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GMO free initiatives in Russia

Russia owns around 80% of Pan-European biodiversity. But all this is rather difficult to conserve in situation when we have bureaucrats who are among most corrupted in the world and TNCs lobbying their interests intensively. In case of absence of publicly controlled ban on GMOs, there is a risk that you will never know where and how GMOs are grown and used. Several recent GMO information suits against responsible ministries that were won by NGOs but never had practical results demonstrated it.

In Russia many people just do not know what a GMO free zone means. At the same time according to different surveys more than 80% of them would not agree to eat and grow GMOs.
A potential for declaring GMO free regions in Russia is increased now as few municipal and regional authorities already expressed their willingness to do this.
There is a time for grassroots and other stakeholders to interfere decision-making process and to help GMO free regions (e.g. through referendums, parliament resolutions, etc.) idea to become a reality.

In December 2005 Moscow Government in cooperation with NGOs first time came up with the initiative to declare Moscow GMO free zone and remain GMO free even if commercial growing of GMOs is authorised by Federal Environmental Assessment Commission. But unfortunately this initiative did not yet come into life. In April 2006 CIS Biosafety Alliance addressed an open letter to Moscow Governor and asked him to declare the city a GMO free zone.

On the 15th of May 2006, Yuriy Luzhkov, a Governor of Moscow has signed an order to elaborate a law prohibiting usage of GMOs in meals for schools and kindergartens. In the document it is also said that food labeling regulation must be strictly implemented and that Moscow government stands for its tightening.
Although labeling of GM food products is mandatory in Russia, right now according to various sources more than 30% of products with soy in Moscow have GMOs ingredients and practically none of them is labeled. But food manufacturers prefer to pay a small penalty than to implement the law. The general Governer in 2006 expressed his willingness to declare Moscow GMO free zone in respond to public pressure.

There are also initiatives in several regions to claim GMO-free zones on local level. Such efforts take place in Belgorod (Central European Russia), Volgograd (South), Ulyanovsk, Yekaterinburg, Kostroma, Ryazan. In some of them meetings with stakeholders were already held. On the 24th of June, 2004, the Government of Belgorod region (near the Ukranian border) adopted a Decree on Measures to Prevent GMO Distribution (which is in fact a GMO free decree). It contains a ban to use GMOs in food products sold in region, preventive ban for growing of GM-crops, order to create a special commission responsible for implementation of all measures aimed to prevent GMO distribution and recommendations on the enhancement of test facilities (including introduction of regular lab inspection).

By Declaration of a GMO free zone in Russian regions NGOs mean the
- to put a moratorium for growing of GMOs;
- to provide implementation of labelling law and to introduce higher
penalties for violation;
- to ban the use of GMOs in babyfood

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