Italian minister wants ban on GMOs

Ready to challenge EU, De Girolamo says

Italian minister wants ban on GMOs

Rome, June 26 - The Italian agriculture minister has said she wants a ban in Italy on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs. Nunzia De Girolamo said on Monday 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 its 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. Despite the ruling, which prompted some Italian farmers to start using GM seeds, DuPont Pioneer is still awaiting a final decision from Italy's highest administrative court, the Council of State, "before evaluating the possible sale of corn seeds in Italy," DuPont Pioneer spokesman Paolo Marchesini told ANSA Wednesday. The overwhelming majority of Italian regions, 16 out of 20, have declared themselves GMO-free, according to Slow Food. On Monday the governor of the northeastern Italian region that borders Austria and Slovenia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, said she wrote to De Girolamo 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 said. The governor said she had read of the minister's intention to draft a decree for a country-wide ban on 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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