Greenpeace activists quarantine illegal GE crops in Italy

Press release - 30 July, 2010
Pordenone, Italy - Greenpeace activists from Italy, Austria, Germany and Hungary are quarantining illegal Genetically Engineered (GE) crops being grown in Italy. Wearing safety equipment to protect against contamination, the activists are isolating, cutting and securing the top of the GE maize plants, the part that contains the pollen.

Last week, Greenpeace took samples from the field in Friuli, northern Italy to a certified laboratory for analysis. The results confirm without doubt that the maize being grown in these fields is a patented Mosanto GE maize type, MON810. GE crop cultivation without a permit is illegal in Italy (1). There is considerable documentation highlighting the threats posed by MON810 to biodiversity, including the accumulation of toxins in soil, and negative impacts on species such as butterflies and moths (2).

“Greenpeace has taken action today to prevent any further contamination from these hazardous and illegal GE crops,” said Federica Ferrario, Greenpeace Italy Agriculture campaigner. “For days these crops will have been contaminating not only neighbouring fields, but countryside further away as well, as insects and winds disseminate their pollen.”

Greenpeace and the Italian Task Force for a GE-Free Italy, (3) which is also demonstrating today, urge the Italian authorities to take stronger action against these and any illegal GE crops.

“The authorities must take immediate action, particularly given that it is likely there are other fields of GE maize being illegally cultivated in Friuli” continued Ferrario. “Greenpeace has started the job today, but now the authorities must take over and act to isolate and destroy these GE fields, as well as begin wide scale sampling and analysis.”

With GE contamination scandals growing all the time (4), Greenpeace calls on the Italian government to take a lead in rejecting an attempt by the European Commission to fast track the authorisation of GE crops. The Commission, whose authorisation processes for GE crops are already woefully inadequate and often contravene European law, is proposing that in exchange for an uncertain right (meaning it can be challenged by biotech companies) to ban GE crops at national level, EU member states allow the Commission to promote faster authorisation approvals at an EU level (5). ENDS

Contacts Federica Ferrario, Greenpeace Italy Genetic Engineering campaigner, +39 348 3988616 Maria-Carla Giugliano, Greenpeaace Italy communications +39 – 3496066159 Myrto Pispini, Greenpeace International Sustainable Agriculture campaigner +31 646197325 Jo Kuper, Greenpeace International communications +31 6 46 16 20 39

For images contact Emma Stoner, Greenpeace International picture desk, +447554934750 For video contact Lucy Campbell Jackson, Greenpeace International video desk +31634738790

Notes 1. Italian Decree n.212, 24 April 2001, requires that “the planting of genetically modified plants is subjected to specific authorization: the cultivation, in the absence of the required permit, shall be punished with the arrest from six months to three years or fine up to € 51,700. In addition, a decree signed last April by the ministers of agriculture, health and environment, expressly prohibits cultivation of GE maize in Friuli Region.


3. Today, outside the prefecture building of the city of Pordenone, the Italian “Task Force for a GE-Free Italy” (Acli, Adoc Adusbef, Aiab, Amab, Campagna Amica, Cia, Città del Vino, Cna Alimentare, Codacons, Coldiretti, Crocevia, Fai, Federconsumatori, Ferderparchi, Focsiv, Fondazione Univerde, Greenaccord, Greenpeace, Lega Pesca, Legacoop Agroalimentare, Legambiente, Movimento difesa del cittadino, Slow Food, Unci, Vas, WWF) is demonstrating and asking the authorities to destry the GE fields.