In Italy, a Battle Over Genetically Modified Corn

VIVARO, Italy — Giorgio Fidenato declared war on the Italian government and environmental groups in April with a news conference and a YouTube video, which showed him poking six genetically modified corn seeds into Italian soil.

In fact, said Mr. Fidenato, 49, an agronomist, he planted two fields of genetically modified corn. But since “corn looks like corn,” as he put it, it took his opponents weeks to find his crop.

The seeds, known as MON810, are modified so that the corn produces a chemical that kills the larvae of the corn borer, a devastating pest. Yet while European Union rules allow this particular seed to be planted, Italy requires farmers to get special permission for any genetically modified, or G.M., crop — and the Agriculture Ministry never said yes.

“We had no choice but to engage in civil disobedience — these seeds are legal in Europe,” said Mr. Fidenato, who has repeatedly applied for permission, adding that he drew more inspiration from Ron Paul than Gandhi.

The World Trade Organization says that general bans on genetically modified crops constitute an unfair trade barrier, because there is no scientific basis for exclusion. But four years after a W.T.O. panel ruled that European Union policies constituted an illegal “de facto moratorium” on the planting of genetically modified seeds, some farmers, like Mr. Fidenato, and seed producers like Monsanto complain that Europe still has not really opened its doors.

EU, Latin American Accord Ends Banana-Import Dispute –


EU, Latin American Accord Ends Banana-Import Dispute (Update1)

By Jennifer M. Freedman

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) — The European Union and Latin American countries including Ecuador and Guatemala reached an agreement over the EU’s banana-import policies, settling the longest-running dispute at the World Trade Organization.

Under the deal secured today, which also has U.S. backing, the EU will cut duties on bananas from Latin America to 114 euros ($166) a metric ton from 176 euros over seven years, the European Commission said in a statement from Brussels. The change means banana prices in the EU will drop 11 percent while Latin American producers will see exports climb, said Giovanni Anania, a professor at the University of Calabria in Italy.

“The clear winner will be the Latin American countries, because they will expand their exports to the EU by roughly 17 percent,” he said in a telephone interview. “Total exports of bananas from Latin America to all markets will increase by 3.2 percent” while producers in African and Caribbean countries will see shipments of the fruit to the EU decline 14 percent.

Companies and consumers in the U.S. will also be affected, Anania said. Exports from companies such as Dole Food Co. and Chiquita Brands International Inc. that grow and ship bananas from Latin America will increase while the supply of the fruit in the U.S. will drop, “driving up prices minimally,” he said.