GM opposition strengthening in Bulgaria, Hungary and Latvia
2.Special interests support GMOs
3.Hoping for GM Free Bulgaria
4.Alarm over GM foods
5.GM production banned in Latvia
6.Hungarian Ag Minister thanks Spanish counterpart for supporting GM crop ban
NOTE: As countries from the former eastern bloc joined the European Union, the US expected them to help counter opposition to GMOs within the EU. But exactly the opposite has happened, with newer members strengthening the GM opposition, often in direct defiance of the EU Commission in Brussels.
1.Brussels makes a sixth warning over environment
FOCUS News Agency, 11 May 2009
Sofia - In April the European Commission has sent a letter with a warning over the failure to implement the European Directive for GMO in the Bulgarian legislation, the Klasa Daily informs. This is the sixth official warning for Bulgaria for not following regulations in the ecology sphere. Experts commented that currently Bulgarian legislation is much more restrictive as compared to European regulations.
In February Bulgaria supported Hungary’s decision to keep the ban on import, production and distribution of GMO on its territory. Hungary is one of the last countries against the introduction of GMO in farming. Others to support this position are Austria, Luxembourg and Greece.
2.Agrolink Director: Bulgaria Agriculture Media Supports GM Crops
Sofia News agency, 15 May 2009
Svetla Nikolova, the Director of AGROLINK, has stated that none of Bulgaria's specialized agriculture media want to publish any critical publications on GMOs.
In an exclusive interview for Novinite.com [Sofia News Agency], Nikolova also informed that "the Head of Council to Bulgaria's Agricultural Minister is Professor Atanasov, a previous Director of AgroBioinstitute, who deal with genetic engineering and contracting with Monsanto." Monsanto are one of the main producers of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the world.
Nikolova however was positive regarding the ongoing campaign against GMOs in Bulgaria stating that she hopes "by the end of 2009 Bulgaria will ban MON810". MON 810 maize, produced by biotech giant Monsanto, is currently the only GM crop grown on a large scale in Europe. She went on to say; "additionally to the current ban of several GM crops like tobacco, oil yielding rose, grapevines, wheat, all vegetables and fruits the situation in Bulgaria will be almost GMO free."
Niklova added that "the number of countries that have rejected GM crops is growing. The news from today is that Latvia has banned GMO production."
In conclusion Nikolova informed that "no commercially available GM plant developed to date has increased yields or enhanced nutritional qualities, and none is drought-resistant or salt tolerant. Currently commercialised GM crops bear only two traits: herbicide-resistant or pesticide-producing."
[below is the full text of the interview]
3.Agrolink Director Svetla Nikolova: We Hope for GM Free Bulgaria
Author: Henry Rowlands
Sofia News Agency, May 15 2009
Interview with Svetla Nikolova, Director of AGROLINK (www.agrolink.org). AGROLINK brings together specialists, experts and farmers in a network of partnership with the aim to influence encourage and assist farmers and rural societies in Bulgaria to develop and support organic farming as the most sustainable agriculture system.
How does the Genetically Modified (GM) crops issue affect people in Bulgaria? Is there much public knowledge on GM crops in the country?
As a member of EU, Bulgaria is adopting the basic principles of the European Union, its treaties, institutions and procedures.
In order to transpose Acquis communautaire into national legislation, Bulgaria adopted the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Act. The Act was set into force on 1st of June 2005 (State Gazette No. 27/29.03.2005).
Legal requirements concerning food consisting of or containing genetically modified organisms were laid down in the Food Law, promulgated SG. 90/15 Oct. 1999, amend. SG. 102/21 Nov. 2003.
Bulgarian legislation is stricter than EU regulations. It prohibits the commercial growing of GM: tobacco, oil yielding rose, grapevines, wheat, all vegetables and fruits. It prohibits the cultivation of GM-crops inside a radius of 30 km around protected areas. It protects organic farms and their neighboring fields against GM-crops. We think that the weak point of the law is that it doesn't deal with responsibilities in case of harms and contamination. NGOs representatives can participate in the work of the Commission to issue authorizations for GM crops but without a right to vote.
So far there is no official cultivation of GM crops in Bulgaria.
The history of genetic engineering experiments in Bulgaria dates back to 1991, when a tobacco plant with genes for resistance to viruses and bacteria as well as a transgenic alfafa plant were being experimentally grown in Kostinbrod by the Institute of Genetic Engineering - now called the AgroBioinstitute. In 1999, a GM potato resistant to potato beetles was field tested for the first time, on 30 hectares in 2000, then on 3 hectares in 2001.
Field trials were authorised by the Council for the Safe Use of Genetically Modified Higher Plants (GMPs), established on the basis of 1996 regulations. However, the registers containing the information on the authorisations granted and details about the GMPs put into question were considered highly confidential and were not made public. For the period of 1999 to 2003 the contract with Monsanto stated that GM crops should not be used in the internal market but GM-crops were used as animal forage.
