far no cure,and no Afini,I do not work in brothel( and nothing wrong with that)I used to work with kids with cerebal palsy,and any cure that would help then I am for it.I am also for findind a better way to have a non invasive mammogram (still very paintfull),and for men a less invasive way for prostate cancer (you to like or not you will end up with a finger up to your"s,my husband did,and did not like it a bit),and how about ovarian cancer,when find it, is too late,and the list can go on on,I live in a farming area,unfortunatly we do have also chicken farms,have ever been in one of those,seen the conditions of living of chickens that lay eggs,and how about chickens that are ready to be eat after six weeks from hatching?and have you ever wonder what's goes into the pellets they eat to make them so big in short time?and how about girls having period at eight to nine yers old,and boys having breasts? don't you think that could be a link with what goes in ours food,if this is what you call progress,no thank you I can do without,no hard feelings ciao :-)

Posted by: evakulnura | September 2, 2006 12:42 AM

I know Eva....:o(
Mine watched it too and turned to cheeseburgers and club sandwiches not pasta e fagioli....:o)))

Posted by: paola filinesi | September 2, 2006 12:22 AM

Paola,kids and food,this is a hard one,what worked wonder for my kids,was to wacht Jamie Oliver show on schools canteens in England,he showed what goes into chiken nuggets,well they haven't touch one since,mention chiken nuggets they go YUK,how thay say,"knowledge is power" ciao :-)

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 11:58 PM

AFini, you can put your trust on scientists working on genetic engineering, but I don't.
Scientists working for companies like Monsanto, Merk, Pfizer etc.. have been guilty of major mistakes,sloppy scientific work, false claims and also of hiding negative results. We cannot trust them to reassure us about anything.

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | September 1, 2006 11:00 PM

A Fini plane do crash,ciao:-)

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 10:50 PM

AFini,I do not disike you and for the matter,nor anybody,takes too much energy to do that,it just seems to me,that when you do not have anymore argument you got to put people down,like you did to me,everything is forgotten,no hard feelings,returning to the topic how about permaculture,it doesn't need chemical,it is all in balance as nature intended.ciao :-)

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 10:47 PM

Let's say Sandra doesn't trust OGMs.

Let's say I do trust OGMs.

So what should society do? Continue using OGMs, as I say. Or stop, as she says?

Maybe we should vote and see which opinion prevails. The problem then is that most people are not at all competent enough on this subject to make an informed decision. So this solution is not very efficient.

My suggestion is that we should trust the scientists and let them decide on this issue. This is what I would do.

Just like I let the pilot fly the plane I am in...

Posted by: AFini | September 1, 2006 10:35 PM

Ya, Riotta is definetly crazy. How can you ever say something like that, transgenic experiments won't take us anywhere.

Posted by: Antonia Lapenta | September 1, 2006 09:27 PM

I don't trust OGM and I think it's too dangerous for the man, to try to develop creatures the nature itself can't deal with.
You makes experiments, you think they're good but when you discover a mistake years after, when it's too late and lot of human beings have already pass out because of it. And let's not just say: that's the price we have to pay for the progress of the science, that takes place when the children and relatives which are dead are not ours. Very funny.
Progress is not always good, especially when it deals when genetics. I think people should be more careful in dealing with certain arguments.

Posted by: Sandra Minelli | September 1, 2006 09:23 PM

I agree with you Enrico!!
I could also add another even worst result... New generations (like my children) are so used to these new tastes...that they dislike what ever resembles even remotely to the original. they say "If you cannot bit them, join them" but join them in your own terms, make them know that you will not settle for the lesser, that progress and research is good as long as it's going towards the benefit of humanity and not the benefit of their pocket.
Profit is welcome and is sought after and I would be the last to say that I don't care about money and well being. After all that is why each one of us left his/her homeland and chose to live in another capitalistic country and not a communist country...
Alessandro is a bit scary/practical in his statements...and I am afraid to admit that in the end we will be forced to choose between two evils....

Posted by: paola filinesi | September 1, 2006 08:53 PM

"If research on OGMs could reach a point where safety can be ascertained with reasonable reassurance, wouldn't it be a positive outcome?"
The laboratory we all come from is only successful after tens of thousand of years of trial and errors with many failures discarded on the way. It's called evolution and it's impossible to find reassurance in a time frame encompassing only a few years.

