excerpted from: The SEU TIMES Socio-Ecological Union Newsletter N 6(15) August-November 2000
CHAOS IN RUSSIAN GENETIC ENGINEERING ACTIVITIES
Moscow - 29 November 2000
A report released by environmental organisations today reveals that field trials of genetically engineered (GE) crops are taking place throughout Russia and GE foods are being approved for human consumption, in the absence of any procedures. Although an Inter-Agency Commission on Genetic Engineering Activities, GENCOM, was established in 1997 to issue permits for releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it operates under a cloak of secrecy and some of its members are the same scientists that are undertaking GE experiments.
The report entitled: "Genetically Engineered Food and Crops in Russia" and published by the Socio-Ecological Union, reveals that at least 18 notifications for deliberate release of GMOs, including field trials and processing/consumption have been granted. Monsanto leads with 8 notifications for field trials of potatoes resistant to Colorado beetle, which are being tested in 18 regions of Russia, herbicide tolerant soybeans, maize and sugar beet. Biosafety measures for field trials are inadequate. "Field trials of GE apple trees and strawberries in Orel were taking place right next to gardens growing apple trees and strawberries. Cross-pollination could result in these home-grown fruit becoming genetically engineered!", explained Dan Swartz, the author of the report, published jointly with ANPED, The Northern Alliance for Sustainability, a network of non-government organisations based in Amsterdam.
The report reveals that the Ministry of Health has approved two varieties of Monsanto's GE potatoes and Monsanto's Roundup Ready (herbicide-tolerant) soybeans for human consumption, In addition, the OECD list also includes AgrEvo's (now Aventis) GE sugar beet, approved for processing and consumption.
"It is highly likely that GE soybeans, maize and potatoes are already on the Russian market. The soybeans and maize are coming into the country via commercial imports and food aid from the US", explains Victoria Kolesnikova from SEU. "Despite a new law requiring labelling of GE products and a Federal Register of GMO Products, we have seen none of the products listed on the register and available on Russian supermarket shelves labelled", she added.
The report calls on the Russian Government to introduce a moratorium on all environmental releases of GMOs until procedures for licensing field trials and approving the marketing of GE foods are in place. It also calls for the declassifying of information about genetic engineering that currently enables information to be withheld on the grounds of state or commercial secrets. The report also demands that the responsible institutions implement the labelling regulations that came into force in July 2000.