A Manifesto to Regulate Transgenic Vines

19 May 2002

Slow Food began its campaign against transgenic vines in December 2000. Now we have drawn up a Manifesto (see below) to explain the danger and launch an appeal to the Italian Government, Parliament, Regional and Provincial Authorities, Municipalities and Protection Consortia to force vine and wine growers to adopt clear rules of traceability, to safeguard the biodiversity of terroirs, and to ban the use of GM vines in their production disciplines. As the Manifesto says, we are not making a crusade against science or progress; we agree that research has to continue but in a confined environment and on a long-term basis. Since GM vines would constitute a veritable revolution, they have to be treated with the utmost caution, while the findings of research have to be published and verified by an independent body. Moreover, scientific research ought to proceed in all directions, making sure that innovation takes place using eco-compatible methods.

After reading our Manifesto, Guido Tampieri, agriculture spokesman for the Emilia Romagna Regional Authority, swiftly organized a conference that was held May 20, in Bologna and asked other Italian Regional Authorities to sign an official document based on the Slow Food Manifesto. This document would prevent GM vines from invading Italian vineyards.
The conference, entitled ‘Vines and GMOs: the Italian Way’, was held in the Sala del Podestà at Palazzo Re Enzo in Piazza Nettuno, Bologna. It was attended by the agriculture spokespersons of the Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Piedmont Regional Authorities, who were asked to adhere to the institutional document proposed by Tampieri and the Slow Food Manifesto (Slow Food was represented in Bologna by vice-president Giacomo Mojoli). Also in attendance was the Italian Minister of Agriculture Giovanni Alemanno, who outlined the direction the Italian government intends to take on this issue. Highly significant, in my opinion, was the fact that, besides representatives of the institutions; and farming associations, producers of the caliber of Elio Altare, Marco Caprai and Alessio Planeta were also present, not to mention Maurizio Fava of the Gavi Protection Consortium, the only one so far to explicitly ban the GM vines in its production discipline.
The message ought to be clear to the people responsible for the cunning yet unwise directive European Council Directive 2002/11/EC of February 14 2002. Italian vine and winegrowing simply doesn’t need GMOs. What it does need is methods that are fully eco-compatible, as is clearly demonstrated by the success and quality of our traditionally made wines. Now it’s up to the institutions to put that in writing and make it official. And, in that respect, the Bologna meeting was the first step in the right direction.

Adapted by John Irving

The Slow Food Manifesto On Transgenic Vines

The European Council Directive 2002/11/EC of February 14 2002 on the marketing of material for the vegetative propagation of the vine lays the legislative bases for the introduction of genetically modified vines, currently banned, onto Community territory. Unlike soya and corn, crops for which contamination came first and rules second, in the case of vine and wine growing the facts have at least been preceded by an indication of what the future law might be. Yet it is only a question of time before the pressure of huge economic interests opens the doors to GM vines. We have to be ready when that moment comes.

Slow Food wishes to warn of the danger posed by an innovation that would have irreversible consequences for world winemaking. It believes that, for reasons of environmental ethics and respect for history, not to mention exquisitely commercial motives, the wines of the European tradition have to avoid transgenic cultivation in all its forms. It also believes that the market of the future will raise the profile of ‘GMO-free’ products.

We appeal to the Italian Government and Parliament to issue a severe law requiring vine growers and wine producers to observe clear rules of traceability and, when marketing wine, to provide transparent information about the presence, if any, of genetically modified microorganisms or organisms at any phases in the production cycle. It is also vital to envisage proper guarantees to protect traditional vines from contamination by GMMs and GMOs.

Italian Regional and Provincial Authorities and Municipalities must undertake to safeguard the biodiversity of their terroirs by differentiating products and exploiting the surplus value of typical crops grown using traditional methods.

Protection Consortia must defend historic denominations by banning the use of GMOs in all phases of production in their respective disciplines. At the same time, they must launch public information campaigns to promote and guarantee the ‘GMO-free’ policies of their members.

Ours is not a crusade against science or against progress. Research has to continue in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, but it is our hope that, as an agricultural revolution of this magnitude demands, biotechnology applied to vine-growing will be limited to a confined environment and experiments conducted over the long term. Findings and dates must be rendered public and verified by an independent body, while sources of funding must be divulged. Above all, scientific research must proceed in every direction, seeking also to perfect ecocompatible production techniques that reduce the impact on the environment without recourse to genetic manipulations.

Carlo Petrini

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