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | September 1, 2006 07:35 PM


What if the tradeoff is: more OGM, less chemicals?

Then, we should consider which is the least of the two evils. Is OGM always worse than chemicals?

Some ay propose another option: no chemicals, no OGMs. I imagine that, without new technology, we would have lower food supplies and higher prices. This is a highly undesirable outcome, especially for those who would be left needy.

If research on OGMs could reach a point where safety can be ascertained with reasonable reassurance, wouldn't it be a positive outcome?

Posted by: AlexFini | September 1, 2006 06:41 PM

Paola, there are breads like the Greek Paximadi that are natural and don't go mouldy for ages, but most breads won't last more than a few days. Chemicals are added to many foods, in addition to other reasons, to preserve them for a long time. What really worries me is the fact that for the first time in our history we are ingesting enormous quantities of food and drinks laced with chemicals that our body cannot recognize and digest. In addition to this chemical bombardment our body is now asked to cope with genetically altered food. How can we survive this onslaught and stay healthy?

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | September 1, 2006 06:20 PM


Thanks. I welcome other opinions and those that are different from mine. I am open to being convinced by reasonable arguments.

Those, such as the ones recently posted by eva however do not quite fit in this category. I hope (for her) that it is just because she utterly dislikes me. And not because she really is like that.

However, I look forward to a more interesting conversation with her in the future.

Posted by: A Fini | September 1, 2006 05:50 PM

Enrico, maybe I was not expressing myself correctly but I remember my grandmother's homemade bread with real "lievito" that we used to eat for a whole week and would still taste and look as good as fresh; where as the bread we buy now goes bad after a day and I have to keep it in the fridge...

Posted by: paola filinesi | September 1, 2006 05:40 PM

healthy bread goes stale quickly when not "massaged" with noxious chemicals that are added to increase the shelf life.

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | September 1, 2006 04:41 PM

Aren't we a little harsh on Alessandro here??
(my father used to call me "Avvocato delle cause perse" which might be the case here..)but I still think that somewhere on the way Alessandro is right.
Progress and research is good (we all agree)
by changing heating resources (coal) we got less pollution (at least in the begining..)by not burning "amianto" we got less hazardous air.
By experimenting on hybrids we got new plant varieties that withstand weather conditions and managed to fight malnutrition and lack of vitamins in our daily food consuption,and I could go on and on....
Of course profit gets in the way....and there is when everything takes a bad turn!
I believe that's the point where,we as consumers,can make the difference....STOP buying whatever we think it's suspicious,we don't buy square watermelons no matter what the reasons are for their appearance....We don't buy perfectly round tasteless tomates because that is what it's offered on the market...we don't buy bread that goes stale in an afternoon because of all the chemicals in it....and so on.
It will take time,years but we will succeed or at least our children will hopefully live in a better world...

Posted by: paola filinesi | September 1, 2006 03:50 PM

Just quickly: I agree and love to read about it, keep on focus on this problem!
Everyone of us, focus on it, constantly!
Have no fear to do it...
There are bad media all around us.

Posted by: Mauro Mazzerioli | September 1, 2006 03:21 PM


It is very true, I agree with your point.

Research on some very serious diseases which, however, are very rare might make little economic sense for a private enterprise.

This is an example of how important the role of public research is.

We should make good use of the advantages of capitalism. But the state should then plug its many holes.

Posted by: AFini | September 1, 2006 11:54 AM

AFini,from my point of view the glass is always full or half full, this world is a beautifull place and we have a good chance to male it,if only you remove, blinkers fron eye,and think less in term of profit, and your heart more,if follow we won't end up with weird species,by the way what are you getting out of this,are you in the trade?!,or are you cloning something that we do not know?!

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 11:47 AM

Alessandro, This is the same old story...
The dilemma caused by the capitalism. I understand your point of view, but on the other hand the disadvantage of the private research (which is very useful and I agree with it!) is that the investiments and the research itself could be manoeuvred only in the direction of those projects which are able to bring a lot of money to the investing companies, while other, perhaps more useful projects could be neglected.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | September 1, 2006 11:39 AM


I see your point.

But research is expensive. Without the objective of recovering the money by--possibly--making a profit, no private enterprise would carry out research.

That would leave the state alone to do carry out research. In this situation, much less research would be carried out.

So, we are much better off now, where research is carried out both at public institutions and also in private enterprises.

