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2-Plants: GE maize seed contamination in Italy

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TITLE:  Italian seed contamination scandal highlights need for tighter
        European legislation
SOURCE: Greenpeace Italy, Press Release
DATE:   Jul 10, 2003

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Italian seed contamination scandal highlights need for tighter European

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

For more information:
Federica Ferrario, Greenpeace Italy:
Office +39 06 57 29 99 21 (m) +39 3483988616
Lindsay Keenan, Greenpeace International:
Office + 49 30 30 88 99 16


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