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Russia: Full Ban on Food with GMOs

(July 1, 2016) On June 29, 2016, the Federation Council of the Russian Federation Federal Assembly (the upper chamber of the legislature) adopted the Federal Law on Amending Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in Regard to Improvement of State Control in the Field of Genetic Engineering. (Press Release, Federation Council, Ban on Growing and Production of Genetically Modified Organisms on Russian Territory Is Established (June 29, 2016) (in Russian); text of the Law and Legislative Information available at Bill No. 714809-6, State Duma website (last visited June 30, 2016).)

The new Law imposes a ban on food stuffs produced using genetically modified plants or animals. As stated in the new Law, the legislation “strengthens measures aimed at monitoring of all types of activities associated with GMOs, preventing release of GMOs into the environment, and ameliorating the consequences if such a release occurs.” (Law, art. 1(1).) Among the federal laws amended by the new Law are the Law on Seed Production and the Environmental Protection Law. Provisions prohibiting “any use of seeds derived from through genetic modification, including those that cannot reproduce or transfer inherited genetic material,” and “reproduction of animals whose genetic program has been changed by using genetic engineering methods” were added to these acts. The only exemption is made for experimental research work. (Id. arts. 2 & 3.)

The new ban, which received expressions of support and approval from the legislative assemblies of eight Russian provinces, will enter into force as soon as it is officially published. (Id.)

Registration of GMOs

New registration procedures for genetically engineered or modified organisms and for the issuance of permits for work in this field are established by the new Law. Violations of the newly introduced prohibitions will be punished with increased fines; federal and local officials of the agencies in charge of monitoring activities related to GMOs have the right to issue these fines. (Id. art. 4.)

The new restrictions extend to imported products and the Law provides for new registration requirements and procedures applicable to importers as well. Import of genetically modified organisms and products containing GMOs is not totally prohibited, but is subject to registration with the federal government. The Law expands the right of the executive government to prohibit the importing of GMOs and products containing GMOs into Russia because of the potential harmful impact of such products on humans or the environment. (Legislative Information, supra.)

Background

It appears that the Law was passed in line with the statement made in September 2015 by the Vice-Chairman of the Russian Federation Cabinet of Ministers that the Government intended to stop production of food with genetically modified elements. (State Duma Passed a Law Banning GMOs, NEWSRU.COM (June 24, 2016) (in Russian).) The current legislation had allowed the use of genetically modified seeds in agriculture and required special labeling of food that was produced with GMOs. (Federal Law on State Regulation in the Field of Genetic Engineering No. 86 of July 5, 1996, CONSULTANT.RU (in Russian).) Because the introduction of GMO registration procedures had been postponed until July 2017, however, there was a de facto moratorium on production of genetically modified food and punishment for violation of rules regulating GMO production was not foreseen. (State Duma Passed a Law Banning GMOs, supra.)

Advocates of the ban claim that implementation of this legislation will allow Russia to produce the cleanest agricultural products in the world (id.), while its opponents state that this ban favors the current Russian agricultural lobby, which is not interested in the development of new technologies and is afraid of competition in world markets. (Igor Iuriev, Agrarians Lost GMO, UTRO.RU (June 27, 2016)  (in Russian).)