Cablegate: Italy/Biotec..

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L ROME 005149



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2013


1. (C) SUMMARY: Ref A describes Italian Agriculture
Minister Alemanno's latest gambit to effectively ban biotech
crop cultivation in Italy by pushing through an extremely
restrictive coexistence decree-law. Given the likely
negative consequences of this proposal, not least upon U.S.
seed exports to Italy, Ambassador Sembler raised strong
objections to Alemanno's approach in separate meetings this
week with Foreign Minister Frattini (Nov. 10), with PM
Berlusconi's top advisor, Prime Ministry Under Secretary
Gianni Letta, and with the Prime Minister directly in a phone
call from Letta's office (Nov. 11). Letta and the PM
assurred the Ambassador that, either at the technical level
or the political level, the draft Alemanno decree-law would
be blocked. End Summary.

Meeting with Frattini

2. (C) As reported Ref B, Ambassador raised Minister
Alemanno's draft coexistence proposal in the context of a
Nov. 10 discussion with FM Frattini of the Italian EU
Presidency. Frattini said he understood that Alemanno
favored taking a harder line on biotech than EU regulations
required. Frattini further offered that, to the extent
Alemanno's proposals went further than EU-agreed regulations,
he, as Foreign Minister, could argue within the Council of
Ministers that Italian policy should stay in line with EU

Meeting with Letta, Berlusconi on Speaker-Phone
3. (C) On November 11, the Ambassador, accompanied by AgAtt
and Ecmin, discussed U.S. concerns over the draft decree-law
for 30 minutes with PM Berlusconi's closest advisor, Prime
Ministry Under Secretary Gianni Letta. Despite the fact that
the proposed draft has been circulating among Italian
ministries for several days, Letta appeared to be genuinely
unaware of its existence. However, he quickly grasped its
significance. Letta commented that Alemanno had been under
clear pressure from the EU Commission to lift the so-called
Amato Decree (banning four varieties of EU-approved GM corn).
""But it sounds to me like he's going to do it in a way that
increases, not decreases, restrictions on biotechnology,""
Letta added. Ambassador emphatically agreed. Following a
couple of quick phone calls, Letta told the Ambassador that
the decree-law was not on the agenda for this week's Council
of Ministers meeting, so no action was imminent.

4. (C) Letta then picked up the phone and made another call
--this time directly to Prime Minister Berlusconi. Letta
summarized the issue at hand, put the phone on ""speaker""
mode, and passed the receiver to Ambassador Sembler. After
conveying his continuing support for President Bush's efforts
to spread democracy and wishing the Ambassador well on his
trip to Washington for President Ciampi's visit, Berlusconi
then promised that he would not let Minister Alemanno's draft
decree, as it had been described to him, pass through the
Council of Ministers. The Ambassador offered his sincere

5. (C) In concluding the discussion, Letta predicted that
""technical or procedural"" mechanisms could be found to derail
the Alemanno draft. But he reiterated that the move could,
and would, be blocked at the political level, if that became


6. (C) We are greatly encouraged by Berlusconi's and Letta's
rapid, seemingly decisive response to the Ambassador's
demarche. They provide, we believe, a high degree of
probability that Alemanno's latest gambit will be
sidetracked. We fully expect, however, that the Ag Minister
will try to find other means to realize his vision of a
biotech-free Italy. Alemanno is soon expected to issue the
Ministry of Agriculture's 2004 seed circular stating that the
tolerance for biotech in conventional seeds is zero. The
seed testing protocol of the circular is expected to
stipulate a miniscule threshold of 0.1% for biotech in
conventional seeds.


2003ROME05149 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL


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