This was all about cultivation. Regarding GMO in food products the situation is more qusetionable.
In the official letter of Sofia Regional Inspection for public health control it was written that in 2008, 272 samples were tested and 19 foods were found with a 0.9% GMO content above the limit allowed by the law. The GM ingredients were in Soy and Soya based foodstuffs. The foods were not labelled as containing GMOs. The Inspection did not announce the name of producers but mentioned that they were Bulgarian companies which use ingredients from abroad.
In a survey done in 2000:
”¢ Over 90% of Bulgarians didn't know whether GMOs are produced in Bulgaria
”¢ 45% didn't know whether they already have consumed GM-food
”¢ Over 70% wanted more information on GMOs
The public knowledge regarding the GMO issue in the country is not high but is growing over time. In 2007 AGROLINK organized a national informational campaign with the Monster Tomato tour visiting 7 towns. Together with other NGOs like Za Zemiata, an NGO from Varna and others from other counties we try to raise awareness on GMO issues. Still most of the people did not know about GMOs but our estimation is that in 2009 many more people are aware than in 2000. The media are very interested in the issue and more publications are being released.
Are GM crops grown in Bulgaria and if so where?
Officially there are no GM plantations in Bulgaria. The field trials which covered an enormously large area stopped in 2003 after a big scandal over the illegal marketing of GM maize in Bulgaria.
GM-maize in Bulgaria
(According to official data)
1999 - 13 000 hectares (ha)
2000 - 19 000 ha
2001 - 6 400 ha
2002 - 2 200 ha
2003 - 2 195 ha
There is currently only one application to the Commission in the Ministry of Environment for release into environment (growing) of GM cotton. It is a Bulgarian GM hybrid, but in Europe GM cotton is not authorized and Bulgaria can not to grow it.
Some farmers inform us of the illegal import of GM seeds and Monsanto is again very active in the country.
Can Bulgarian consumers identify if products they buy contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?
There are no products on the market labeled as containing GMOs.
The Ministry of health informed the public that there are 19 products containing GMO but not labeled. The information about the companies producing these foods is kept secret. The testing laboratory is equipped with public money but the public is not being protected from dangerous food.
What do you say to the biotechnology companies that suggest GMOs will help feed the world's growing population?
The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology (IAASTD) made in 2008 sees no role for GM crops in achieving the Millennium Development Goals or in eradicating hunger.
Genetic engineering is also expensive and risky for farmers. Its seeds are subject to patent claims which will indirectly increase the price of food and, as a result, will not alleviate poverty or hunger and will pose a threat to food sovereignty. GM crops are a threat to food security rather than a solution to the food crisis.
Genetic engineering does not increase yields and GM crops have failed under extreme fluctuations in temperature. Rather than increasing critical biodiversity, genetic engineering puts the world's natural biodiversity at risk of contamination in an unforeseeable and uncontrolled way. Since 1996, there have been 216 cases of crops being contaminated by GMOs in 57 countries.
No commercially available GM plant developed to date has increased yields or enhanced nutritional qualities, and none is drought-resistant or salt tolerant. Currently commercialised GM crops bear only two traits: herbicide-resistant or pesticide-producing.
Planting GM crops does not reduce the use of chemical pesticides on farmland. In fact, from 1996 to 2004, parallel to increasing cultivation of GM crops in the US there was an observed 55 000 000 kg increase in pesticide use, a 4.1% increase.
What is important to know is the prices of crops increase. For example average prices:
Price of cotton and maize seed +50% over the last 3 years, price of Roundup (pesticide for GMO crops) increase 134% over the last 2 years.
All this means: Predicted revenue for Monsanto for 2007 - 2010 is +74% (Goldman Sachs). With the food price crisis, biotech and agrochemical companies' profits have increased EXPONENTIALLY. Farmer profit has been dented.
You have just come back from the "Food and Democracy" conference in Lucerne for the GMO-free regions in Europe, what were the conclusions made at the conference?
At the 5th European Conference on GMO-Free Regions "Food & Democracy" in Lucerne (Switzerland) from 24th to 25th April 2009 250 representatives from 28 European countries were welcomed by the Speaker of the Swiss national Parliament, the ministers of agriculture of Austria, Scottland and the Czech Republic, which presently holds the EU presidency as well as the president of Swiss farmers and many other representatives.
The participants of the 5th European Conference of GMO Free Regions called upon the member States of the European Union to rethink their legislation and policy on the use of genetically engineered organisms in agriculture.
The participants of the 5th European Conference of GMO-Free Regions "Food and Democracy" call for an EU-wide moratorium on the authorization and the commercial planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In the wake of six EU member states banning the planting of MON810 and in light of the rapid increase in GMO-free regions in Europe, there has never been a better moment for
a moratorium than now.
This moratorium should be used to:
”¢ rethink EU legislation and strengthen regional self-determination;
”¢ redefine risk assessment according to the precautionary principle while considering
socio-economic impacts; and
”¢ support GMO-free, diverse agriculture and ensure food sovereignty.
