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  Monday, October 21, 2019
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Genetically modified foods is no go in Russia
The Russian Association of Genetic Safety and representatives of more than 30 Russian public, political and scientific organizations sent an open letter to President Vladimir Putin. "Our appeal is motivated by the growing threat to Russia's biological security," the letter reads. "Russia's consumer market is saturated with transgenic foods, whose safety has not been proven, because of gaps in Russian legislation and the lack of effective regulation of genetically modified organisms," the letter reads. On June 1, Russia introduced the European Union's standards for labeling genetically modified foods. In line with this standard food consisting of more than 0.9% genetically modified organisms is labeled, instead of the previous 5% standard. The letters reads, "traditional ecologically pure Russian foods are being replaced by imported genetically modified foods." Alexei Yablokov, president of the Russian Environmental Policy Center, one of the authors of the letter, said he was certain that there was no need to cultivate genetically modified plants and that their impressive productivity is nothing but a myth. At the same time, genetically modified crops can reduce the biological diversity of plant and animal kingdoms. "We need restrict the use of transgenic crops," Yablokov said. "All of the risks associated with genetically modified organisms stem from the technology used to produce them," Vladimir Kuznetsov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Plant Physiology Institute, said. "Scientists, who obtain transgenic plants, do not know the exact location of the alien gene or the repercussions of the process. Genetically modified organisms are dangerous because they are unpredictable and testing their safety for humans is difficult because several generations of people must be tested." Moreover, Russia has very few laboratories for this type of testing. Russia has a tremendous potential for cultivating genetically safe foods, the authors noted. "The use of genetically modified crops in Russia would lead to the destruction of the best traditional crop varieties, which guarantee harvests in adverse weather conditions, and the destruction of the achievements of many generations of Russian plant breeders," the letter reads. "Agrarian production might find itself completely dependent on international corporations." The letter's authors asked President Putin to put "a moratorium on commercial cultivation of genetically modified foods until independent experts confirm that they are safe for humans and the environment," and for Russia to pass the law "On Biological Security." "The government must react to this new threat," Olga Razbash, an administrator at the Russian Regional Environmental Protection Center, and one of the letter's authors said. However, quite a few Russian experts are in favor of genetically modified crops and are certain that biological perfection has no limits. "The Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences has over ten institutes researching this problem," the academy's vice president, Leo Ernst, said. "We have obtained dozens of transgenic plants, and transgenic rabbits, sheep, quails and several fish species. Transgenic pigs with enhanced growth hormones provide leaner meat and are less prone to infections. We have studied eight generations of them, however we still are unable to explain this effect. No one has died after eating their meat." "In the Russian Federation," Konstantin Skryabin, a full time member of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Bioengineering Center, said, "no genetically modified plants are used commercially and in my opinion this is an economic disaster." "Since the 1980s, thousands of experiments have been conducted in the world," Minkail Gaparov, deputy director of the R&D Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, said. "The safety of transgenic foods has been proven. The Health and Social Development Ministry authorized their cultivation. We regulate genetically modified foods and the doctors are happy. The law "On State Regulation of Genetic Engineering" was passed in 1996." Nonetheless, consumers remain unconvinced. According to sociologists, 59% of Europeans think genetically modified plants are harmful to humans and it appears that a similar survey in Russia would produce similar results.
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