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Italy: Ban on Cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms

(Dec. 26, 2016) On December 11, 2016, new legislation implementing European Union directives that ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) entered into effect in Italy.  (Legislative Decree No. 227 of November 14, 2016, Implementing Directive (EU) 2015/412 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2015, Amending Directive 2001/18/EC as Regards the Possibility for the Member States to Restrict or Prohibit the Cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Their Territory (Law No. 227), GAZZETTA UFFICIALE (G.U.)(Sept. 8, 2016), NORMATTIVA  (in Italian); EU Directive 2015/412, EUR-LEX.)

The new legislation amends Legislative Decree No. 224 of July 8, 2003, that implemented a 2001 EU directive aimed at controlling the deliberate introduction of GMOs into the environment.  (Law No. 227, art. 1(1); L.D. No. 224, G.U. No. 194 (Aug. 22, 2003), CAMERA.IT; Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the Deliberate Release into the Environment of Genetically Modified Organisms and Repealing Council Directive 90/220/EEC – Commission Declaration, EUR-LEX.)  In particular, Law No. 227 adds new provisions to L.D. No. 224 prohibiting the cultivation of GMOs in Italy.  (Law No. 227, art. 1(1)(b).)  The new provisions do not prohibit the free circulation of GMOs as such or those contained in other products or cultivated for experimental purposes.  (L.D. No. 224, art. 26-bis (2) & (3).)

Procedure for the Approval of GMO-Restrictive Measures at the National Level

The Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies, jointly with the Permanent Conference for the Relations between the State, the Regions, and the Autonomous Provinces of Trent and Bolzano, may request EU authorities  to adjust the geographic scope for which the marketing authorization of a particular GMO has been issued so that the whole national territory or a part of it  is excluded as an area for cultivation of that GMO.  (Id. art. 26-ter.).  The same national authorities may approve measures that limit or prohibit the cultivation of a GMO or a group of GMOs in all or part of the national territory in accordance with EU legislation, based on objectives related to environmental policies, urban and territorial planning, soil use, socio-economic impact, the need to avoid the presence of GMOs in other products and other agriculture policies, or for public policy purposes.  (Id. art. 26-ter (1).)

The Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies must transmit any proposed restrictive measures to the European Commission prior to their implementation in the national territory.  (Id. 224, art. 26-ter (4).)  Before implementing the proposed measures, the Ministry must wait for a period of 75 days after the submission of the request to the EU Commission.  (Id. 224, art. 26-ter (5).)  The restrictive measures will not apply to the cultivation of seeds and materials that had already been legally implanted before the effective date.  (Id. art. 26-ter (7).).

Change of Status of a Specific Territory for Purposes of GMO Cultivation

Any Italian region or autonomous province may request the Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies to have their territory or part of it be reintegrated into a specific geographic area in which the commercialization of a GMO has been previously excluded.  (Id. art. 26-quinquies (1).)  The Ministry must transfer the request to the authorities (EU and national) that have issued the previous authorization for the commercialization of a GMO.  (Id. art. 26-quinquies (2).)

Effective April 3, 2017, the regions and autonomous provinces of Trent and Bolzano, where GMOs may be cultivated and which share a common border with EU Member States or other Italian regions or autonomous provinces where the cultivation of such GMOs is forbidden, must adopt the necessary measures in their border areas to prevent eventual transborder contamination of those GMO-free territories.  (Id. art. 26-sexies (1).)

Penalties

Without prejudice to the criminal penalties that may be applicable, the new legislation imposes administrative fines of from €25,000-€75,000 (about US$26,141-$78,422) on those who violate the prohibition on the cultivation or introduction of GMOs into GMO-free territories.  (Id. art. 35-bis (1).)  Additional administrative penalties include the suspension of the right to cultivate GMOs granted by a previous commercialization permit for a maximum period of six months.  (Id. art. 35-bis (2).)  Violators must destroy, at their own expense, the GMO cultivation involved and implement the cleanup measures that might be required of them by the competent authorities.  (Id. art. 35-bis (3).)