US embassy cable - 02ROME4519

ITALY'S BARRIERS TO AG BIOTECHNOLOGY

Identifier: 02ROME4519
Wikileaks: View 02ROME4519 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Rome
Created: 2002-09-17 14:52:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: EAGR ETRD TBIO ETRD TBIO IT EUN ITEAGR EUN
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ROME 004519 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EB FOR RCEKUTA AND CSCHONANDER 
EUR/ERA PASS TO JOHN HENNESSEY NILAND 
EB/TPP PASS TO DEBBIE MALAC 
FAS/USDA PASS TO EJONES AND DYOUNG 
USTR PASS TO MSLOAN 
BRUSSELS FOR USEU 
EUR/WE FOR TEKACH-BALL AND BURKHEAD 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        ROME  04519  01 OF 02  171516Z 
MILAN FOR PRINCIPAL OFFICER 
FLORENCE FOR PRINCIPAL OFFICER 
NAPLES FOR PRINCIPAL OFFICER 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, TBIO, ETRD, TBIO, IT, EUN, ITEAGR, EUN 
SUBJECT: ITALY'S BARRIERS TO AG BIOTECHNOLOGY 
 
REF: (A)STATE 166333; (B) 00 SECSTATE 156317; 
 
(C) 00 BRUSSELS 04909; (D) 00  ROME 06366; 
(E) ROME 00371; (F) 97 ROME 08523 
 
1.  SUMMARY: IN RESPONSE TO REFTEL A, POST 
PROVIDES BACKGROUND ON ITALY'S BARRIERS TO 
AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY. ITALY'S THREE 
NATIONAL BARRIERS TO AGRICULTURAL 
BIOTECHNOLOGY ARE A BAN ON EU-APPROVED CORN 
VARIETIES, ITALY'S RESTRICTIVE THRESHOLD FOR 
ADVENTITIOUS PRESENCE OF BIOTECH MATERIAL IN 
CONVENTIONAL SEEDS, AND A NATIONAL SEED 
REGISTRY. 
 
THE CORN BAN 
 
2.  THE AMATO DECREE, PUBLISHED AUGUST 8, 
2000, WAS CALLED A "SUSPENSION" BY THE 
ITALIANS BECAUSE IT SUPPOSEDLY WAS A 
TEMPORARY MEASURE TO PROHIBIT IMPORTS OF FOUR 
EU-APPROVED BIOTECH CORN VARIETIES. THE BAN 
HAS NEVER BEEN RESCINDED. REFS B AND C DETAIL 
THE CORN VARIETIES, PROCEDURAL DETAILS ON 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  04519  01 OF 02  171516Z 
NOTIFICATION, AND EU COMMISSION REACTION. 
ITALY INVOKED ARTICLE 12 OF THE EU'S 1997 
NOVEL FOODS REGULATION NUMBER 258/97 ON THE 
GROUNDS THAT AS A MEMBER STATE THEY WERE 
ALLOWED TO SUSPEND TRADE IN NOVEL FOOD ITEMS 
WHICH COULD BE PROVED TO BE HARMFUL TO HUMAN 
HEALTH OR THE ENVIRONMENT. ITALY PUT FORTH A 
JUSTIFICATION OF THE BAN BASED ON A HEALTH 
RISK. THE COMMISSION ISSUED AN OPINION, 
CS/NF/DOSLL ADD 4 REV 2 FINAL AND CONCLUDED 
"THE COMMITTEE IS OF THE OPINION THAT THE 
INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE ITALIAN 
AUTHORITIES DOES NOT PROVIDE DETAILED 
SCIENTIFIC GROUNDS FOR CONSIDERING THAT THE 
USE OF THE NOVEL FOODS IN QUESTION ENDANGERS 
HUMAN HEALTH." NOTWITHSTANDING THIS 
CONCLUSION, THE COMMISSION FAILED TO CENSURE 
THE GOI. 
 
