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Russian authorities vow to protect people from GMO foods

April 07, 2014, 18:22 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Ruslan Shamukov

MOSCOW, April 07. /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian authorities have been taking resolute steps to protect the population from the effects of food which contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared that Russia had no intention of importing foods made of GMO components. Similar remarks regarding the need to “move on carefully towards the protection of our people” have been made by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the meantime, Russians will soon be able to identify the presence of GMOs in the foods they buy on their own. Scientists have developed a prototype instrument capable of performing such tests in the kitchen before cooking.

“We do not want to develop the production of genetically modified foods or to import them from other countries,” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a congress of legislators from Russia’s rural communities on Saturday. “We are capable of feeding ourselves with normal, ordinary foods, and not genetically modified foodstuffs. If the Americans like to feed themselves with such foods, they are free to do so. We should not do that. We have enough arable land and opportunities to consume normal products.”

Medvedev said he had issued instructions to look into the condition of crops and to carry out extensive monitoring with the use of the most advanced laboratories for the presence of genetically modified seeds, livestock and manufactured products.

Earlier, the government suggested tightening control over GMO products, but at the same time avoided introducing a full ban, contrary to legislators’ demands. The government has drafted a bill that merely tightens GMO control. There are plans for trans-border control of such products, a system of monitoring and multi-million fines for both legal entities and individuals for abusing existing GMO-related laws.

The document establishes major fines for the abuse of legislation in the field of genetic engineering activity. All GMO-containing products will have to bear special labels.

For his part, President Putin said at a meeting with members of the upper house of parliament last week that Russia should protect its people from consuming foods made of GMO products.

“Currently there is no full control of the use of GMO foods,” Putin said. “But we shall be moving towards the protection of our people.” “Very careful action must be taken to avoid an abuse of our liabilities within the WTO, but this can be done.”

The chief of Russia’s Grain Union, Arkady Zlochevsky, said earlier that the area sown to illegal GMO crops in Russia has reached 400,000 hectares.

“If a ban is to be introduced, it should be comprehensive, including a ban on consumption. But that it impossible,” Zlochevsky is quoted by the daily Izvestia as saying. For instance, 70% of the GMOs is used in medicine and pharmaceutical industry. The whole amount of insulin produced in the world is a GMO product. Twenty percent of GMO products is used in industry and agriculture and food manufacturing account for a small share of 10%.

The leading researcher at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology, GMO expert Irina Yermakova, says the issue is rather complicated.

“There are no safe GMOs, some of them have not been studied properly yet. Due to our membership in the WTO, we are unable to fully prohibit GMOs, but the government’s proposal is at least one step in the right direction. Control must be tightened, and such products should be controlled in the strictest way. If we take some medications, then the most thorough experiments and tests must be held before they are authorized for use.”

Russia’s national association of genetic security last year came out with a demand for banning the use of transgenic cultures in Russia’s territory for a period of ten years. Fundamental GMO studies will be carried out during that period and the effects on the human body established.

In the meantime, there have been reports that soon consumers will be able to identify the presence of GMO’s on their own. Scientists at the Altai State University are conducting research into a portable instrument capable of making such tests.

The chief of the biological engineering laboratory at the Altai University, Maxim Kutsev, says it will be a portable device measuring 15 centimeters by 20 centimeters and weighing about one kilogram.

“These days GMO tests can be done only at a special laboratory, which are still very few,” he said. At present, it takes a working prototype 50 minutes to test the offered samples. It works faster than stationary instruments, but the designers hope to cut the duration of the process to 20-30 minutes.

Kutsev said such an instrument of identifying the presence of GMOs was unparalleled in Russia and the world. The patent application process is underway.


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