The Genetic Rights Foundation (GRF), an anti-genetically engineered technology group in Italy, took credit for the government’s move to destroy a 30-year-old research project in Italy. The publicly funded research was being conducted on olive trees, cherry trees and kiwifruit vines. The research had been one of the longest running GM trials in Europe.

The research has been going since 1982 to find varieties resistant to fungi and bacteria that attack olive and cherry trees. One of the goals of the research was also to find ways to reduce pesticide use. Another goal included developing shorter trees for easier harvesting.

GRF found a way to point out a loop hole in the government’s permissions. The researcher, Eddo Rugini, was given permission to grow the trees in 1998, but the government banned all field research of GM plants in 2002. However, since the trees were already growing, he was granted an extension until 2008. In 2010, his extension to 2014 was denied. That’s when GRF stepped in and pointed out that the trees should be destroyed since they were in violation of the order.

Although many scientists and concerned individuals launched a last-minute online petition to save the trees, it was not enough.

“Unfortunately, the experiments have not yet provided significant results as trees require a long time to grow. For this reason, we request that the plants not be destroyed,” the association was quoted as writing in an online plea. “Halting research on these trees means a waste of decades of publicly funded research. This perspective is unacceptable and devastating.”

GRF’s momentum for calling attention to the issue is being credited to the use of social media.