Published On: 27/01/2021

On 28 dicember 2020 in Italy, the Commission Agriculture of the Senate expressed favorable opinion on 4 decrees proposed from the Minister of the Agriculture, Teresa Bellanova,  which under the pretext of updating the phytosanitary measures, she tried to reorganize the national seed system, paving the way for the spread of Genetically Modified Organisms (Gmos) and so-called “new” Gmos (obtained through the New Breeding Techniques – NBT).

These decrees would have allowed the irreversible release of GMO varieties, endangering farmers’ rights to seeds, which are guaranteed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (UNDROP), adopted in 2018.

So, Farmers’ organisations, the organic sector, and environmental and consumer organisations have mobilised against this unacceptable and illegitimate opening of Italian agriculture to new GMOs.

The organisations appealed to the ruling of the European Court of Justice of 25 July 2018, which makes it clear that “Plants and animals obtained by mutagenesis are to be considered genetically modified organisms. All the techniques called “genome editing” “sintehtic biology” or “New breeding techniques” fall into the category of new GMOs”

Moreover, these decrees, together with the right to resettlement, abolish the rights proper to the peasant seedling system, thus violating Article 9 of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources and for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The Article provides that “Nothing in this Article shall entail a restriction of the right of farmers to retain, use, trade and sell seed or propagating material”.

“We demand the immediate execution of the ruling of the European Court of Justice on the GMO nature of NBT mutants and full compliance with the Treaty on Genetic Resources (ITPGRFA) and we appeal to the deputies of the Agriculture Commission to express themselves against the decrees, as they are devoid of any real or urgent motivation. The discussion on strategic choices such as those on GMOs and NBT must hinge on transparent and participatory tables, and sheltered from the interference of the biotech lobbies ” these are the requests of some representatives of the movement.

So, on Wednesday 13 January thanks to this strong mobilisation, the Agriculture Committee of the Chamber of Deputies ha espresso dei pareri vicolanti  which the Italian Government will have to respect:

1) The ban on the cultivation of GMOs must be considered as extended, in accordance with the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 16 July 2018, also to products obtained by “New Breeding techniques” (NBT) or genome editing, given the high risks for the environment and human health.

2) A provision is also introduced to allow farmers to engage in activities such as re-use of seed or exchange of part of the harvest as seed or propagating material.

This is a victory in the fight against new GMOs, but also a great step forward for the rights of farmers to freely exchange seeds. The future Minister of Agriculture will be called upon to respect these binding opinions expressed by the Assembly.