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18 Sep, 2017 12:36

‘GM seed choice shouldn’t be dictated’: Italian farmers question EU court ruling on Monsanto corn

Not all Italian farmers welcome a European court ruling this week allowing growers to cultivate genetically-modified corn in Italy. Some farmers told RT that the majority reject GM seeds and question the EU interfering in national laws.

The European Court of Justice on Wednesday ruled in favor of Giorgio Fidenato, an Italian activist farmer who faces fines for growing genetically-modified maize MON 810 on his land in 2014, despite a 2013 government decree banning its cultivation.

In 2013, Italy asked the European Commission to adopt emergency measures prohibiting the planting of the Monsanto-produced seeds in light of new scientific studies carried out by Italian scientists.

The Italian government is fearful that genetically-modified foods are less natural than traditional crops and could therefore be dangerous and have lasting negative effects.

“These crops are forbidden because we still do not understand what the consequences are. So far, there has been no proper and in-depth research. For this reason, we do not know in five years, ten years, twenty years, what can happen,” Mauro Uniformi, Vice President of the Association of Agronomist and Forest Doctors, told RT.

In its ruling, however, the court said that there was no new reason to doubt the 1998 decision when the European Commission allowed MON 810 to be sold on the market, deeming it safe for consumption.

“On the basis of a scientific opinion issued by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the Commission concluded that there was no new science-based evidence to support the requested emergency measures and to invalidate its previous conclusions about the safety of maize MON 810,” the court ruling said.

The court also says that it cannot approve of emergency measures prohibiting MON 810 on the “basis of the precautionary principle” unless there is a direct health risk.

“In that context, the Court finds that, where it is not evident that genetically modified products are likely to constitute a serious risk to human health, animal health or the environment, neither the Commission nor the Member States have the option of adopting emergency measures such as the prohibition on the cultivation of maize MON 810,” the court ruling said.

The precedent means that from now on, every farmer in Italy will be entitled to produce and sow genetically-modified crops regardless of the national government’s opinion on the matter, Paolo L. Bernardini, Professor of Early Modern European History, Insubria University, told RT.

“The European Union laws will prevail over Italian laws from now on. It will certainly allow GM farmer to farm, because the EU laws, in this case, are prevailing,” Bernardini said.

Not all Italian farmers have welcomed the ruling of the court. Some believe Italy has a lot of great products to offer without GMO.

“We completely reject GM seeds. We produce high-quality products. We do organic farming and we are experimenting with some biodynamic processes,” a farmer named Franco from Agricoltura Nuova cooperative outside of Rome told RT.

“If you produce and cultivate in Italy and you are an Italian, you should refer to Italian laws and not to force things against Italian law.”

“The GM seeds would cover a very small part of Italian companies,” the president of the cooperative, Carlo Patacconi, said, adding that “the greater part of Italian companies produce excellent food exported all over the world food market.”

Experts question whether it is right for the EU to interfere in the laws of sovereign nations.

“There is an urgent need to clarify the law in the EU. If a State decides that some laws are fundamental to its economy, I don’t think it is right for the EU to interfere with the laws that rule a sovereign state,” Patacconi said.

“I do not know if the EU wants to enforce laws beyond sovereign states. I know that the choice to use GM seeds or not, should not be dictated by economic, political or social parameters, but must be dictated only and exclusively by technical choices and scientific analysis,” Uniformi added.