What we should be worried about is that unsafe products are introduced only to make a profit. In this sense, I agree that profit can have a bad influence.

But I really see nothing negative in a company investing in research and then recovering the cost and making money afterwards. Because they would not have done it in the first place otherwise!

Posted by: AFini | September 1, 2006 11:19 AM

I agree with Enrico "Progress guided by wisdom is very different from progress in the service of greed and fear: what the French call Capitalisme Sauvage."
I'm for progress and research, I'm for staminal cells and any kind of reasearch thant can help us to live better in a safe environmnet.
I'm totally against the nature manipulation to make profit.
AFini, you said "profit is not bad", I don't agree with you, and not because I believe in a "perfetct world" without money and profit, it will never exist, but because I think that "a better world is possible", and this better world can't be made without respect for the nature.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | September 1, 2006 11:09 AM


The future of the world may not look so bright. But I am definitely very glad that progress does not depend on people with your vision--or lack thereof.

Posted by: AFini | September 1, 2006 10:43 AM

Yes Enrico there is progress and progress,stem cell for helping people with diaseses,it ok for me,cloning is another matter,a sheep mix with a spider that make silk,what on earth !this is not progress,and how this is going to help the starving?giving them silk jumper instead?for once the frech have it right,ciao :-))))

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 03:31 AM

AFini, can you eat your computer?how about with a nice tomatoes and basil sauce on top?!what more simple of a tomatos,is perfect like nature intended,why messing with it? what good is coming out of it?feed the starving people?!,that the biggest bullishit I ever heard,there is plenty for everybody in this planets,somebody is too greedy,and wastfull and I can go on with this.............,have a good lunch hope you have a stomach strong enought to digest,your desktop or lap top,no offence ciao

Posted by: evakulnura | September 1, 2006 03:21 AM

Progress guided by wisdom is very different from progress in the service of greed and fear: what the French call Capitalisme Sauvage.

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | September 1, 2006 03:15 AM

It's what you call "mucking around" that has brought about progress.

If you are against it, why are you then using a computer?

Posted by: AFini | September 1, 2006 02:15 AM

We keep mucking around with nature,one of this day is going to came and bite us back,but by then it could be to late,Tasmanians refused to have any funny seed planted on their soil,they are very wise,yes we do have to keep vigilant,who knows what are they going to feed us if not.ciao

Posted by: evakulnurae | September 1, 2006 01:14 AM

Enrico, I share your concern. That's the role of State in a normal country--to protect its citizens.

If we don't trust the State, then research and everything else should come to a halt. After all, profit is what motivates pharmaceutical companies to do research. Profit is what motivates the store owner to open a shop...

Profit, in itself, is nothing bad.

Of course, we need to demand as much safety as possible. We should fight abuses. But we should not stop progress for fear of them.

Posted by: Alessandro Fini | August 31, 2006 04:13 PM

Alessandro, the profit motive makes your solution impractical. How do you determine who the well-informed scientists are? Many of them are in the payroll of the same companies that are involved in developing the Frankenstein stuff.

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | August 31, 2006 04:04 PM

Genetic mutations occur in nature.

So, a genetic mutation is not necessarily bad or dangerous.

Some genetic manipulations could, indeed, provide great benefits to humanity. The problem therefore is: We need to be certain that the genetic manipulations which we use are safe.

As a result, we should definitely continue genetic research. We should also demand that accurate testing is done before such manipulations are introduce on a vast scale.

The details of this subject, however, should be left to experts to decide. Journalists play an important role in diffusing information--and we should welcome their debates. But decisions should be made not by popular outroar, but by prudent and well-informed scientists.

Posted by: Alessandro Fini | August 31, 2006 03:43 PM

What an idiot this Riotta guy, if he believes these transgenic foods are so good then he should volunteer to feed himself, his wife and his kids (if he's got any...) for at least one year with them, and see how much he likes it... Bet he won't be raving about it that much anymore, will he?

Posted by: Giuseppe Graceffa | August 31, 2006 02:17 PM

"They continue this work of improving nature, helping it create new species where it doesnít manage to do it on its own." This sentence alone diqualifies this genetically modified journalist. Every time I read of man IMPROVING or MANAGING nature my common sense antennae stand up and detect the bullshit.

Posted by: Enrico Rossi | August 31, 2006 02:01 PM

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