By Giorgio Fidenato: Pordenone Province, Italy
I may be the world’s most embattled farmer.
My goal is simple: I want to grow good crops on my small farm in the northeast corner of Italy. This includes a variety of GMO corn that European regulators approved for commercial use nearly 20 years ago.
Yet Italian government officials and political activists keep getting in the way, blocking me with new regulations and violent attacks on my land.
Happily, I’m winning and they’re losing—though the war is far from over.
Last month, I scored an important victory in my fight for the freedom to farm. The European Court of Justice ruled that Italy should not have stopped me in 2014 from growing a GMO crop that the European Commission already had deemed safe. This was my second major legal success, as it followed a similar ruling in an earlier case.
Despite this, I’ve confronted massive opposition. Five times, I’ve been prosecuted for growing this kind of corn, which uses biotechnology to fend off pests such as the corn borer. Although the European Court of Justice now has exonerated me twice, three criminal proceedings remain underway.
I’m confident that I’ll win them all because the law is plain. Italy can’t ignore the EC’s clear determination.
The science is on my side as well. In studying the kind of corn I’ve sought to grow, the EC found “no reason to believe that that product would have any adverse effects on human health or the environment.”
Justice favors my position, too: All I seek is the right to grow a crop that European scientists and regulators have affirmed is completely safe.
Unfortunately, Italian authorities have taken it upon themselves to persecute me. They think that if they continue to harass me, over and over, I’ll grow weary and give up.
I refuse to abandon this fight, which is about so much more than what I grow on my five hectares of cultivated land. It’s about whether we’ll let scientific research or political intimidation determine the rules of agriculture in Europe.
Powerful forces have lined up against sound science. I learned this the hard way several ago, when members of Greenpeace and other political agitators invaded my farm and destroyed my crops.
Their assault startled me. I try to follow Gandhi’s principles of non-violence. I believe that we should settle our political differences through peaceful deliberation.
Yet these hooligans had a different agenda. They aimed to intimidate me, and believed that if I feared for the safety of my property and my family, I’d quit growing GMO crops.
They succeeded in one sense because they denied me a harvest. Yet they failed in their grander purpose. Since their attack, I’ve redoubled my efforts. Even skeptics of GMOs have to admit that we cannot allow threats of violence to dictate our behavior.
Up to now, we’ve let Greenpeace and its minions dominate the debate over GMOs. Those who want to deny the freedom to farm betray their real scheme, which is to impose collectivism on the rest of us. They have strong allies in the media and among the so-called intellectuals. They want to give the state almost unlimited authority over our farms and our lives.
Around the world, however, farmers have grown billions of acres of GMO crops. These plants have become a conventional part of agriculture in the United States and the rest of the western hemisphere. Their safety is totally proven. So are the environmental benefits: GMOs help farmers grow more food on less land.
Here in Italy, farmers should enjoy the same access to safe GMO crops. As we struggle with yield-depleting pests and fungal diseases, we try to control these problems with chemical sprays—but we’d much rather use the power of biotechnology to innovate our way past these challenges.
Last month’s ruling by the European Court of Justice gives me hope that many Europeans remain open-minded about biotechnology. They’re willing to weigh the scientific and legal evidence and arrive at a simple truth: GMOs are safe.
Please join me in this battle for the right of European farmers to cultivate in freedom and peace.
Giorgio Fidenato grows corns and soybeans and serves as an agricultural consultant in the northeast part of Italy. Giorgio is a member of the Global Farmer Network (www.globalfarmernetwork.org).