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'Ten-year GMO ban sounds rather good idea' - expert

Russian scientists are calling for a 10-year moratorium on genetically modified food products (GMOs) to thoroughly study their influence on human health, stressing that such examinations are vital. The Voice of Russia talked to Alexei Alekseyenko – spokesperson at the Federal Service for Veterinary Surveillance.

Alexei, an interesting story – Russian scientists are saying that they want a ten-year ban in Russia on genetically modified products, which of course includes food. Why is this happening?

Because there strong scientifically based suspicions that it is not safe for the environment, as well as there are some concerns about the safety for human beings.

Can you give us some idea how unsafe it is? Are there diseases that might occur from GMOs?

No. You see, when we are talking about GMOs – we are talking about a great variety of different products with the different construction of genes. So, it is a too broad term – GMO – and in any given case we have to do separately – assess risks for the environment or for the safety of consumers.

The Vice President of the Russia’s National Association for Genetic Safety – she says that there should be a ten-year ban on GMOs because she believes that they are bad for human health. Some studies say that and what do you say?

I would say that ten-year ban sounds a rather good idea because in ten years we will see what will happen in other countries which use GMOs widely, like the US and some other countries.

Have you seen any of the information that would lead to anyone saying that there is a health problem with genetically modified food?

I would say that there are no real scientifically-based grounds to believe that GMOs in general are safe or not safe, because, first of all, there are different constructions of foreign genes and, as I said, we have to do with them separately in any given case. And also, because of the lack of really serious scientific investigations, especially on delayed consequences of GMOs application, both for consumers, health and environment. We know that at least there is a genes transfer between the same species of corns, it is scientifically proven. It is not clear which genetic constructions are safe or not safe, but that’s another story.

Irina Ermakova, who is the Vice President of the Russia’s National Association for Genetic Safety, says that apparently there is enough evidence to prove that consumption and use of GMOs can lead to tumors, cancers and obesity among animals.

It is possible, but I don’t have such scientific information. As a matter of fact, when genetic constructions are registered by competent authorities, they use the studies prepared by the companies which developed those constructions. So, it is not unbiased.

So, you are saying that studies that people sometimes quote, that GMOs are safe, are studies done by the companies who make the GMOs?

Exactly!

She is suggesting that Russia bans for ten years the importation of GMOs, do you think this might go through? Do you think the Government will go through with this?

It depends, of course, but I think there is a possibility.

Overall though, how does the Russian scientific community look at genetically modified food?

Differently in different scientific institutions. Some institutions do develop their own genetic constructions for scientific research purposes, but, again, there is no unified scientific opinion about the safety or non-safety of GMOs.

Is this a possibility that groups like Monsanto will not be able to sell either food or seeds in Russia?

I doubt it very much, because we have to assess the safety of those seeds first and it will take time. And we have to define which scientific methods would be the most appropriate in any given case.

Do you see this issue going to the Government? Will the Government actually make a ruling on this?

We will see. It is hard to say, but there is a possibility that the Government would listen to this proposal.

Okay, very good! We’ve been talking to Alexei Alekseyenko – spokesperson at the Federal Service for Veterinary Surveillance.