A closed door meeting to be held at the Vatican in Rome in May will see leading scientists gathering to discuss a campaign backing agricultural biotech. The study week has been organized by Ingo Potrykus, co-inventor of the fortified Golden Rice technology and president of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, on behalf of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The Vatican has long been concerned about food security, and advisors from the academy, which holds a membership roster of the most respected names in twentieth-century science, have recognized that plant biotech has the potential to benefit the poor. “I think we are heading in the right direction with this meeting and it will help to dispel some of the myths about GM crops,” argues Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis and an academy member. Participants are expected to issue a definitive declaration and work on a roadmap for science-based regulations for genetically modified (GM) crops. “I would hope the moral high ground of the Vatican is relevant at least in Catholic countries,” says Potrykus, whose Golden Rice project has been held up by political hurdles. It will be particularly interesting to see reactions in Italy, where a nine-year ban on open field trials recently ended. Some of the 'regions', into which Italy is subdividided, “still jeopardize field studies by failing to identify [planting] locations,” says Piero Morandini of the University of Milan.
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Meldolesi, A. Vatican cheers GM. Nat Biotechnol 27, 214 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0309-214a