Italian court rejects company bid to save GM maize (17/7/2003)

* Italian court rejects company bid to save GM maize
* Seed contamination highlights need for tighter European legislation
Italian court rejects company bid to save GM maize
Thu July 17, 2003 06:12 AM ET

TURIN, July 17 (Reuters) - A court on Thursday rejected an attempt by the Italian unit of Pioneer Hi-Bred, a subsidiary of Dupont Co DD.N , to halt an order to destroy maize thought to contain genetic material, a local government source said.

"The order to destroy the maize remains in force following the decision by the regional court in Turin in response to Pioneer's request for an immediate suspension of the order," the source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

The reasons for the court decision were not immediately known.

Piedmont region in northwest Italy on Friday ordered the destruction within five days of 381 hectares of maize fields thought to be contaminated with gene-modified material. Most of the maize has since been destroyed, environmentalists said.

The fields were sowed with Pioneer's seeds, but a company spokesman has said internal tests before marketing showed no presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), adding that the company markets only conventional seeds in Italy.

Pioneer contested the Piedmont order on the grounds it had no scientific basis.

Commercial sowing of GMO seeds is banned in Italy under a so-called "zero tolerance" policy.
Italian seed contamination scandal highlights need for tighter European legislation
Greenpeace Italy, Press Release, Jul 10, 2003

Piemonte, Italy - 10 July 2003-- Government officials and farmers leaders in the region of Piemonte Northern Italy are meeting today to decide what to do with 400 hectares of GE contaminated maize and how to prevent further contamination from the maize which is due to flower soon. Over 100 farmers in Northern Italy have discovered that the seeds they bought and planted as non-GE maize were in fact already contaminated by GE maize even before they planted it.

The situation has come to light following routine seed tests by the national authorities, however the testing was carried out after the seeds had been planted. The seeds were reportedly sold by the company Pioneer Seeds. Whilst the exact details of the GE contamination have not yet been made public, local reports and previous experience suggest that GE varieties produced by Monsanto may be the source of the contamination. As well as selling conventional non-GE seeds, Pioneer also act as a sales agent for Monsanto GE seeds in many countries.

Coming less than one week after new EU legislation on labelling and traceability of GE food and animal feed this case highlights two of the major loopholes still existing in European legislation and that are already acknowledged by many EU governments, i.e. that there is an urgent need for legislation that prevents seed contamination and which ensures strict liability for the GE company responsible when contamination does occur.

Greenpeace spokesperson Federica Ferrario said; "It is one thing to have in place good labelling laws which make sure food products and animal feed require to be labelled if they do contain GE ingredients but if Monsanto and its sales agents such as Pioneer seeds are allowed to continually contaminate normal non-GE seeds then that will make an absolute nonsense of the new legislation because it will entirely deny any choice for farmers or for consumers."

Greenpeace is calling for a full investigation of this contamination and also of what appears to be Monsanto's policy of deliberate contamination of non-GE seeds and farming. "With such cases happening on a regular basis the question has to be asked whether this is either gross negligence or whether contamination of conventional seeds is part of a deliberate strategy of companies who sell GE seeds. In either case legislation and legal action are required to make those responsible pay for the costs associated with their contamination and to prevent more such contamination in the future," concluded Ferrario

For more information:
Federica Ferrario, Greenpeace Italy:
Office +39 06 57 29 99 21 (m) +39 3483988616
Lindsay Keenan, Greenpeace International:

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