3.  THE BAN PROHIBITS IMPORTS ON THE FOUR 
TYPES OF EU-APPROVED BIOTECH CORN, WHETHER AS 
INGREDIENTS OR AS FINISHED PRODUCTS. THE 
ITALIAN MINISTRY OF HEALTH HAS AUTHORITY OVER 
TESTING CORN INGREDIENTS IN PROCESSED FOOD, 
AND THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE HAS AUTHORITY 
OVER SEED CORN FOR PLANTING OR FEED CORN. 
COMMENT: THESE MINISTRIES CONTINUE TO BE IN 
CONFLICT OVER GM TESTING ISSUES; THEY DO NOT 
COORDINATE ON IMPLEMENTATION OR 
METHODOLOGIES. END COMMENT. IN REF D POST 
REPORTED SCANT ENFORCEMENT OF THE BAN. 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        ROME  04519  01 OF 02  171516Z 
 
4.  TRADE IMPACT  THE AMATO DECREE IS LARGELY 
A POLITICAL GESTURE. ITALY IS A RELATIVELY 
LARGE PRODUCER OF CORN, APPROXIMATELY 10 
MILLION TONS ANNUALLY, WHICH IT CONSUMES 
DOMESTICALLY. ITALY IMPORTS ONLY ABOUT 
500,000 TONS ANNUALLY, ALL FROM FRANCE. 
 
CONVENTIONAL SEED TRADE 
 
5.  AFTER SEVERAL PLANTING SEASONS FRAUGHT 
WITH CONFLICTS OVER "ZERO TOLERANCE" OF GM IN 
SEEDS FOR PLANTING, ITALY'S NEW MINISTER OF 
AGRICULTURE PROPOSED A DECREE DECEMBER 28, 
2001 TO ADOPT A TOLERANCE FOR ADVENTITIOUS 
PRESENCE OF GM IN CONVENTIONAL CORN AND 
SOYBEAN SEEDS FOR PLANTING. HAVING 
SUBSEQUENTLY FAILED TO REACH CONSENSUS AMONG 
THE THREE MAJOR FARM GROUPS AND OTHER 
STAKEHOLDERS, MINISTER ALEMANNO OUTLINED A 
PLAN CALLING FOR AN OUTRIGHT REJECTION OF 
SEED LOTS TESTING AT MORE THAN ONE PERCENT GM 
CONTENT AND FOR AN APPLICATION OF "FLEXIBLE 
CONTROLS" OF LOTS ABOVE ZERO BUT LESS THAN 
ONE PERCENT.  SUBSEQUENT IMPORTS OF SEEDS 
LOTS WERE TESTED WITH SOME REJECTIONS OF U.S. 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ3921 
 
PAGE 01        ROME  04519  02 OF 02  171516Z 
ACTION EUR-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AID-00   CEA-01   CIAE-00  COME-00  CTME-00 
      DINT-00  DODE-00  DOEE-00  ITCE-00  SRPP-00  EB-00    EXME-00 
      E-00     UTED-00  VC-00    FRB-00   HHS-01   H-01     TEDE-00 
      INR-00   IO-00    ITC-01   L-00     VCE-00   AC-01    NSAE-00 
      NSCE-00  NSF-01   OES-01   OIC-02   OMB-01   OPIC-01  PM-00 
      PRS-00   ACE-00   SP-00    SSO-00   SS-00    STR-00   TEST-00 
      TRSE-00  T-00     USIE-00  EPAE-00  ECA-00   PMB-00   DRL-02 
      G-00     SAS-00     /013W 
                  ------------------E89422  171517Z /38 
P 171452Z SEP 02 
FM AMEMBASSY ROME 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5876 
USDA FAS WASHDC 2275 
INFO AMCONSUL FLORENCE 
AMCONSUL MILAN 
AMCONSUL NAPLES 
EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE 
 
UNCLAS SECTION 02 OF 02 ROME 004519 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EB FOR RCEKUTA AND CSCHONANDER 
EUR/ERA PASS TO JOHN HENNESSEY NILAND 
EB/TPP PASS TO DEBBIE MALAC 
FAS/USDA PASS TO EJONES AND DYOUNG 
USTR PASS TO MSLOAN 
BRUSSELS FOR USEU 
EUR/WE FOR TEKACH-BALL AND BURKHEAD 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        ROME  04519  02 OF 02  171516Z 
MILAN FOR PRINCIPAL OFFICER 
FLORENCE FOR PRINCIPAL OFFICER 
NAPLES FOR PRINCIPAL OFFICER 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, EUN, TBIO, IT 
SUBJECT: ITALY'S BARRIERS TO AG BIOTECHNOLOGY 
 
