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Italy Court Fines Farmer For Growing GM Maize

Date: 29-Sep-10
Country: ITALY
Author: Svetlana Kovalyova and Massimiliano Di Giorgio

An Italian court has imposed a 25,000 euro ($33,670) fine on a farmer for illegally growing genetically modified maize and ordered him to destroy the crop, but the farmer said on Tuesday he would appeal the decision.

Italy has banned cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops pending approval of rules on co-existence of GM and traditional crops. Public opinion in the country is strongly opposed to GM organisms, which are seen as less healthy.

A judge in the town of Pordenone issued the ruling after a scientific confirmation that Monsanto's MON 810 maize had been cultivated on a plot of land in the north-eastern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia and had contaminated some nearby fields, although within accepted levels in the European Union.

The decision, announced both by supporters of GM crops and by fierce opponents at Italy's Greenpeace, comes as a Europe-wide debate on GM cultivation heats up.

Many of the European Union's largest governments reiterated on Monday their opposition to proposals to let EU states decide for themselves whether to grow or ban GM Crops.

Giorgio Fidenato, chairman of pro-GMO association Agricoltori Federati who planted the GM maize to speed up approval of GM crop cultivation in Italy, said he would fight the decision and prove he had done nothing wrong.

"I have planted maize on my property and, therefore, my actions were fully legitimate and legal," Fidenato said in an audio interview available on the web site of pro-GM movement Movimento Liberatorio (www.movimentoliberatorio.it)

"The true legal battle starts now," Fidenato said, adding that his lawyers have 15 days to appeal the ruling.

But Greenpeace activists said cultivation of GM maize in the Pordenone province had breached a law, which could carry a punishment of up to three years in jail or a fine of up to 51,700 euros.

"Finally, legality is brought back to Friuli," said Greenpeace anti-GMO activist Federica Ferrario.

Italy's regional agriculture chiefs, who were expected to meet on Thursday to give their opinions on a draft of co-existence rules, have postponed the meeting, and the new date is yet to be announced.

(Editing by Jane Baird)

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