After a 10-year restriction, Italy has finally allowed biotech field trials amid cynicism from scientists, saying prevalent constraints make field tests impractical.
Going by Italian legislation, approval must first come from a special committee of ten members, comprised of two representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, two from the Ministry of Environment, and six from the regions, followed by approval of the State-regions Conference.
Last August, the new Minister of Environment, Stefania Prestigiacomo, endorsed the protocols to re-start biotech field trials which were then approved by the State-Regions Conference. The Ministerial decree is now waiting for the final signature from Minister of Agriculture, after which it will be published in the Official Gazette. Although the minister has publicly maintained a strong opposition to agricultural biotechnology, most observers expect him to sign the decree.
The decree lets each region to develop implementing regulations, including the authority to adopt even more restrictive measures than the original protocols in order to cut down the risk of contamination.
Some examples of stringent rules include a minimum distance of 1,000 metres between biotech and conventional corn fields and hand harvesting of biotech corn. The trial fields must also remain idle for up to three years after the trials.
Italian scientists remain skeptical because it is unlikely that farms in Italy will be able to benefit from such research any time soon.