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GE Corn Scandal in Italy

Italian court probes 10 seed companies over GMOs

ROME, Aug 7 (Reuters) - An Italian court is investigating 10 seed
companies for allegedly using maize containing genetic material in violation
of Italian law, a judicial official said.

The court in Turin launched the probe late on Tuesday after state seed
agency Ense tested samples from seed companies for genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) and found some of them to be positive, the official, who
asked not to be identified, said.

Italy has zero tolerance towards GM seeds, even though the European Union's
Scientific Committee on Plants and other groups say the presence of GM
material in seeds is inevitable because of unintentional contamination in
the production process.

The official did not identify the companies, which are under investigation
for alleged commercial fraud.

Newspapers said on Wednesday they included five Italian concerns and five
foreign multinationals, including Italian subsidiaries of U.S. groups
Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a unit of chemical giant
DuPont Co. .

A spokesman for Monsanto's Lodi-based Italian subsidiary said it had asked
Ense to analyse its maize seeds from the United States and Turkey after the
agency found samples containing positive traces of GMOs.

Edoardo Ferri said Monsanto Agricoltura Italia SpA marketed only
conventional maize seeds in Italy, but that a minimal, accidental presence
of GMOs was inevitable.

"As far as we are concerned, absolute purity is impossible in the seed
industry," he told Reuters.

"Absolute zero is impossible in agriculture."

Ferri said Monsanto had still not received formal notification of the
investigation from the judicial authorities on Wednesday.

Seeds containing more than 0.1 percent and up to one percent of genetic
material must be labelled, he said. Less than 0.1 percent is a "technical
zero", he added.

Company spokesmen for Pioneer Hi-Bred Italia S.r.L. were not available for
comment.

Leonardo Vingiani, director of Assobiotech, which groups biotech companies
in Italy, also said the accidental presence of GMOs in seeds was inevitable.

He said he had still not received word on Wednesday from any CEOs among
Assobiotech's membership about the investigation.

Italian farm groups said they were concerned over risks that farmers had
sown maize and soy seeds contaminated with genetic material, and wanted
guarantees that their seeds were legal.

"We are very worried about this situation," said Confagricoltura, which
represents big agricultural producers.

"We want clear guarantees for farmers who have sowed some 1.4 million
hectares (3.459 million acres) with maize and soy in Italy," it said in a
statement.

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