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Italian seed contamination scandal

Italian seed contamination scandal highlights need for tighter European legislation

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.


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