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Genetically engineered soybean cultivation in Romania: Out of control

Dokument - 11 januari, 2006

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Executive summary: 1 Executive Summary On 1st January 2007, Romania expects to join the European Union. However conflicts of approach over genetically engineered (GE), also called genetically modified (GM) crops may overshadow smooth accession. Romania is the “El Dorado” for GM crops and the GE industry in Europe. It is the only country in Europe allowing commercial growing of GE Soya, the Roundup Ready (RR) GE Soya produced by the U.S. companies, Monsanto and Pioneer. The Romanian legislation on GMOs is very weak and far away from implementing all existing EU-standards. The responsible authorities have no means to implement the existing laws, as there are no inspectors to make controls, and not a single certified laboratory to do scientific analysis. Romania has the largest area of land cultivated with GE crops in Europe. 136,380 hectares of Soya was planted in 2005, out of which only 85,000 ha is officially registered to be GE Soya. However, according to farmers’ associations and even the ex-country manager of Monsanto in Romania and Limagrain, in reality the GE Soya is up to 90% of the total surface cultivated with soya varieties - and nobody in Romania has control of the situation. In August 2005, Greenpeace did research on the illegal planting of GE Soya in Romania and the results proved that Romania is being invaded by GMOs without any control. With scientific PCR analysis done at Umweltbundesamt , Vienna, Austria, as accredited laboratory to analyze GMOs according to the international standards it was proven that indeed unrecorded cultivation and contamination with GE soya is happening all over Romania. There are registers with declarations from farmers growing GE Soya at county level and centralized at the Ministry of Agriculture, but nobody is controlling them. The findings of unrecorded fields of GE Soya follow previous Greenpeace discoveries of illegal growing of GE insect resistant potatoes at the Research and Development Centre for Potatoes in Tîrgu-Secuiesc . Illegal experiments with GE plum trees have also been found at the Research Station for Trees in Bistrita . In both cases, the Ministry of the Environment had given no authorisation. Interviews with local farmers showed that they were willing to sell farm-saved GE Soya seed and that a black market in undeclared growing has developed. For example, one farmer had not declared any of the 500 ha of GE Soya he was actually growing. In an interview with Greenpeace, Dragos Dima, former country manager for Monsanto Romania and Limagrain said: “The acreage of GE soybeans it is probably about 100,000 or 110,000 hectares – out of which only 30,000 to 35,000 are planted with certified seeds. The rest is planted with uncertified seeds, which means that the farmer is saving and replanting seeds the next season. This will lead to a lack of traceability, a lack of information, and the possibility that the products processed out of soybeans cannot be labelled.” Other leading Romanian farmers interviewed agreed that GE Soya cultivation is much more extensive than the Government knows about. Mr. Ion Toncea, President of the National Federation for Organic Farming in Romania (FNAE) states that “the area cultivated with GE Soya is around 70 % of the total area cultivated with Soya.” Mr Bogdan Soare, a former farmer from “AGRO Industriala” Movila in Ialomita County, which was cultivating GE Soya on about 800 ha in 2004, said “after six years from the introduction of the RR Soya for commercial growing in Romania, this crop has replaced almost 100% organic or conventional seeds, as the farmers keep the GE seeds to be planted the next year and to sell it as uncertified seed. The legislation lacks in implementation, so the farmers are in habit to keep and sell GE uncertified seeds”. Greenpeace’s investigations reveal that two key factors have led to the situation where GE crops are dangerously out of control in Romania: · A weak and poorly enforced regulatory system – there is not a single laboratory certified to international standards in Romania to make the scientific tests for GE crops. · Promotion of GE for Romanian agriculture by the National Government, USA and biotech corporations – all of whom have promoted conditions for GE crops, which favour weak safety regulations but strong controls on farmers to restrict seed saving. The negative consequences that are likely to arise from the continued use of GE crops in Romania include: · Contamination of organic and non-GE crops leading to economic losses for these farmers if they cannot sell their products. Organic standards do not allow GE crops or products to be used. · Problems for neighbouring countries if illegal GE varieties reach them via Romania. Serbia and Hungary have both said that Romania is contaminating their GE-free crops as a result of smuggling. · Loss of markets for farmers if GE crops cannot be sold because of the market rejection in the rest of Europe. · Increased costs and control by agro-biotech companies through systems to restrict seed saving and tie together chemical and seed sales. · Damage to the environment through harmful effects on the sensitive Romanian flora of the broad-spectrum weed killers used with many GE crops. The potential for eco-tourism and the livelihoods of increasing numbers of organic farmers may be harmed. Another serious problem identified relates to Romania’s accession to the EU and the conditions that will have to be fulfilled in relation to traceability, labelling and marketing approval. · Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GE Soya is not approved for growing in the EU · The absence of control measures, include testing and labelling systems, means that Romania may be unable to harmonize with the EU because of this, and its agricultural exports may be banned from EU markets altogether · Romania’s GE crops and food may also be excluded from the domestic market due to EU harmonization requirements for identity and labelling. The absence of controls will mean Romania is simply not trusted as a supply source. Greenpeace believes that for the long term run, the best alternative for Romanian agriculture would be organic farming, which is less damaging to the environment and presents market opportunities for Romanian farmers. If Romania intends to stay in the race for EU accession in 2007, Greenpeace believes it has to meet the demands of the EU market by taking the following steps: 1. Planting of Roundup Ready Soya must be stopped immediately, to stop uncontrolled dispersal into the environment and food chain. 2. A labelling system that requires traceability of all seeds or commodities that are GMOs or contain their derivatives must be put in place in 2006. 3. The Government must provide support for organic farming, by stimulating demand for organic food through education, public procurement policies and by providing economic incentives.

Num. pages: 17