MOSCOW, Russia, September 18, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- The Hindu,
09/17/03: Now that Europe has succumbed to
American pressure to allow genetically modified foods,
the battle is shifting to Russia.
Current Russian legislation bans development and production
of GM foods, but allows their import and marketing.
Since last year producers are required to label their
foodstuffs if they contain five or more per cent of
GMO (genetically modified organisms). However, many
companies ignore the demand taking advantage of the
lack of testing laboratories in Russia.
Supporters of GMO technologies in Russia feel greatly
encouraged by the European Union's July decision to
drop a ban on transgenic crops. They argue that unless
Russia joins the growing family of nations which cultivate
GM crops, it will lose the race for competitive agricultural
technologies. According to the Russian grain union president,
Arkady Zlochevsky, the ban on the growth of GM food
benefits American exporters, as GM wheat costs 20 percent
less to grow than conventional wheat.
Opponents of genetic engineering say that biosafety
of GM products has not been proved.
"Biological evolution has ruled out transmission
of genes, for example, from mice to a plant. Genetic
engineering has overcome this barrier, inserting alien
genes into organisms," said Vladimir Kuznetsov,
head of the Timiryazev Institute of Plant Physiology.
"Long-term effects of consuming such products have
not been studied."
A study carried out at the Russian Academy of Sciences'
Institute of Nutrition showed that rats fed on beetroot
and transgenic potato developed abnormal changes in
liver and other organs.
"The most visible side-effects of GM food on human
beings is allergy and increased resistance to antibiotics,"
said Dr. Kuznetsov. Another danger in growing GM plants
is the possibility of cross-breeding with conventional
crops, ecologists warn, as this may trigger unpredictable
changes in ecological systems.
Despite massive opposition from scientists, experts
predict that Russia will not be able to hold out against
the onslaught of GM products.
"As genetic engineering scales new heights and
with Russia poised to join the World Trade Organization,
it is reasonable to expect a growing flow of GM products
to the Russian market," said a statement issued
after recent parliamentary hearings.
Aggressive lobbying by Western biotechnology companies
like Monsanto, coupled with low awareness of the GMO
problem among Russian customers make this forecast highly