SEEDS FOR PLANTING.  THE MINAG HAS PUBLICLY 
STATED THAT THERE IS NO CHANGE IN ITALY'S 
ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BIOTECH IN SEEDS. IN 
PRACTICE, ITALY HAS MOVED FROM A "ZERO 
TOLERANCE" RELYING ON A QUALITATIVE 
ASSESSMENT OF GM CONTENT IN SEEDS TO A "ZERO 
TOLERANCE" WITH QUANTITATIVE ASSESSMENT, BUT 
ITALY STILL LACKS CONSISTENCY IN TESTING 
METHODOLOGY AND THUS AN UNEQUIVOCAL THRESHOLD 
OF TOLERANCE FOR SPECIFIC BIOTECH EVENTS. 
THERE IS STILL CONSIDERABLE RISK TO US 
EXPORTERS OF SEEDS THAT THEIR PRODUCTS CAN BE 
REJECTED AT PORTS. THERE IS ALSO RISK AT THE 
POINT OF SALE, BECAUSE SEEDS CAN ENTER ITALY 
BY OVERLAND ROUTES THROUGH OTHER EU 
COUNTRIES, AND LATER BE REMOVED FROM RETAIL 
SHELVES AND SUBJECTED TO SAMPLING. REF E 
DETAILS AGMIN ALEMANNO'S JANUARY 2002 
STATEMENTS ON THRESHOLDS FOR SEEDS FOR 
PLANTING. 
 
ECONOMIC IMPACTS 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  04519  02 OF 02  171516Z 
6.  ALTHOUGH DIFFICULT TO QUANTIFY, IN PART 
BECAUSE OF TRADE WHICH ENTERS ITALY FROM LAND 
ROUTES ORIGINATING IN OTHER EU COUNTRIES, 
POST BELIEVES THAT THE US SUPPLIES 
APPROXIMATELY EIGHTY PERCENT OF ITALY'S 
IMPORTS OF SOYBEAN SEED AND ABOUT HALF OF 
ITALY'S CORN SEED. US EXPORTS OF ALL SEED 
TYPES IN 2001 TOTALED $32 MILLION. IN THREE 
OF THE LAST SIX YEARS ITALY HAS BOUGHT US SOY 
AND CORN SEEDS TOGETHER WORTH MORE THAN $45 
MILLION. HOWEVER, US SEED SALES TO ITALY ARE 
HIGHLY VARIABLE FROM YEAR TO YEAR. DATA DO 
NOT POINT TO ONE REASON FOR THIS VARIABILITY, 
BUT THE UNCERTAINTIES AND PROHIBITIONS 
AGAINST BIOTECH IN CONVENTIONAL SEED HAVE 
INTRODUCED SIGNIFICANT RISK INTO THE MARKET. 
 
NATIONAL SEED REGISTRY 
 
7.  ITALY MAINTAINS A NATIONAL SEED REGISTRY 
THAT CAN PROHIBIT SEEDS FROM BEING IMPORTED 
IF THEY ARE DEEMED TO PUT THE COUNTRY'S 
ECOSYSTEM OR BIODIVERSITY AT RISK, REGARDLESS 
OF WHETHER THESE SEEDS HAVE BEEN APPROVED BY 
OTHER EU MEMBERS (SEE REF F). APPLICATIONS 
MUST BE SUBMITTED TO THE MINISTRY OF 
AGRICULTURE, WHICH HAS HISTORICALLY BLOCKED 
APPROVAL OF BIOTECH SEEDS FOR PLANTING IN 
ITALY. THERE IS ALSO A TWO YEAR FIELD TESTING 
REQUIREMENT FOR ALL TYPES OF SEEDS FOR 
PLANTING.  SEMBLER 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        ROME  04519  02 OF 02  171516Z 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
> 
 2002ROME04519 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED 


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