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Russian scientists have called for tougher control over the use of transgenic organisms
Russian scientists have called for tougher control over the use of transgenic organisms, emphasizing that the effect of such organisms on the human system remains unclear. "There's a need for serious legislative regulation of the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," Mikhail Sokolov, of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, pointed out at a panel discussion Thursday. Most of the GMOs found in Russia are of foreign origin. Among the most widespread genetically modified crops are soybeans, potatoes, maize, beetroots, and colza. One million tons of genetically modified maize and half a million tons of soybeans are shipped into this country every year. Genetically modified tomatoes, zucchinis, and melons find their way in, as well. Overall, the amount of GMO foods imported by Russia has grown 100-fold in the past three years, scientists say. But, according to Sokolov, the long-term effect of GMOs on the human body has not been thoroughly explored yet. Some studies suggest that such foods may cause allergy and mutation. GMOs are extremely dangerous for all life forms, although their negative impact may or may not be immediately apparent, contends ecologist Alexei Yablokov, President of the Russian Center for Environmental Policies. Yablokov's point could be corroborated by findings of a three-year study conducted by the British Ministry of Agriculture. This study shows that biodiversity of areas in the immediate vicinity of fields planted with genetically modified crops has decreased 30 percent. Small wonder, then, that so many members of the research community should support the GMO moratorium imposed by the European Union in 1998. One other indicative fact is a statement made by the NATO Committee on the Challenges to Modern Society in the Belgian city of Liege last year, in which it warned of the danger of genetic terrorism. GMOs may well be used asa genetic weapon, committee experts warned. Last October, Russia's National Association of Genetic Security and representatives of over 30 public, political and scientific organizations signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, calling his attention to the mounting threat posed by GMOs to the nation's biological security. Genetically modified foods have been pouring into the Russian market in alarmingly large numbers lately, taking advantage of regulatory lacunas and the lack of control over transgenic products, the letter said. On June 1, 2004, Russia officially adopted European standards for marking foods with genetically modified ingredients. Products where such ingredients account for more than 0.9 percent shall now be marked as GMOs, against the previous bottom limit of 5 percent. More often than not now, however, these standards are ignored. "Natural produce typical of Russia is being replaced with genetically modified imports," the activists point out in their open letter. In the meantime, sociological surveys indicate that 75 percent of the Russians would not want transgenic foods in their diets.
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