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17 May, 2014 11:31

Russian anti-GMO activists raise funds for ‘first-ever’ independent intl research

As Russian MPs ponder over a draft bill that could see GMOs outlawed, the country’s chief genetic safety activist tells RT she is skeptical about the legislative initiative and urges ‘long-overdue’ independent international research.

GMO production and distribution is likened to terrorism by the authors of a draft bill submitted to the Russian parliament earlier this week. It’s not the first comparison of the kind, according to Elena Sharoykina, director of the National Association for Genetic Safety (NAGS), a 10-year-old NGO in Moscow, Russia’s major campaigner for GM-free food and agriculture.

In an interview to RT, Sharoykina recalled a statement made by the NATO Committee on the Challenges to Modern Society in the Belgian city of Liege in 2004, in which it warned that GMOs may be used as a genetic weapon.

If serious international experts on security who have close ties with the scientific community say this is possible then there’s no smoke without fire,” Sharoykina said.

The NAGS director is still skeptical about the draft bill, as she sees no way in which the legislation could be enforced in practice, as it would be hard to prove a direct link between certain GMOs and health or environmental problems.

The activist however cites some disturbing experiment results, like the one NAGS conducted with the help of the A.N. Severtsev Institute of Ecology and Evolution in 2010.

We conducted an experiment on hamsters taken from the natural environment,” Sharoykina said. “We had a group that was given standard feed-stuff plus pure soy and another group which had their standard feed-stuff combined with GM soy. The animals which were eating GMO did not have their third generation born.”

Elena Sharoykina, director of the Genetic Safety Public Association (GSPA). Photo from vk.com/oagbru

The NAGS director confesses it was a modest, underfunded experiment and a more serious and comprehensive one is needed and is going to be conducted in Russia. The NGO has already enrolled a team of researchers from the US, France, the UK, China and Russia and will make sure the experiment will comply with all international standards. It’s also going to be available for everyone to follow online.

The NAGS is raising funds from as many sources as possible for the experiment to come up to the group’s claims – the first-ever independent international research on GMO.

Until results of this kind of experiment become available, Russia should abstain from opening its market to GMOs, despite economic losses the step might incur, the expert says.

How can we think about money when we’re talking about the health of our close ones?” Sharoykina asks. “Russia has huge territories and doesn’t need GM foods. Moreover, we have all the chances of dominating the clean, unmodified food market.

After entering the World Trade Organization, Russia was expected to allow GM foods production and distribution. However, in March Russia’s president said the country was able stay GM-free without violating its obligations to the WTO.

In April, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told MPs that Russia will not plant GM seeds for at least three more years due to delays in creating the necessary infrastructure. Earlier Russia had expected to allow planting such seeds from June 2014.