Russia to start labelling GM foods

The global debate about the safety of genetically modified food shows no signs of cooling off. In July Moscow will introduce a voluntary food labelling scheme to show which products contain GM ingredients.

A similar scheme is already in place in the EU, while across the Atlantic there are no label requirements on GM foods.

Europe has been battling the World Trade Organization after the U.S., Canada and Argentina made it clear they think the EU's restrictions on GM imports are illegal.

Many Europeans don't want GM foods at all, while the U.S. is the largest exporter of such products and banning them can be bad for business.

The world has been waiting to see which side Russia would take.

'In Russia a considerable majority of the scientific community is closer to the position of the EU, even more cautious. The current legislation is quite strict on GM imports. The public and scientists are rather concerned about GM foods. While major companies are interested in importing GM products. Nevertheless, the legislation is expected to change while being cautious about GM foods,' Aleksandr Ishkov, the Director of State Environmental Protection Policy Department, said.

On July 1 Moscow will introduce a voluntary system of food labels indicating that a product does not contain genetically modified ingredients, which, as some biologists believe, can have a negative effect on the gene pool and reduce biological diversity. Scientists don't know what effect they will have in the long term on the human's body.

'The amount of scientific facts is increasing and it shows the negative impact of GM foods not only on the environment and ecology but on mammals. And the number of people against GM foods is growing around the world,' Aleksandr Baranov, the President of the National Genetic Security Association, stated.

Meanwhile, imports of GM foods to Russia have increased more than 100 times in the last couple of years

According to the law, products that contain more than 0.9 % GM ingredients must be labeled, but this rule is often ignored. As Greenpeace Russia claims, in most regions of the country GM products account for 10-20% of the market and in some cities – up to 50%.

The idea of creating GM free zones is on the table in several major Russian regions.

According to polls, 95% of Russians who have heard of GM foods say they wouldn't buy them if they were labelled as such.