Italian farm minister Giovanni Alemanno said yesterday [Thursday] that Italy is adoping a ‘zero tolerance’ stance on the accidental contamination of seeds with genetically modified material. The country needs to earmark a minimum of €50m (US$43.3m) to back up this policy, he added.

Civil servants are scheduling meetings with growers, seed industry officials and consumers over the next few months to devise a new policy on agriculture and how to market GM seeds.

Farmers in Italy will sow some 1.5m hectares to maize and soybeans this spring. Plantings are due to commence in the next few weeks.

Consumer concern over the safety of GM food is still running high in Italy, as in many of the 14 other EU Member States.

Alemanno’s comments came just a day after the EU Commission unveiled a strategy paper in which it said the EU was in serious danger of lagging behind the US in the biotech sector, and outlined measures to help the region catch up. To read more on that story, click here.