The cultivation of grapes in Europe, whose acreage represents 3% of the total cultivable acreage, accounts for up to 65% of the pesticides used by EU growers, given the high incidence of powdery mildew and mildew in the productions. However, this percentage could be drastically reduced if the EU opted for the most advanced plant reproduction technologies, such as CRISPR, which would make it possible to obtain grape varieties resistant to both fungi.
Thus, research has been carried out in this field for several years in order to improve European grape varieties. In the case of Italy, in 2015, ten genetically edited grape varieties were registered in the National Variety Catalog, and in 2018, the first field harvests were carried out. Although still in the pre-commercial phase, the results so far have been positive in terms of resistance to diseases.
The researchers hope that the regulatory uncertainty of CRISPR technologies will be resolved (they are subject to the same regulations as transgenics, despite not being the same). They also hope that both producers and consumers will learn about the potential of these techniques to tackle the agro-food and environmental challenges that humanity is facing.