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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04ROME4797
2004-12-20 05:50:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Rome
Cable title:  

ITALY/BIOTECH: BAN ON FOUR GM CORN

Tags:   ETRD  EAGR  TBIO  KSCA  IT  WTO 
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						UNCLAS  ROME 004797 

SIPDIS


USDA FOR OSEC -- PENN
USDA/FAS FOR SIMMONS, RIEMENSCHEIDER, AND D.YOUNG
STATE PASS USTR

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EAGR TBIO KSCA IT WTO
SUBJECT: ITALY/BIOTECH: BAN ON FOUR GM CORN
VARIETIES OVERTURNED BY ITALIAN COURT

Ref: Rome 4563

Sensitive But Unclassified -- Not For Internet Distribution



1. (U) Summary. Italy's August 2000 ban on the commercialization of
four biotech corn varieties was annulled on November 29, 2004, by a
Lazio regional court. The ruling on the so-called Amato Decree result
from a lawsuit filed in November 2000 by three multinational seed
companies and an Italian biotech association. The ruling concurred w
a 2003 European Court of Justice opinion that such a ban was justifia
only if a Member State could demonstrate scientific evidence of risk
humans. Four years under the Amato Decree has affected U.S. exports t
Italy; in particular, it obstructed Italian imports of corn products,
corn gluten feed and corn oil. It remains to be seen how successful U
corn exporters will be in reestablishing their presence in the Italia
market. In the meantime, last month's decree-law on coexistence, whi
bans all GM cultivation in Italy through 2005 while Italy's regions d
up their own coexistence plans, likely will continue to discourage pu
acceptance of GM crops and products in Italy. End summary.



2. (U) On November 29, 2004, the Regional Administrative Tribunal
(TAR) of Lazio (which includes Rome) annulled the Amato Decree,
which since August 2000 had banned commercialization in Italy of four
biotech corn varieties: BT 11 (Novartis), MON810 (Monsanto), MON
809 (Monsanto) and T25 (Aventis). All four varieties had already been
authorized by the EU and marketed for both food and feed uses. In its
decision, the court noted that "in the years of commercialization
experience in the whole EU territory, as well as in the United States
are no reports that these products have caused serious and irreversib
threats" to human health. The ruling quotes a series of scientific
recommendations, coming from different sources, speaking in favor of
the safety of these products.



3. (SBU) The Amato decree had been enacted by the previous center-lef
government primarily to defuse a political crisis (placating the Gree
Party, which had threatened to withdraw from the government led by th
Prime Minister Giuliano Amato if such a ban were not implemented),
rather than in response to actual concerns about human health risks.
November 2000, Assobiotec (the Italian organization of biotech
companies) and three leading seed companies (Monsanto, Pioneer, and
Syngenta) filed a lawsuit against the Amato decree in the Lazio TAR,
claimed the decree violated several existing laws; the following year
TAR suspended proceedings while seeking advice from the European
Court of Justice (ECJ). The most recent TAR ruling concurred with the
2003 ECJ ruling that a national government could temporarily restrict
suspend trade in genetically modified foods only if it had detailed,
grounds to suspect a risk to human health.




4. (SBU) Following the coming to power in May 2001 of the current
center-right government led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the
Agriculture Minister Giovanni Alemanno adopted a strong anti-biotech
stance that included maintaining the Amato decree's ban. Since fall
Alemanno had promised to lift the Amato decree in conjunction with
implementation of regulations on the coexistence of GM and non-GM
cultivation. Even with the advent of such regulations by a decree law
passed in November 2004 (reftel), however, Alemanno did not take any
steps to keep his earlier promise. We are unaware of any public
comments by Alemanno or other ministry officials on the Lazio court
decision.



5. (U) During the last four years, the Amato decree has had a signifi
negative effect on shipments of all corn-based products from the Unit
States to Italy. (Note: the United States cited the Amato Decree in i
August 2003 filing with the WTO of a case against the EU for its
moratorium on the approval of biotech products.) Corn gluten feed
exports dropped from almost 200,000 tons per year in 1998/99 (valued
some $20 million) to virtually zero in 2003 and 2004. U.S. exports of
corn oil to Italy, which totaled about 50,000 tons per year (valued a
$50 million) before the implementation of the Amato decree, also
dropped to zero in 2003 and 2004. Even during the 2003/04 marketing
year, when domestic Italian corn production was severely affected by
drought and Italy actively sought feed imports on the world market, I
refused to allow imports of U.S. corn. Sorghum imports were used for
animal feed as a substitute for corn, the first time in a dozen years
sorghum was imported (here the U.S. did benefit, with about 450,000
tons of U.S. sorghum exported to Italy).



6. (SBU) Comment. While either side may appeal the Lazio TAR's
decision, our contacts uniformly tell us that this is unlikely to hap
Clearly the demise of the Amato decree is a positive and welcome
development. Nevertheless, the decree's nullification through a cour
decision rather than through positive GOI action reflects the continu
inability of the government to move towards science-based decisions
involving the agricultural biotech sector. It remains to be seen whe


U.S. corn and corn products can reestablish their presence in the Ita
market. In the meantime, last month's decree-law on coexistence, whic
bans all GM cultivation in Italy through 2005 while Italy's regions d
up their own coexistence plans, likely will continue to discourage pu
acceptance of GM crops and products in Italy. Since the Italian
Parliament must ratify the decree-law by late January (or act to exte
deadline) in order for it to remain in effect, Embassy has initiated
of contacts with key Italian lawmakers to encourage them to accept on
permanent coexistence regulations that are science-based. End commen


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2004ROME04797 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED