Manuel Jamilena Quesada and Cecilia Martínez Martínez, professors of Genetics of the University of Almería, were at the Cajamar Cultural Center (Casa de Las Mariposas) to present the course "The genes we eat: present and future of the manipulation and genetic improvement of fruits and vegetables", which has aroused great interest and participation.
According to Jamilena, "... the course mainly combines the genetic improvement of plants with food. What is pursued with this initiative is to eliminate the fear of eating certain products, especially when this is down to genetics. The reality is that we are constantly eating and processing the genes of animals, plants, viruses and bacteria, and this is why we should lose our fear of consuming genetically-modified organisms. Society must know that nothing transgenic is currently produced in Almeria, but also that there is almost nothing transgenic in the rest of Europe."
At the opening of the first day of the course, Jamilena highlighted that "the University of Almeria and its research group are offering their support to the seed companies working in the development of new varieties, and which are looking for new characteristics in order to make agriculture more sustainable, to make plants genetically resistant to viruses and reduce the need for pesticides, and for the fruits to grow without having to add hormones. We are working on creating new varieties that are more resistant to climate change, for example."
Technology and science to produce tomatoes
"Almeria is a global point of reference in genetic improvement and society is not yet aware of it," said Manuel Jamilena to the students, explaining that "this is not down to the tomato production, but to the technology and science that are implemented to produce them. What we have to do is develop technologies that will allow us to become points of reference, and in the end, even if we don't produce so many tomatoes, we'll be able to live from that business; for example, by selling our varieties to Morocco, to Mexico... wherever they are needed. We must bet on technology, as we have done with quality greenhouses, where we are also leaders," said the professor of Genetics.