From: Amana Ferro
ROMANIA: GM SOY TO BE BANNED
by Vesna Peric Zimonjic
BELGRADE (IPS) - Environmentalists in Romania have secured a victory in getting
genetically modified (GM) soy finally banned.
"Romania was the biggest producer of GM (genetically modified) soy in Europe
after it began growing it without any control a decade ago," Greenpeace
coordinator Gabriel Paun told IPS on phone from Bucharest. "This is to be
stopped by January, which is another victory for us." Romania, together with
neighbouring Bulgaria, is joining the European Union (EU) Jan. 1. It had
therefore to comply with strict regulation dealing with GM organisms, unwelcome
by most environmentally conscious nations.
GM crops crept into the country a decade ago, bringing at least 130,000
hectares under modified soybean cultivation. Environmentalists rank Romania
11th among producers of GM crops. Unrestrained production of GM crops has
endangered prospects of agriculture exports. Such agricultural produce, often
described as "contaminated", cannot reach strictly regulated markets. "This
victory (on ban on GM soy planting) represents a great challenge for us," Paun
said. "We plan to broaden the action to other EU countries such as Austria,
Greece and Poland."
Cultivation of GM soy in Romania included 25,000 hectares in the area of the
Danube Delta, one of the largest wetlands on the planet. This area is home to
at least 1,689 plant species and 3,448 species of fauna, in a unique "natural
museum" of biodiversity. GM crops, or "genetically modified organisms (GMOs)"
as many experts like to call them, went into mass cultivation about ten years
ago. They were at first regarded as a salvation to feed the poor. Due to
laboratory-implanted characteristics at the genetic level, they gave
unexpectedly high yields, were immune to the usual plant diseases, and needed
little care in general.
What was little known at first was that GMOs tend to make land infertile, and
"It's unclear if GM crops are a danger by themselves, but they release certain
substances that stimulate growth of undesired micro-organisms," expert on GM
crops Mirjana Nikolic told IPS. "Due to the presence of those micro-organisms,
the land can become infertile after one season in some cases." Nikolic took
part in a large operation two years ago to discover fields in Serbia where
smuggled GM soybeans had been planted. The operation involved police action and
led to the burning down of plants on 1,000 hectares in the northern province
Vojvodina. It was established then that the GM seeds had been smuggled from
Romanian environmentalists say the most popular GM crops in the region for some
time have been soybeans and maize, and also genetically modified plum trees. In
August this year Greenpeace uncovered illegal experiments in plantation of such
plum trees at a research and development centre in Bistrita in Romania. "These
new findings once more revealed that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are
totally out of control in Romania and that the research stations in Romania are
playing grounds for the industry," Paun said.
The plantations were destroyed, and no licence for further work was approved to
project leaders, he said. GM plum trees pose a serious risk to human health
because they contain a gene that is resistant to antibiotics. Romania began
some action against GM soy in February this year. It ordered cuts in the
production of GM herbicide resistant soybeans, of which the EU does not
approve, and introduced a monitoring and control system for GM crops. But many
farmers prefer genetically engineered crops, because they mean no more fighting
with weeds or bugs. Cultivation of resistant crops eases the job of combating
pests of all kinds.
A black market in GM seeds was flourishing in Romania for years "but things are
to be improved now," Paun said.
Environmentalist Dragos Dima recently told Romanian media that it will take
many years to "put the agricultural house in order." Dima said "the country
will have to decontaminate itself from unapproved GM varieties and put in place
working systems on the release of GM organisms and on food labelling." Romania,
he said, may become a test case "whether GM crop-plant decontamination is
possible at all."
The complete ban now on production of GM crops is a victory for campaigners.
This decision follows the victory of Romanian environmentalists, local
Greenpeace among them, in securing suspension of construction of the
controversial Road 66a earlier this month. The road would gravely endanger the
untouched nature reserves of Retezat and Domogled parks.
"Let me know, that at least, she will try
Then she'll be a true love of mine"
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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