The participants called upon agro-chemical companies to no longer abuse the problem of world hunger in order to justify the introduction of GMOs. Practical experience belies this misleading propaganda, which we consider to be false and unethical.
As the elections to the European Parliament will be held in June the conference participants asked all candidates what their position is:
”¢ on the introduction of GMOs into European agriculture and food,
”¢ on our demand for a moratorium on the cultivation of GMOs in Europe
”¢ on regional selfdetermination and food sovereignty
The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology (IAASTD) recently stated that more research needs to be done into the health and environmental risks of GM crops, has this affected the approach of the large biotech companies?
This analysis is shared by the 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report. Initiated by several UN bodies and the World Bank, the report is the first global scientific agriculture assessment. Compiled by over 400 scientists from around the world.
Hugh Grant, the Monsanto CEO said:"Satisfying the demand curve [of the food crisis] is a great business".
"The essential purpose of food, which is to nourish people, has been subordinated to the economic aims of a handful of multinational corporations that monopolize all aspects of food production, from seeds to major distribution chains, and they have been the prime beneficiaries of the world crisis" said Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly of the UN.
The food price crisis profits the biotech companies. They don't care about health, biodiversity and sustainable development.
MON 810 maize (produced by biotech giant Monsanto), the only GM crop grown on a large scale in Europe, has been banned in 6 European countries, including Greece and Germany, why has Bulgaria not followed its neighbors?
The number of countries that have rejected GM crops is growing. The news from today is that Latvia has banned GMO production. AGROLINK together with other environmental NGOs from the coalition GMO free Bulgaria is going to organize a campaign in Bulgaria to ban MON810 this year. Many events like street demonstrations, a film festival, meetings and debate with policy makers, scientists, farmers, consumers and public will be organized in Sofia and some important agriculture areas. We hope that by the end of 2009 Bulgaria will ban MON801 too. Additionally to the current ban of several GM crops like tobacco, oil yielding rose, grapevines, wheat, all vegetables and fruits the situation in Bulgaria will be almost GMO free.
5 regions in Bulgaria have become GMO free, why only these and is it likely that others will follow soon?
AGROLINK visited many regions and talked with many local authorities, farmers and people. Almost all of them are against GMOs. Unfortunately many of the local administration think that they have no right and power to take decisions on GMOs. Everything should be decided by the national government. In Bulgaria the legislation does not give much power to the local administrations.
What is the general attitude of Bulgarian farmers to GM crops, has it changed recently?
Most of the farmers think mainly about their profit. What is needed is to give more information and knowledge about the real ‘profit' and ‘benefit' of GMOs. We have published many articles and interviews but only in the general media. Not one of specialized agriculture medias want to publish any critical publications on GMOs. The Head of Council to the Agricultural Minister is Professor Atanasov - previous Director of AgroBioinstitute, dealing with genetic engineering and contracting with Monsanto.
4.Green activists alarm on genetically modified foods
Focus Information Agency (Bulgaria), 14 May 2009
Sofia - Green activists from Blagoevgrad have approached the European Commission (EC) and EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection Meglena Kuneva to express their disagreement with the detected presence of genetically modified foods (GM foods) on the local market. Out of all the 272 foods put to the test, RIOKOZ found that in 19 the quantity of modified organisms exceeded the minimum of 0.9%. The majority of these 19% contained soy or soy components. Express Daily reports.
5.GMO sale to be permitted in Latvia, but not GMO production
The Baltic Course, 13 May 2009
The Supervisory Council for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) today approved GMOs for sale in Latvia, yet each GMO will have to be examined beforehand, but banned GMO production in Latvia.
Ten out of fourteen Supervisory Council for GMOs members voted for the proposal.
The council's decision will be included in the report on Latvia's position on GMOs, that will be handed in to the government by June 1, informs LETA.
Earlier this morning, about 20 people gathered at the Agriculture Ministry's building to protest against sale of GMOs in Latvia.
The organizers of the protest pointed out that more than 30,000 people said during a public opinion survey at the beginning of the year that they disapprove of the Agriculture Ministry's attempts to achieve that GMO sale and production be permitted in Latvia.
The GMO opponents believe that it is a matter of utmost importance, and any decisions regarding sale or production of GMOs in Latvia must be decided through a national referendum.
6.Hungarian farm minister meets with Spanish counterpart
MTI - Econews, May 11 2009 [shortened]
Hungarian Agriculture Minister Jozsef Graf met with his Spanish counterpart Elena Espinsoa Mangana in Budapest.
Graf said the talks were of special significance as Spain, and Belgium, will hold the rotating EU presidency in 2010, before Hungary takes it in the first half of 2011.
Graf thanked his Spanish counterpart for supporting Hungary in its endeavor to keep the country free of genetically modified crops.
GrÃ¡f said Hungary and Spain's trade balance in farm products is more or less balanced in spite of Spain's overall surplus. Spain's farm sector is much bigger than Hungary's, he explained.