Attempt to force gene-edited organisms into Italian agriculture fails
In January, twenty-six environmental organizations in Italy launched a powerful campaign that prevented the government from passing four bills inspired by the agribusiness lobby. The bills were proposed by the Minister of Agriculture and were set to permit GMOs, including products of new genetic modification techniques such as gene editing, to enter the country.
After an intense media storm and public pressure placed on every parliamentarian of the Agriculture Committee of the Chamber, the pro-GMO decrees of the Ministry of Agriculture were not passed in their original form. Instead, the bills were voided of all parts concerning GMOs and products of new GM techniques, as well as of the restrictions to the free exchange of seeds.
The four seed regulation decrees would have allowed field tests to be carried out using plant varieties obtained through new genetic modification techniques. Despite being a GMO-free country for 20 years, Italy has recently been under heavy pressure from the private sector to position itself in favour of the so-called "New Breeding Techniques" (NBTs).
Farmers' organisations, the organic sector, and environmental and consumer organisations mobilised against this unacceptable and illegitimate opening of Italian agriculture to new GMOs. They underlined that these new techniques of genetic modification fall within the scope of European legislation on GMOs, without exception or derogation, as confirmed by a ruling of the European Court of Justice in 2018.
A vote in favour of the decrees, although non-binding, would have had disastrous consequences for all farmers in Italy, which the mobilisation was able to prevent. Indeed, 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.
The Agriculture Committee of the Italian Senate had already voted in favour of these proposals on 28 December 2020, but the Agriculture Committee of the Chamber of Deputies were scheduled to vote on the issue on 13 January.
Thanks to the strong mobilisation against these decrees, the following obligations were issued by the Chamber, which the Italian Government will have to respect:
* 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.
* 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.
Commenting, European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) said, "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."
 ACU, AIAB, Altragricoltura Bio, ARI, ASCI, Association Agr.Biodynamica, Civiltà Contadina, Coord. Zero GMO, Crocevia, Deafal, Égalité, European Consumers, European Coordination Via Campesina, Fair Watch, FederBio, Firab, Greenpeace, ISDE, Legambiente, Lipu, Navdanya, Pro Natura, Slow Food, Terra!, UNAAPI, WWF.