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The sweltering summer of GMOs

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In a few days the European Court of Justice shall issue its ruling on lawsuit no. C--36/11, Pioneer Hi-Bred Italia Srl vs. MIPAF (Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry), which deals with the compatibility between EU and Italian legislation on the authorization to cultivate the GMO varieties included in European Common Catalogue.
The question that arises is whether Italy can deny authorization to the commercial growing of GM maize based on the justification that it has not yet established coexistence regulations between the various crops having had only 9 years to do so.

But the General Attorney at the Court, in charge with providing an answer, said that Italy cannot deny such authorization owing to its own negligence. Now the Court must decide whether to adopt this this view and it seems unlikely that it will not do so. Europe could therefore declare Italy in default thus opening the floodgates to a hail of actions for damages by farmers who for years have been asking the authorization to grow Bt corn, as it is authorized in the rest of Europe; on the other hand it also opens a regulatory gap which could allow some to start commercial cultivation of genetically improved corn. As all chickens come home to roost, so it is for Italian problems, and the government and the parliament are are now called to adopt regulations that all types of governments and majorities governing in recent years have always tried to avoid passing the buck to their successors.

This scenario is taking place while Denmark, holding the rotating EU presidency has just raised the white flag by giving up a project that provided for Europe political suicide on GMOs. The idea was that, even in the absence of any scientific reason, a national state could prohibit the commercial cultivation of GMOs within its national territory. At the same time the most advanced states could allow the cultivation of other GMOs without being burdened by the unhistorical obsessions that the most GM-phobic part of Europe is trying to impose. Italy was torn between the hope of closing the way to biotech crops once and for all and the fear that the inevitable trade retaliation would certainly hit many important aspects of the "Made in Italy" that we export to the whole world no longer hiding behind the facade of the European Union. Now this option is faded out and Italy finds itself having delegated to Europe all major decisions on agriculture and GMOs.
Among these prerogatives, the fact remains that it is Europe and not the individual States that make decisions on GMOs health and environmental safety. National States only have to regulate the economic part concerning coexistence measures between the different types of agriculture (precisely what Italy has refused to do in 9 years).

While the front of the commercial crops of engineered plants obtained (almost) two wins, what happens to the aspects of public scientific research on GMOs? Here the balance is certainly not positive. On 12 June 2012 destruction of GM trees was started affecting olive, cherry and kiwi trees from the last Italian full field trials with GMOs in this century. Eddo Rugini was forced under threat of complaint by the retired-member of parliament Mario Capanna , to let the bulldozers get into his experimental field at Tuscia University. Few now recall that Italy has carried out several hundreds full field trials with tens of different GM plants in the last century before the first wave of pagan obscurantism swept Italy by telling us that anything made by Mother Nature is good, clean and fair, while man is infected and unnatural. We are now paying the price for this obsession with the return to Nature as whole Biotechnology faculties are being closed and the trade balance in the agri-food sector is deep in the red by ten billion euro each year. Rugini's experiments were in fact authorized in 1998 and the poor olive trees, which had not yet reached maturity such as to give their first flower, fell under the ax of the woodsman-retired-member of parliament.

All the most prestigious scientists in this country have been signing papers and petitions for eleven years asking for public scientific research to take on again full field trials for the GM varieties created by our ingenious researchers and that could meet the needs of our agriculture. Today (20 June 2012) the insert Tuttoscienze La Stampa publishes an article by Gilberto Corbellini and myself commenting on a letter signed by two hundred between farmers and scientists and addressed to the presidents of the Republic and the Council of Ministers. They ask to stop the smear campaign against GMOs that caused the ban preventing public research from carrying out studies on GMOs and that prevented farmers from growing the same GMOs that we import by millions of tons, and which form the basis of feeds we have been giving for 15 years to cows and pigs used in the production of our best of PDO and PGI products, of which we are so proud.

The text of this letter - which can be found in the website www.salmone.org - and many of its most prestigious contributors largely result from the ideas, the encouragement and support that the Group 2003 for Research has given to this initiative.

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