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46 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM SPOTLIGHT ITALY A LOOK AT THE ITALIAN SEED INDUSTRY THE BUSINESS OF SEED IN ITALY HAS A LONG AND RICH HISTORY AND BRIGHT FUTURE. BY MARCO NARDI land with good climatic conditions and skills of all companies involved in the production chain where it is possible to multiply a large variety of quality seeds. A country where seed research and plant breeding is poor apart from some restricted sectors but where all the worlds leading seed companies are present to market their new products and feed an intensive and innovation oriented farming . That is very briefly the picture of the seed industry in Italy. HISTORY OF ASSOSEMENTI The Italian Seed Trade Association AISS was formally established on the 1st February 1946 directly after the World War II. In its constitutive act it is however mentioned its origin back to 1921 when the Associazione italiana importatori esportatori sementi da prato Italian herbage seed importer and exporter association was founded in Bologna Italy. Coming to the last amendments to the articles of association we have to mention the merger in 2009 of the breeders association Assoseme into the Italian seed association and the acquisition of a new denomination in short Assosementi. The number of members is more or less stable around 170 companies including 20 affiliated members. The evolution of recent years shows a concentration of companies in the upper level of the market thanks to acquisitions and an increase of new and relatively small companies. The mission of Assosementi corresponds to the normal role of each association namely to assist its members and represent their interests develop activities decided by the board the sections or groups. Then carry out relations with institutional bodies like ministries and local administrations and with ESA and ISF. ASSOSEMENTI ROOTS IN BOLOGNA The seat of the Italian Seed Association has always been in Bologna excluding a short time at the beginning in the early 70s when a new seed law was in discussion at the Parliament in order to adopt the first EC seed directives and the seat was temporarily moved to Rome. Bologna was chosen for several reasons. Firstly because it is close to an important area of seed multiplication with a significant number of seed companies still today one third of Assosementi members are located in the region Emilia-Romagna and to a relevant seed market for Italy. At the same time it is important to point out Bolognas juncture role between the north and south of Italy and the presence of a great university with a well renowned laboratory for seed testing. These days we see seed activity essentially linked to breeding and variety research but in the past at the beginning it was developed as a commercial trade. In fact the first international seed trade congress held in London in July 1924 was closed with the adoption of the format for an international contract to apply to agricultural seeds. It is appropriate to point out that the Federation Internationale du Commerce des Semences the old FIS was formally established in Bologna 16 May 1928 in the course of the second international seed congress. ITALYS SEED INDUSTRY The multiplication and export of vegetable and sugarbeet seed activities are sectors of excellence where Italy surely plays a leading role in Europe. Despite the good production for vegetables the trade balance is largely negative with the value of imported seeds being much higher. Also rice seed production and export with an important breeding activity are a flagship for Italy given that it is the first country for rice in Europe. Regardless of the leading role in the world for the production of pasta for durum wheat Italy went down in recent years regarding the internal production of grains for the milling industry as well the capacity to create new varieties. Varieties breed in other countries gradually get more space in the market. In the field crop sector and particular in maize the market is dominated by the major world seed companies. The surface invested internally for maize and soybean seed multiplication however increased a lot during last decade because of the risk of GMO contamination in third countries production. Cultivation of GMO crops are completely banned in Italy as well as any kind of experimentation in open field. All imported seeds of maize and soybean and at random the internal production are tested before marketing according to a decree of the Ministry for Agriculture that allow a 0.05 per cent threshold tolerance for traces of GMO. Coming finally to forage seeds the sector is commercially very active. Apart from the production of Mediterranean clovers and vetch seeds alfalfa production is the most important. A