Italian minister wants ban on GMOs

Genetically modified foods and seeds explosive issue

Italian minister wants ban on GMOs

(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, June 24 - The Italian agriculture minister has said she wants to create a ban in Italy on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Italian Agriculture Minister Nunzia De Girolamo said that she would push for legislation with backing from the Italian health and environment ministers. "I believe they think as I do, at least judging from their statements in recent days," De Girolamo said in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera. Responding to De Girolamo, Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said that she gave her "full support" to the agriculture minister, but added that from a juridical point of view, "a solution had to be found". De Girolamo admitted that the European Union could contest the measure which, she said, would expose Italy to a procedure for "violation of European law". "But Brussels has not yet launched an infraction procedure against France, which has banned GMO cultivation with a similar measure," De Girolamo added. The GMO issue is particularly explosive in Italy. As the second-largest producer of organic crops in Europe and the fourth largest in the world, there is widespread fear of the potential damage resulting from accidental GMO contamination. Agricultural organization Coldiretti has issued several reports suggesting that widespread public hostility to GMO crops would damage the domestic market for farm produce if it were to spread. Last week, Coldiretti said that nearly eight out of 10, or 76%, of Italians were against GMOs - 14% more compared to a survey from last year. Italy has often reiterated its opposition to GMOs and EU policies that hinder it from deciding is own policy on the use of genetically modified crops and products. As a member state of the European Union, Italy cannot block the sale of EU-approved genetically modified seeds, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in September after Italy was on the losing end of a ruling in a lawsuit by GMO producer DuPont Pioneer against Italy's Ministry of Agriculture. Italy contested the sale of DuPont Pioneer-brand corn seeds in the country. DuPont Pioneer, which produces and distributes worldwide both conventional and genetically modified seeds - which it refers to as "genetically improved seeds" - said it was satisfied with the ruling. "We would like to see removal of obstacles so farmers can exercise their rights and freedom of choice on the planting of genetically improved crops in Italy," said company spokesman Paolo Marchesini. However, 16 out of 20 Italian regions have declared themselves GMO-free, a report by the organization Slow Food said in June. On Monday, the governor of the northeastern Italian region that borders Austria and Slovenia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, said she wrote to the Italian agricultural minister asking for State help to block cultivation of GMOs, which the regional government has little control over. "I wrote a letter to Minister De Girolamo asking her to intervene in a situation which certainly puts our region Friuli-Venezia Giulia in difficulty," Friuli-Venezia Giulia Governor Debora Serracchiani explained in the town of Palmanova. The governor said she had read of the minister's intention to create a decree for a country-wide ban the cultivation of GMOs despite awareness "of the fact that there is an (EU) regulation that appears to go in the opposing direction, or at least creates problems".

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