by Theodora Filis
A bill to introduce compulsory registration of all products containing genetically modified-components is in the final stages of adoption by the Russian parliament.
Following an explosive French study suggesting a link between Monsanto’s controversial genetically engineered (GMO) corn and cancer, Russian authorities have suspended all imports and use of the US biotech GMO product until further safety testing can be performed.
Officials worldwide are also investigating the matter.
Researchers in France released the results of their two-year study, published in The Food & Chemical Toxicology Journal. According to the scientists, both the genetically engineered corn and the herbicide Roundup were linked to early death, massive organ failure, tumor growth, and other serious health problems.
US analysts and Monsanto have downplayed the significance of the Russian government’s decision, claiming that it would not have a large effect on the firm’s business. Among the reasons cited: the government already prohibits farmers from planting GMOs and Russia imports very little corn from the United States anyway. Russia’s consumer-protection agency, known as Rospotrebnadzor, said it had ordered the country’s Institute of Nutrition to investigate the recent French university study.
The regulatory agency has also reportedly asked the European Union for its views as the European Food Safety Authority vowed to review the research."Until we receive the full information, in this case, the import and sale of genetically modified NK603 corn are being temporarily suspended," the Russian agency said in a statement posted on its website.
"If we begin to register GMO - then it won’t be long before we start to grow it on an extensive basis. And, are GMO’s safe? This question can be compared to "Is there life on Mars?" We can, of course, adopt this law and start growing GMO’s all over the country, but after that, there will be no going back," Elena Sharoykina, Director of the National Association for Genetic Security claim.
Even before Russia’s temporary ban was announced, Monsanto was already under attack in California and Europe. Critics have accused Monsanto and the biotech industry as a whole of attempting to quash any scientific data that casts doubts on the safety and efficacy of genetic engineering, saying the whole sector relies instead on lobbying and US Government support as the cornerstone of its business plan.
Despite the growing pressure on both sides of the Atlantic, Monsanto is still doing very well as a company. Its share price is up by 30% year-to-date, and more than a few analysts have advertised the stock as a bargain. Supporters also believe that genetic engineering might one day help to feed the world by making crops more resistant to droughts or pests.
Documents released by WikiLeaks also confirmed that the company has a relentless ally in the US government, which even tried to threaten other nations into approving GMOs. Top Monsanto officials also have what critics refer to as a revolving door with the federal government — allowing executives to move back and forth between regulatory agencies and the private sector at will.
However, even considering the power of the US government, fear and opposition to GMOs are building even in the United States, where most of the corn planted today is genetically engineered. According to analysts, the entire corn industry could collapse if the trend continues. Activists are currently trying to orchestrate a boycott of companies opposed to labeling as a precursor to bringing down the whole biotech industry.
"Why is this GMO labeling fight so important? Once GMOs are labeled in California, it will bring a cascade effect in other states as well, since most national companies won't create two labeling schemes, one for California and one for the rest of the country," said the Alliance for Natural Health, one of the groups leading the boycott effort.
Once products containing GMOs are labeled, people will stop buying them — and this economic pressure will be enough to force GMOs off the market...