SOFIA, Bulgaria, March 25, 2004 (ENS):
Bulgarians worried about the environmental and public
health impacts of genetically modified crops and foods
brought their concerns to the front door of the National
Parliament in Sofia today, while inside legislators
were hearing the second reading of the Draft Law on
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
"The Third World War comes in your plate,"
they argue, fearful that the liberalization of GMOs
will have adverse consequences for "the agriculture,
environment, health and social and economic life in
On February 12, the draft law passed first reading.
The legislation sets up a commission to regulate the
release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into
the environment of Bulgaria, and permits genetically
engineered foods on the market using European Union
standards. Both the environment and agriculture ministries
would have some oversight of genetically modified crops.
No vote was taken on the legislation today.
Organizers of the demonstration, the Bulgaria Free
of Genetically Modified Organisms Coalition, are demanding
a moratorium on any decisions about introducing genetically
modified crops and foods into the country at least until
Bulgaria joins the European Union.
Bulgaria will not be one of the 10 countries that will
join the European Union on May 1, but Bulgaria is on
track to become an EU member in the near future.
The European Union last year adopted new laws in preparation
for the introduction of genetically engineered crops
and foods. Two new EU laws will come into force on April
18. One of them will lift the moratorium and the other
will introduce strict rules on the tracing and the labeling
of genetically modified components in foods.
Before Bulgaria can become an EU member, the candidate
country must bring its own laws into harmony with existing
The most recent EU assessment of Bulgarian progress
towards accession comes in a report by the European
Commission to the Council of Ministers in November 2003.
The Commission says that in the field of foodstuffs
Bulgaria has adopted all EU laws up to the year 2000
and now needs to adopt EU laws passed from 2001 onwards,
improve its training programs, to implement hazard analysis
and control, and to upgrade its laboratories. "More
efforts are needed to ensure appropriate control of
genetically modified and novel food," the Commission
The demonstrators say that the draft law being considered
by Parliament is imperfect and that "its many gaps
could lead to risks and dangers for the people and environment."
Scientists, Green Party politicians, and representatives
of environmental organizations, united under the coalition
slogan of "Bulgaria - GMO Free Zone," say
the draft law was developed under the influence of multinational
They say that if the law is passed Bulgaria would be
used as a testing place for genetically modified organisms
and a "Trojan horse" for the supply of genetically
modified foods and crops in Europe.
The demonstrators are insisting that the law must protect
Bulgarian citizens and nature, rather than multinational
business interests. Their concerns parallel those of
citizens across the European Union who have continued
to resist transgenic foods despite government reassurances.
Under the Bulgarian draft law, licenses to work with
GMOs will be issued after risk assessment under EU standards,
Professor Atanas Atanasov from the Agrarian Biological
Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture told the Bulgarian
News Network on March 7.
Atanasov said the assessment would make sure that GMO
creation, testing and commercialization would not endanger
human health and the environment.
Last September Atanasov told a meeting of EU and Eastern
European scientists that the first Bulgarian genetically
modified crops will be ready by 2007. Most probably
they will be tomatoes, alfalfa, barley, and tobacco,
modified to make them more resilient to diseases, pests
and pollution, he explained.
Laboratory tests were nearing completion, he said then,
and the modified varieties must still be field tested.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights