GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Italy bans Bt corn

Ciba-Geigy Bt corn cannot be grown in Italy this year.  A press
release on this follows.  As background, the European Commission
approved the corn on Dec 18, a decision that is normally binding on
all 15 European Union states.  But Austria and Luxembourg then 
refused to abide by that decision and banned it for importation or
cultivation, demanding reconsideration of the approval.  France has
banned the commercial cultivation.  Now the only possible EU country
in which it can be grown this year is Spain (approx 12% of EU 
production).  This is becoming quite a constitutional problem for
the EU bureaucracy, which has been severely embarrassed over its 
handling of the mad-cow fiasco.  The Euro Union by law has to approve 
or reject the bans in these 3 countries. 

The Italian motivation seems largely to be the complete absence in 
Europe of any Bt resistance management plan, in contrast the the 
elaborate ones required by US authorities.  


For immediate release:


Brussels--07 march 1997--Greenpeace today welcomed the decision of the
Italian government to challenge the European Commission by using its
legal rights under EU law to ban the cultivation of genetically
engineered maize.  

The Italian Ministry of Health confirmed to Greenpeace today that it
has informed its European partners of its decision, thus becoming the
third EU Member State to invoke  emergency powers to contest a
European Commission ruling.   In December last year the Commissioners
bowed to US pressure and made their controversial decision to allow
the cultivation and import of Ciba-Geigy's `Bt' maize, even though 13
of the 15 Member States had opposed such a move.   

Article 16 of the EU directive which governs the release of
genetically engineered organisms - Council Directive 90/220/EEC -
gives Member states the right to effectively veto a Commission
decision to allow a product, if they think it "constitutes a risk to
human health or the environment".   Austria and Luxembourg took the
unprecedented step of using Article 16 in early February.   A week
later the French government, which had originally proposed the maize
to its European partners,  decided that it should not be grown
commercially in France.

"The USA and the Commission tried to bully Member States into
acceptance of  this experimental crop, and it did not work" said
Louise Gale of Greenpeace's European Unit.  "States which have
examined the evidence realise that there are environmental dangers
associated with Ciba-Geigy's new strain. All the Commission has done
with its heavy-handedness is to decrease public confidence in the EU
decision-making process.  We congratulate Italy on standing up for
their rights and for protecting the environment and urge other Member
States to follow suit."


For further information please contact 
Louise Gale at the Greenpeace European Unit +32 2 2801400
Peter Morris at Greenpeace International         +31 20 5249529

Editors note:
France and Italy produced about 65% of the 33 million tons of the EU
maize crop in 1996.   The EU imports about 2 million tons from the