Many thanks to Roberto Pinton of Italy's Green Planet - www.greenplanet.net - for providing the information for this very useful report on Italy's tough new law on coexistence.
Following on from Germany, no wonder the European Commission is so unhappy!
Last week the Chamber (the Italian Parliament has two houses) passed the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Alemanno's decree about coexistence of GM, conventional and organic crops, with some relevant changes, and yesterday the Senate approved the revised text, which thus has been turned into law.
The organic industry, Coldiretti and Cia (the largest farmers' unions), environmental organisations and the whole large GM-opposition movement were pleased with the law, while Assobiotec, the GM industries' association, said: "It is an obscurantist act".
These are the differences in respect of the original text proposed by the Government (Government was defeated in three votes). The amendements toughened up the Government's proposals introducing zero tolerance, and doubling fines and introducing imprisonment for farmers who break the law.
This most significant change removes any deadline for the establishment of Regional Coexistence Plans. As no GM crops can be grown until all regions have approved such a plan, GM crops will not be allowed anywhere in Italy until every single region has deliberated and agreed a plan. And as 14 Regions out of 20 have already declared themselves GM free, it is easy to foresee that the matter will not be resolved in a hurry!!
Here are the changes:
Government: The exercise of GM, conventional and organic agriculture is allowed as long as one of them compromise the other ones and without any determiation to favour some farming methods in spite of ot he other ones.
Chambers: The exercise of GM, conventional and organic agriculture is allowed as long as one of them compromise the other ones (cutting the rest)
Government: The coexhistence of all farming methods is made preserving their own peculiarities and productive charatcteristics, avoiding fortuitous presence in the seeds.
Chambers: The coexhistence of all farming methods is made preserving their own peculiarities and productive charatcteristics, avoiding fortuitous presence of GM seeds in conventional and organic ones. GM farming is allowed without damages to pre-existing farming activities, who are not bound to modify or adjust their normal gowing or breeding methods. (adding "zero tolerance" for seeds and underlining that GM farmers are the ones responsible for creating buffer areas and taking other coexistence measures).
Government: Regions promote voluntary agreements among farmers to assure the coexhistence of GM and non-GM crops.
Chambers: Regions promote voluntary agreemnts among farmers to assure the coexhistence of GM and non-GM crops. Regions can provide a proper fund in order to restore situations before any damage
Government: Farmers have to respect the Regional coexistence plan. Whoever does not respect the plan and causes direct or indirect damage takes the responsibility upon himself. Who does not respect the plan has the burden of probation.
Chambers: A farmer suffering damage has the right to compensation. Farmers not respecting the Coexistence Plan are called upon to compensate (and have the burden of probation). Suppliers of seeds and other technical means are in the same way liable for damages. A further decree will deal with Insurance tools for responsibilities and damages.
Government: Farmers sowing GM seeds before the approval of Coexistence plan can be fined from 2,500 up to 25,000 Euros.
Chambers: Farmers sowing GM seeds before the approval of the Coexistence plan can be fined from 5,000 up to 50,000 Euros or will be jailed from 1 to 2 years. (doubling fines and introducing prison sentences).
Government: Regions have to approve their own Coexhistence plans before December 31, 2005
Chambers: Region have to approve their own Coexistence plans (without any due date).
This last change is the most important one, as the act is a statutory law: it does not provide for a National Coexistence plan, but only for a sum of Regional Plans. Hence, till all Regions approve their Plan, GM crops will not be allowed anywhere in Italy.
It has to be said that right wing populist Lega Nord (Northern League) which is part of Prime Minister Berlusconi's "House of Liberties" centre-right coalition voted three times together with the opposition and against the government (in which -besides-has some Ministers).
The Northern league often says unpleasant things.
Its former objective was the independence (secession) of the northern regions, but nowadays, as a part of the majority coalition it has turned to a strong federalism, and wants local communities to have more governing powers. In this case: "coexistence with GM crops has to be a Regional matter".
In reality, the tough new Coexistence measures have broad support across the political spectrum and across society, including not just the organic movement but the main conventional farmers' unions. In fact, they're supported by just about everybody apart from the biotech industry!
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