Over the centuries, epidemics and insect invasions have on different occasions come close to
destroying all of Europe's vineyards. Wine growers are often obliged to combat these scourges by using chemical products.
In Europe, however, the man in the street, the public powers and farmers are reluctant when it comes to genetically modified organisms,
even if genetic engineering enables vines to resist disease and insects.
Researchers are looking into the question and are trying to protect young vines against damage from disease or insects while avoiding the use of chemical products. Several ways are being explored to protect vines more effectively. The report illustrates some of the latest biotechnological advances in this field.
The practice in use for years with the majority of vines is to graft them to rootstock that has developed a resistance to different insects. But certain fungal infections can only be kept under control with the use of chemical solutions. At the French National Institute for Agriculture Research (INRA), the key idea being explored is the development of a genetically modified vine rootstock. It can resist certain deadly viruses such as "grapevine fanleaf". Traditional young vines are then grafted to the rootstock. The part of the plant bearing the grapes is thus totally natural and not transgenic.
In Italy, at the San Michele all’Adige Agriculture Institute (IASMA), researchers have been studying the genome of the grapevine. After six years of work, the genetic code has been identified. It is hoped that the results of this research will lead to the development of new methods enabling the plants to resist pathogens