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Italian maize growers want GM crops, survey says

By Alex McNally , 22-Feb-2008

The majority of maize growers in Italy would start growing genetically modified crops if a ban on their uses was lifted, a survey has found.

Conducted on behalf of the Italian association of biotechnology, Assobiotec, the poll adds to growing pressure on Brussels lawmakers to change their tune on GM foods. Currently, there is an EU ban on cultivating GM maize for human consumption, but it is allowed for animal feed. The survey sampled 532 farms in Lombardy. Coordinator Elisabetta Brambilla said: "The results show that the farmer base in Lombardy is open to innovation and biotechnology" GM The poll found: * 74 per cent of farmers are also in favour of running field trials of GMs in Italy so as to better understand the benefits *80 per cent of maize growers agreed that "it is absurd to ban the cultivation of GMOs while allowing their import for feed" * 75.9 per cent "feel unfairly penalised compared with farmers operating in other countries" * 75.6 per cent consider GMs "an innovative agricultural instrument" * 74.8 per cent of the farmers is that "farmers should be given the freedom to choose what to produce". Hope President of Assobiotec, Roberto Gradnik, said: "We hope that those responsible for the legislative framework in Italy will finally end the ideological hostility against GMs and allow the benefits to be felt in Italy as well, starting with allowing field trials in the country. "This is no longer a request of industry alone, farmers are demanding the freedom to choose as well." Warning The United States is a major user of GM crops. Earlier this year, industry trade groups in the country warned there could be "massive retaliation" on Europe if the bloc does not speed up a system for approving GM crops. Austria enforced a ban on the import and processing of Monsanto's MON810 and Bayer's T25 maize in June 1999. The Commission has been debating whether to force the country to lift its restrictions since 2005, as Austria has never produced the necessary scientific evidence to contest the positive assessment of the products by Europe's food safety authorities. In 2003 the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled that some European countries were breaking international trade rules by stopping the import of GM foods and crops.

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