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Russians eager to say NO to GMOs

September 10, 2014, 16:40 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, September 10. /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian authorities are tightening their grip on genetically modified foods. Proposals are being considered for a full ban on such products. The public at large looks strongly supportive of this measure. The problem is an intricate one, though, experts have been cautioning the most ardent anti GMO crusaders.

The producers of foods who fail to notify the customers on the packaging of their products they used GMO raw materials, and also retailers who trade in such products, will be heavily fined. A draft law prepared on instructions from President Vladimir Putin, was submitted to the State Duma (lower house of parliament) for consideration on Tuesday.

Since 2007 all foods on the shelves of Russia’s supermarkets should carry special marking if they contain 0.9% or more GMO components, but this rule is abused all too often.

Russia is obliged to protect its citizens from using GMO-containing foods and this can be done without defaulting on the country’s WTO liabilities, Putin said last March. And in April 2014 Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev instructed the government to enhance control of GMO products in Russia.

A group of upper house members submitted a bill to the State Duma last February declaring a GMO ban as a temporary measure. Its authors proposed such a measure should be effective until the moment Russia creates a full-scale system of control capable of evaluating the safety of each food item by various standards.

The bill has not been discussed yet, but many Russians already look enthusiastic about the idea. An overwhelming majority (81%) of those polled by the Superjob portal the same month said GMO foods must be outlawed, while only nine percent replied they saw no solid enough reasons for such a step.

Russia’s national association of genetic security last week addressed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev with a call for banning the import of GMO-containing foods. In focus are 18 lines of GMO crops, including corn, rice, sugar beat and soya beans produced by US and German companies. Such a measure may be considered as part of Russia’s retaliatory sanctions, the Association believes.

“The official policy is to terminate the manufacturing and distribution of GMO products, but in reality such restrictions are sidestepped. Such products do find their way into Russia. In what amounts is anyone’s guess,” farming policy expert Aleksandr Nikulin, of the Russian Economics and Civil Service Academy, has told ITAR-TASS.

The director of the Agro-industrial Policies Centre, of the Economics and Civil Service Academy, Natalya Shagaida, believes that the GMO products problem requires a balanced approach. If GMO foods are produced for export to the countries that agree to have them, it would be reasonable to go on with their production,” Shagaida told ITAR-TASS.

As far as products for domestic use are concerned, they should be marked properly to let Russians make a decision on their own to buy them or not.

“The GMO issue is a very complicated one. Scientists keep arguing. Opinions vary, but I believe that the more we stick to the ban on the use of GMOs, the better,” a member of the Russian Agricultural Academy, Elmira Krylatykh, has told ITAR-TASS. “But life may take a turn that will force us to make use of these products on a wider scale. Then we shall have to devise measures to ease the risks their consumption may entail.

ITAR-TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors