The Italian agriculture, health and environment ministries have signed a decree banning the cultivation of a type of genetically modified corn, known as "YieldGuard," citing the crop’s possible "negative impact on biodiversity." The corn has been modified to resist insect infestation.
Agriculture Minister Nunzia De Girolamo said, "It is a measure that protects our specificity and safeguards Italy from standardization. Our agriculture is based on biodiversity and quality."
Italian farmers have already largely rejected GM corn: Nearly 80% of Italians are in support of a ban, according to Italy’s biggest farmers group. According to official data, there was no GMO cultivation in Italy in 2012, a country fiercely protective of its agriculture, although some pro-biotech farmers have planted individual crops in recent months despite the widespread opposition.
France put in place a similar temporary ban on GMO corn last year.
YieldGuard corn is produced by ballistically transforming another corn line with a plasmid containing cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter and hsp70 maize intron sequences. These induce the Cry1Ab gene which then encodes for powerful toxins that cause cells to burst. The toxins destroy the midgut of insects, causing them to die.
Unlike the United States, in Europe foods containing GMO elements must be labeled so that consumers can make a decision about whether or not to buy and consume them.
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