Written by Ramona Duminicioiu, Agrobiodiversity Campaign Coordinator for Eco Ruralis
Late last year, Greenpeace uncovered the existence of genetically modified (GM) soy crops, illegally cultivated in the Botosani region of Romania. In reply, the authorities denied the facts, claiming that their subsequent tests don’t prove the GM argument.
“Investigations conducted by Greenpeace Romania team, show the existence of genetically modified soy crops in Romania, although this is prohibited in the European Union, and in Romania, since the accession to the European Union in 2007”, explains Greenpeace.
Following some calls made by locals from Botosani region, representatives of Greenpeace Romania started to investigate soy crops in the area. They performed genetic tests in fields and also obtained laboratory tests results from an accredited laboratory in Austria (Umweltbundesamt GmbH, Vienna). They published the proof (1, 2, 3, 4) and presented to the authorities all the analysis confirming the presence of genetically modified soy in Botosani. In addition, Greenpeace asked the responsible authorities to identify the owners of the crops and to take all necessary measures.
Regional authorities responded to a public call made by Greenpeace and went to the location where the GM soy was found. The regional inspectors were not properly equipped to perform field tests and instead, they promised that they will continue the investigations, by taking new samples and ordering further laboratory tests at national level.
Recently, the Direction for Agriculture from Botosani made media statements, declaring that test results coming from the Romanian Reference Laboratory for GMOs – IDSA, show that the soy was not GM. The test results were not made public. Also the identity of the farmers who owned the suspect soy crops, were not made public.
In response to this, Greenpeace published an open letter, showing their distrust in the way the tests were performed by the Romanian authorities.
Greenpeace requested a series of measures to be undertaken by national and regional authorities: a) to apply sanctions to the farmers who violated the law by cultivating GM soy; b) further field and market inspections; c) provision of logistics for the national competent laboratory; d) better training and equipment for field inspectors; e) a moratorium on GMO imports and cultivation.
Romania has the longest history in Europe, regarding cultivation of GMOs.
The first GM commercial crop was authorized in Romania in 1998. It was the GM soy (GTS 40-3-2), Round Up resistant and owned by Monsanto. Due to the lack of specific legislation this GM soy was officially registered as conventional soy. In 2001, the first GMO legislation started to take shape but only in 2006 the first national GMO registry ( note: link opens zip folder) was organized and published.
Romania cultivated GM soy for 4 years (1998-2001) without even being registered as GM and for a total of 8 years (1998-2005) without monitoring. The Romanian Government has no record of the surfaces cultivated with GM soy, before 2004. But official figures approximate that in 2004, Romania cultivated 5 523 hectares and in 2005 – 87 600 hectares of GM soy.
Finally, the National GMO Registry from 2006 reveals the existence of 137 275,5 ha of GM soy, being cultivated that year. According to that Registry, Botosani was a top GMO region, with 3059 hectares cultivated by 123 farmers.
The national legislation allows farmers to save and re-cultivate the GM seeds. The GMO Registry from 2006 shows that many of the farmers from Botosani, saved and re-cultivated GMO soy seeds. This is certainly violating the copyright imposed by corporations like Monsanto. Unless it benefits them that Romania becomes a Trojan horse, smuggling GM soy thorough the back door, into the EU.
Romania’s governmental support for GMOs is well documented. The last two ministers of Agriculture, Valeriu Tabara and Stelian Fuia had contractual relations with Monsanto.
When Romania became an EU member state, in 2007, the cultivation of GM soy in Romanian territory was officially banned, in the sense that Romania agreed to only cultivate the GMOs authorized in the EU. The GM soy was not authorized for cultivation on EU territory, being considered economically unfeasible. But the public doesn’t trust that the authorities made real efforts to eliminate the GM soy from fields in Romania.
Would this be a case for the EU Commission to take Romania to court? The EC Directive 2001/18 clearly states that Member States are responsible with GMO monitoring, environmental risk assessments, evaluation of the socioeconomic impact, consultation of the public and reporting to the Commission.
We must also keep in mind how the EU Parliament’s vote on national GMO bans may decrease or increase the amount of illegal GM soy cultivated in Romania. That vote would have a huge impact on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Further investigations and the vigilance of the civil society are absolutely necessary.
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