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Italy is a zero tolerance zone so far as genetically modified organisms (gmos) are concerned. No wonder when samples from seed companies -- scrutinised by state agency Ense -- tested ' gmo positive', the authorities went into a tizzy.
The errant companies, which allegedly used maize containing genetic material in violation of Italian law, were subjected to probe by a Turin court. Even though the names of the firms were not disclosed, media reports suggested that five Italian concerns and five foreign multinationals figured in the dubious list. These included Italian subsidiaries of us groups Monsanto and Pioneer, and Hi-Bred International Inc -- a unit of DuPont Corporation. The law of the land stipulates that seeds containing more than 0.1 per cent and up to one per cent of genetic material must be labelled. Leonardo Vingiani, director of Assobiotech, which categorises biotechnology firms in Italy, said the accidental presence of gmo in seeds was inevitable.
Italian farm groups, meanwhile, expressed concern over the risks associated with sowing maize and soya seeds contaminated with genetic material. "We want clear guarantees for those who have cultivated maize and soya on some 1.4 million hectares in Italy," said Confagricoltura, an activist body that represents big agricultural producers.