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Viewing cable 03ROME5149, ITALY/BIOTEC...

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
03ROME5149 2003-11-13 16:04 2011-02-18 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rome
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L  ROME 005149 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
USDA FOR OSEC - HEGWOOD AND SIMMONS 
STATE PASS USDA/FAS BLUM AND E. JONES 
STATE PASS USTR 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2013 
TAGS: EAGR ETRD TBIO KSCA TSPL EAID IT EUN
SUBJECT: ITALY/BIOTEC...

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES EMIL SKODON, 
FOR REASONS 1.5(B)(D) 
 
1. (C)  SUMMARY:  Ref A describes Italian Agriculture 
Minister Alemanno's latest gambit to effectively ban biotech 
crop cultivation in Italy by pushing through an extremely 
restrictive coexistence decree-law.  Given the likely 
negative consequences of this proposal, not least upon U.S. 
seed exports to Italy, Ambassador Sembler raised strong 
objections to Alemanno's approach in separate meetings this 
week with Foreign Minister Frattini (Nov. 10), with PM 
Berlusconi's top advisor, Prime Ministry Under Secretary 
Gianni Letta, and with the Prime Minister directly in a phone 
call from Letta's office (Nov. 11).  Letta and the PM 
assurred the Ambassador that, either at the technical level 
or the political level, the draft Alemanno decree-law would 
be blocked.  End Summary. 
 
Meeting with Frattini 
--------------------- 
 
2. (C)  As reported Ref B, Ambassador raised Minister 
Alemanno's draft coexistence proposal in the context of a 
Nov. 10 discussion with FM Frattini of the Italian EU 
Presidency.    Frattini said he understood that Alemanno 
favored taking a harder line on biotech than EU regulations 
required.  Frattini further offered that, to the extent 
Alemanno's proposals went further than EU-agreed regulations, 
he, as Foreign Minister, could argue within the Council of 
Ministers that Italian policy should stay in line with EU 
norms. 
 
Meeting with Letta, Berlusconi on Speaker-Phone 
------------------------------ 
3. (C)  On November 11, the Ambassador, accompanied by AgAtt 
and Ecmin, discussed U.S. concerns over the draft decree-law 
for 30 minutes with PM Berlusconi's closest advisor, Prime 
Ministry Under Secretary Gianni Letta.  Despite the fact that 
the proposed draft has been circulating among Italian 
ministries for several days, Letta appeared to be genuinely 
unaware of its existence.  However, he quickly grasped its 
significance.  Letta commented that Alemanno had been under 
clear pressure from the EU Commission to lift the so-called 
Amato Decree (banning four varieties of EU-approved GM corn). 
 ""But it sounds to me like he's going to do it in a way that 
increases, not decreases, restrictions on biotechnology,"" 
Letta added.  Ambassador emphatically agreed.  Following a 
couple of quick phone calls, Letta told the Ambassador that 
the decree-law was not on the agenda for this week's Council 
of Ministers meeting, so no action was imminent. 
 
4. (C)  Letta then picked up the phone and made another call 
--this time directly to Prime Minister Berlusconi.  Letta 
summarized the issue at hand, put the phone on ""speaker"" 
mode, and passed the receiver to Ambassador Sembler.  After 
conveying his continuing support for President Bush's efforts 
to spread democracy and wishing the Ambassador well on his 
trip to Washington for President Ciampi's visit, Berlusconi 
then promised that he would not let Minister Alemanno's draft 
decree, as it had been described to him, pass through the 
Council of Ministers.  The Ambassador offered his sincere 
thanks. 
 
5. (C)  In concluding the discussion, Letta predicted that 
""technical or procedural"" mechanisms could be found to derail 
the Alemanno draft.  But he reiterated that the move could, 
and would, be blocked at the political level, if that became 
necessary. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
6. (C)  We are greatly encouraged by Berlusconi's and Letta's 
rapid, seemingly decisive response to the Ambassador's 
demarche.  They provide, we believe, a high degree of 
probability that Alemanno's latest gambit will be 
sidetracked.  We fully expect, however, that the Ag Minister 
will try to find other means to realize his vision of a 
biotech-free Italy.  Alemanno is soon expected to issue the 
Ministry of Agriculture's 2004 seed circular stating that the 
tolerance for biotech in conventional seeds is zero.  The 
seed testing protocol of the circular is expected to 
stipulate a miniscule threshold of 0.1% for biotech in 
conventional seeds. 
 
 
SKODON 
 
 
NNNN 
 2003ROME05149 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL 

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