Ukraine farmers flout curbs on GM crops

Ukraine farmers are breaching en masse a ban on growing genetically modified crops in the country, with more than 5m tonnes of corn and soybeans this year believed of biotech varieties.

Ukraine has, since 2007, curbed production, trade and use of genetically modified crops, and indeed keeps tabs on imports that may contain them, estimating the value of potentially tainted products in 2012 at $31.8m largely feed ingredients made from biotech oilseeds.

However, the country's agricultural industry is alive with rumours that Ukraine is far from GM free, with occasional tests of home-grown products showing positive for biotech traits.

"According to some industry experts, it is estimate that about 15% of corn and about 30% of soybeans produced in Ukraine are of GM origin," the US Department of Agriculture bureau in Kiev said.

That would be equivalent to about 4.4m tonnes of corn and 800,000 tonnes of soybeans, when applied to this year's harvests.

Legislative reform

The extent of the sowing of GM crops reflects in part historic use, with the bureau saying that "the spread of the GM crops in Ukraine has started before any restrictions were put in place".

For instance, a Monsanto variety of herbicide resistant, so-called Roundup ready, soybeans was temporarily permitted.

And the extent of their use is forcing policymakers to consider permitting the greater use of GM crops, a move aimed at boosting further Ukraine's emergence as an agricultural power, and increase a valuable source of export earnings.

Ukraine's agriculture ministry has drafted reforms allowing for the production and sale of soy beans grown from GM seed.

And, according to Mykola Prysyazhnyuk, the Ukraine agriculture minister, there are plans in place to do the same with corn.

'There is demand'

Such ideas have the support of agricultural industry groups, which, according to the bureau, believe that "it is apparent that there is demand for agricultural commodities that contain GMOs", genetically modified organisms.

"And as Ukraine is a strong world market supplier of agricultural products it shouldn't become an issue to find buyers for such products."

However, there is acknowledgment that Ukraine will need to maintain tight restrictions over what is permitted, to prevent the close of important markets such as China and the European Union.

China, while it does import some genetically modified crops requires them to be appropriately marked, and has limits on the varieties it allows.

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