Italy to set up tighter barriers against GMO imports
SOURCE: La Stampa, Turin, in Italian 30 Nov 03 p 25
BBC Monitoring Europe - by BBC Worldwide
Monitoring December 2, 2003, Tuesday
Text of report by Gian Paolo Marro:
GMOs, Italy puts up barriers against imports" by Italian newspaper La Stampa on 30 November.
The Italian government is going to be launching a decree as soon as possible to confirm zero tolerance on GMOs "until tests have been conducted on their impact on neighbouring crops", Agricultural Policies Minister Gianni Alemanno announced at the 23rd International Conference on Biodynamic Agriculture that is due to wind up in Sabaudia today.
The minister stressed that the decree is both necessary and urgent "because seeds have already been approved in other countries in the European Union, that may contain genetically modified parts varying from 5 per cent to 10 per cent, and we are in danger of finding them on the market".
The issue was addressed also by EU Commissioner Fischler in Venice. So that is how the man in charge of agricultural policies has responded, by his actions, to an appeal launched by FAI Italian Environment Fund Chairwoman Giulia Maria Mozzoni Crespi when she asked him to "save us from the transgenic catastrophe which has not been sufficiently well explained to people".
In connection with the benefits that GMOs are supposed to bring, Alemanno remarked: "When a genetically modified organism comes into contact with the environment, we do not know what it may generate. But what we certainly do know is that seven years after an experiment conducted on a terrain in Italy for a single season, powerful traces are still being found of genetically modified material that tends to transfer to subsequent crops. What are the consequences of this? Well, that terrain cannot be used for any other kind of crop because we absolutely do not know what might happen."
The minister went on to criticize "Europe, which has made only generic recommendations", noting that the EU Court of Justice has set a procedure in motion "against Austria that declared itself GMO-free, and it is getting set to do the same against Puglia and Tuscany". The struggle against GMOs once again confirms that the organic option is a strong line for the protection of the environment and of health (some 54 per cent of Italians have purchased organic products in supermarkets over the past year). But while the consumer is increasingly oriented towards healthy and organic produce, the situation is not so rosy for farmers, at least not in economic terms. In this connection, biodynamic farming (the history of which goes back to 1924 here in Italy) is attempting to come up with an answer and to identify the paths to pursue. Many farms follow this method, but despite their enthusiasm and despite the fact that they have achieved excellent results, they are forced to close down because they are defeated by distribution-and market-related problems. Retail prices are high, while prices are unjustifiably low and nonremunerative at source.
But organic farming can make a major contribution to reducing social costs linked to the use of chemicals and to an increase in the use of fertilizers in conventional farming. However, a farmer who adopts the principles of biodynamics inevitably has to sustain higher management costs. Addressing the difficulties being encountered by biodynamic farming, Alemanno said: "We are devising safeguards in connection with traceability, providing for fines for those who cheat and recognition for quality. This has already got under way in the Italian food and farming industry, and there is determination not to allow fraudsters any lebensraum because quality and honesty are the right weapons for imparting a fresh thrust to our agriculture."