HomeIdeasGMO’s. From words to deeds, the Italian paradox

GMO’s. From words to deeds, the Italian paradox

We often witness petitions against GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) in Italy. A renewed topical issue, against the background of the recent signing of the CETA agreement between the European Union and Canada. As well as the recent acquisition of Monsanto on behalf of the Bayer group, based in Germany. Let’s then see, moving from words to deeds, the reality of GMO’s in Italy.

Italy is the biggest soy producer in Europe, strictly non-GM, in quantities that vary between 0.7 and 1 million tons. Italian soy is partly used to produce flours, by three plants located in the Northern Italy (Italgreenoil, Cerealdocks, Oleificio San Giorgio), otherwise intended for roasting. But Made in Italy soy flour is mainly exported in Germany, Austria, Croatia and Hungary to meet the demand for non-GM flours.

Non-GM soy in Italy is instead being squeezed into two large plant, in Venice (Cereadocks SpA) and in Ravenna (Bunge SpA – already Cereol Italia-Eridania SpA, once Ferruzzi group). In considerable amounts (approximately 0.8 mln tons of seed, of which 0.15 mln is used both as it is and for roasting). 

The Italian feed industry is also supplied by importers (among which the Chinese-owned Cofco reigns) which provide 1.2-1,5 million tons of GM-soy flour from Argentina, Brazil and USA.

GMO crops are forbidden in Italy, as in other European countries, however the use of GM raw materials is not prohibited in the production of feed. And the primary source of proteins for livestock is in fact soy meal, that can reach a level of protein share up to 48%, besides having an amino acids profile that is essential for the animals growth. The options for soy flour offered in the market are therefore two, to squeeze non-GM Italian soy beans (thus obtaining oil, for human consumption or other uses, and flour) or to directly import GMO flours. 

Hence Italy is both an importer of (GM) soy (GMO) and an exporter of (non-GM) soy. In fact German and Austrian operators  – as well as the Croatian and Hungarian ones – can afford to buy feed of far above cost (also considering transport). As far as they’re able to add value to those animal-derived foods which come from a traceable non-GM supply chain, of Italian origin. Vice versa the supply chains of Made in Italy products of excellence, from Parmiggiano Reggiano to Grana Padano cheese, and the PDO’s Prosciutto hams like Parma and the San Daniel, continue to supply cheaper GM feed from America.  

The paradox is that high-end Italian foods of animal origin are made from livestock fed with GM soy meal, apart from those certified as organic or GMO-free (1). Whereas multinationals – in Germany, at the top – have opted for conventional soy even in pet food, which labels bear the ‘GMO-free’ claim (!). More attention is therefore given to the recognizable value of meals intended for cats and dogs than to the quality attributes of milk and dairy products, hams and cold cuts.

The reason is easy to say, while in Italy the leading agriculture organization spends time petitioning instead of pursuing awareness campaigns on the actual value of conventional crops, in Germany there is a tendency to prioritize the integrity of the European supply chain, ‘from stable to table’. Even towards imitation products such as the German mozzarella, and low-priced ones as those sold in discount supermarkets like LIDL. Which are indeed labeled as VLOG (lit. ‘without genetically modified materials’).

For further insight on GMO’s, we point out our free ebook ‘GMO’s, the Big Scam’.

Dario Dongo


(1) In livestock supply chains that follow the organic method, and its rules, the use of feed that contains or derives from GMO’s is forbidden in the EU (with some transitional exemptions, unfortunately granted by the European Commission in the last years)

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Dario Dongo, avvocato e giornalista, PhD in diritto alimentare internazionale, fondatore di WIISE (FARE - GIFT – Food Times) ed Égalité.

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