Aug. 25, 2014
Last week throughout the Italian Media, politicians, organic farmers and other opponents of genetically modified (GM) seeds and foods were claiming a ‘victory’ over Monsanto. The articles reported that Monsanto was withdrawing from cultivating GMO crops in Italy as a result of opponents’ successful lobbying over the biotech maize MON810. While the fact is Monsanto has never sold GM maize in Italy. Nor planning to anytime in the foreseeable future.
In fact, more than a year ago, Monsanto made the decision to focus entirely on traditional crops in Europe. This decision was made as a result of our very strong and growing business in Europe, and was part of a decision to invest several hundred million dollars in Europe over the next decade to expand our traditional hybrid seed production and breeding. At the same time, the company also announced that they would not pursuing approvals for the cultivation of any new biotech crops. Since last year’s announcement, Monsanto have withdrawn applications for the approval of the cultivation of eight biotech crops in Europe.
Monsanto’s only biotech product sold in Europe is Bt maize, MON810. The maize produces a protein (Bt) that is found in nature and which protects the maize against a class of voracious insects capable of destroying entire crops. The maize is mostly grown in Spain these days, though farmers elsewhere–including in Italy–would love to be allowed to grow it, too.
Monsanto only grows biotech seeds in countries where there is broad political support and farmer demand for biotech, and where there is a predictable, functioning regulatory system that encourages innovation and protects intellectual property rights. Italy–with its politically inspired bans of products that were never for sale there to begin with, and against all credible scientific judgment–does not qualify.
The company said "we’re not withdrawing from selling GM crops in Italy as a result of any lobbying or political pressure. We simply weren’t growing them in Italy in the first place."