Russians reject GM foods (30/5/2005)

Russians reject GM foods

30/05/2005 - Two thirds of Russians are against genetically modified foods and the majority of experts support a ban on GM crops as the government prepares new production laws, reports Chris Mercer.

Only one in every three Russians had heard of GM products yet 95 per cent of those who were aware of GM said they were strongly against it or seriously concerned, according to new research by VCIOM, Russia's largest public opinion research body.

The most serious concern was about baby food, with around 90 per cent of those who had heard of GM foods supporting a moratorium on such products in Russia.

A further survey of 'experts', including state employees, doctors, farmers and supermarket managers found 76 per cent support for a ban on GM crop production in Russia, until the impact on human health and the environment is clearer.

The poll included 1,567 people from 100 cities and towns across 40 regions. It was sponsored by environmental action group Greenpeace.

The new research confirms that the anti-GM feeling that has taken hold of many other European countries, has also spread to Russia.

And the study comes at a particularly pertinent time for food producers in view of Russia's new labelling laws, introduced in January this year, which state that any product prepared with GM materials must mention this on the label.

Wide public scepticism of GM products in Russia gives an advantage to natural ingredients suppliers like Chr Hansen and reinforces the trend towards high quality, natural products among Russia's more affluent city dwellers.

The Russian government is also considering new regulations on the production of GM foods.

"In 2005 a legislative base is going to be developed. It will regulate production and use of GM food products, baby food production and GM crop production in Russia," said Natalya Olefirenko, Greenpeace Russia GE campaign coordinator.

At present, GM soy, maize, potato, white beet and rice are allowed in Russia.

But, the public debate over their safety is escalating and last week, Greenpeace protested outside the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

It accused the institute of withholding information on the safety of GM food from the public, despite a district court ruling that such information must be released.

Last year, Moscow's biggest producer of baked goods, Kolomenskoe, pledged to tighten GM testing to ensure all products were free of GM ingredients. The firm said its consumer research showed 80 per cent of people did not want to buy food containing GM ingredients.


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