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
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
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
"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 plausible.