New Biosafety Law in Ukraine: Effort to Regulate or to Legalize GMOs?
On June 15 President of Ukraine Victor Yuschenko signed national law “On state biosafety system of creation, trials, transportation and use of GMOs”.
Although the adoption of this long awaited biosafety law is welcome by Ukrainian greens there are many gaps in this document. The law is in fact a combination of the proposals of greens’ and lobbyists’ variant which were previously discussed in Ukrainian parliament in the beginning of this century.
CIS Alliance for Biosafety asked Olexiy Angurets, one of the leaders of Zelenyi Svit/FoE Ukraine (member of the CIS Alliance for Biosafety) and coordinator of biosafety working group of the Northern Alliance for Sustainability (ANPED) to comment the situation. Olexiy Angurets compared Ukrainian law with Biosafety Law of Moldova, which is recognized as the best one in CIS.
According to Olexiy, one of the weak points of the law is a definition of biological safety, which is not very much clear and does not fully correspond with the purposes of law. Main gap of the law is that it does not involve establishing one institution responsible for providing safety of creation, trials, registration, transport, use and utilization of GMOs. As a result it can lead to the situation of splitted responsibility and holes in biosafety systems. This law also does not provide any registration procedure for GMOs.
No GMO threshold for food products is set; no labelling requirements are outlined (although mandatory labelling of GM-food is provided by the Consumer Law). Protected Natural Areas and zones of genetic safety for them are not mentioned either.
Olexiy is sure that a lot still depends on bylaws to be elaborated in nearest future. This law is more framework than workable regulation.
He notices that after adoption of this law Ukraine should not further suspend ratification of the Amendments on decisions on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms to the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.
Some other observers believe there are no grounds for optimism, because most probably so quick adoption of this law after 6 (!) years since its first reading in parliament is nothing but an effort to legalize GMOs in Ukraine. This country is in the process of WTO accession and in year 2006 it has signed a bilateral agreement with USA. Unfortunately, the full text of this treatment is not available yet, but so called ‘trade summary’ published on the site of US trade representative office, says the following:
“Ukraine’s biotechnology approval process has been inoperative for some time. This has resulted in unpredictable sales conditions for corn products, soybeans and meal. The United States is working with Ukraine to establish procedures regarding biotechnology that are based on
modern, science-based risk assessment principles and guidelines, including those of the WTO SPS and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreements, the Codex Alimentarius, and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)”.
The situation looks very similar to Russian, the only difference is that Russia signed with USA a separate “Side letter on biotechnology” and thus welcome the US to participate in the creation of its biosafety regulation (for further information you can look here.