ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

9 August 2002


1. Italian court probes 10 seed companies over GMOs
2. Spain: GE Pollution in Spanish organic maize and soya revealed


1. Italian court probes 10 seed companies over GMOs

by David Brough
Thursday, August 8, 2002

(Reuters) ROME - An Italian court is investigating 10 seed companies for allegedly using maize containing genetic material in violation of Italian law, a judicial official said. The court in Turin launched the probe late on Tuesday after state seed agency Ense tested  samples from seed companies for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and  found some of them to be positive, the official, who asked not to be identified, said. (ref.3460)

Italy has zero tolerance towards GM seeds, even though the  European Union's Scientific Committee on Plants and other groups say the presence of GM material in seeds is inevitable because of unintentional contamination in the production process. The official did not identify the companies, which are under investigation for alleged commercial fraud.

Newspapers said on Wednesday they included five Italian concerns and five foreign multinationals, including Italian subsidiaries of U.S. groups Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a unit of chemical giant DuPont Co. A spokesman for Monsanto's Lodi-based Italian subsidiary said it had asked Ense to analyse its maize seeds from the United States and Turkey after the agency found samples containing positive traces of GMOs. Edoardo Ferri said Monsanto Agricoltura Italia SpA marketed only conventional maize seeds in Italy, but that a minimal, accidental presence of GMOs was inevitable.

"As far as we are concerned, absolute purity is impossible in the seed industry," he told Reuters. "Absolute zero is impossible in agriculture." Ferri said Monsanto had still not received formal notification of the investigation from the judicial authorities on Wednesday.

Seeds containing more than 0.1 percent and up to one percent of genetic material must be labelled, he said. Less than 0.1 percent is a "technical zero", he added. Company spokesmen for Pioneer Hi-Bred Italia S.r.L. were not available for comment.

Leonardo Vingiani, director of Assobiotech, which groups biotech companies in Italy, also said the accidental presence of GMOs in seeds was inevitable. He said he had still not received word on Wednesday from any CEOs among Assobiotech's membership about the investigation.

Italian farm groups said they were concerned over risks that farmers had sown maize and soy seeds contaminated with genetic material, and wanted guarantees that their seeds were legal.

"We are very worried about this situation," said Confagricoltura, which represents big agricultural producers. "We want clear guarantees for farmers who have sowed some 1.4 million hectares (3.459 million acres) with maize and soy in Italy," it said in a statement.


2. Spain: GE Pollution in Spanish organic maize and soya revealed

31 July, Genetic Engineering Newsletter No. 33/34,

Traces of transgenes have been identified in three different organically grown crops (two maize varieties and one soya variety) in the Navarre region of the Basque Country, Spain.

Tests have been carried out by two independent laboratories commissioned by the Navarre Organic Agriculture Council, which closely monitors such crops to avoid any transgene pollution of the organic food chain. Further tests on one of the maize crops revealed that the polluting agent derived from the GM variety Bt176, commercialised as COMPA CB by the Swiss company Syngenta and currently cultivated in the area.

The local farmers' union, EHNE, the local organic farmers' association, Biolur, the local organic consumers' association, Landare, and a local organic producer cooperative,  Trigo Limpio jointly stressed the worrying aspects of this case, particularly the lack of control and future difficulties for non-transgene food production and consumption (whether conventional or organic). They demand maintenance of the actual EU moratoria on authorisation of new GMO crops and an end to the cultivation of Bt maize in the Spanish State.

Several months ago actual research data of the official farm research institution of Navarre (ITG-A) revealed that the yields of the maize variety Bt176 are no higher and in fact often lower than equivalent non-GMO varieties. Regarding these results, higher seed costs and the fact that transgenic maize is now hard to market, the institute is advising farmers not to cultivate the Bt176 maize (EHNE - Basque Family Farmer Association, Spain, 05/15/2002; cited from GENET 05/15/2002).

[via ORGANIC NEWSLINE Vol 3 Issue 30.Ý August 8 2002, Weekly International News from Organic Trade Services,, THE organic industry portal on the Web.]

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