February 4, 2014
A group of Russian MPs have prepared a bill severely restricting imports of genetically modified agricultural produce, and completely banning its domestic production.
The initiative is backed by Evgeny Fyodorov of the parliamentary majority United Russia and a group called Russian Sovereignty, which unites MPs from various parties and parliamentary factions.
The politicians want to amend the existing law On Safety and Quality of Alimentary Products with a norm set for the maximum allowed content of transgenic and genetically modified components. The powers to establish that norm go to the government and products with excessive content of GMO components should be banned for turnover and imports.
Currently there are no limitations on the turnover or production of GMO-containing foodstuffs in Russia. However, when the percentage of GMO exceeds 0.9 percent the producer must label such goods and warn consumers. Last autumn the government passed a resolution allowing the listing of genetically modified plants in the Unified State Register, but this resolution will come in force only in July this year.
The main sponsor of the bill, Fyodorov, said in comments to Izvestia daily that he wanted to make this norm zero for all foodstuffs produced in Russia. The draft bans the production of genetically modified organisms and transgenic products of plant, animal or microbial origin for their use in human and animal foods.
Fyodorov said that this measure was needed because international corporations could try to bypass the limitations on imports by launching GMO production inside Russia. He added that under the new bill businessmen still can register genetically modified organisms and conduct research, but not grow and sell them until a slightest doubt of their safety remains.
Professionals perceived the initiative differently. The head of Russia’s Organic Farming Union, Yakov Lyubovedsky, holds that the passing of the bill would show if the Duma can defend the country’s independence and the interests of population. He also added that GMO was an experiment on humanity itself and that the industry could do very well without genetically-enhanced plants and animals.
The president of the Grain Producers’ Union, Arkady Zlochevsky holds the opposite opinion. He told Izvestia that the suggested measure would be extremely harmful for Russian farmers as they would be deprived of modern technology and their foreign competitors would be still allowed to export their goods to Russia.
If legislators decide on a ban, it should be complete, including consumption, but this is currently not possible, Zlochevsky noted. In addition the limitations would create a threat of uncontrolled and dangerous spread of illegal genetically modified crops, Zlochevsky noted.
The pro-GMO businessman also pointed out that the discussion of the problem should not be limited to the agriculture and food industries. He said that 70 percent of genetically enhanced materials were used in pharmacology and medicine, 20 percent were used in industry and only 10 percent of GMOs were used in agriculture and food production.
The bill will be submitted to the lower house in two weeks’ time and its authors claim that its chances of passing are very high.