President Vladimir Putin’s government policies are wrong on many fronts, but when it comes to the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the country is spot on. In addition to wanting to ban the production of GMOs in the country, Russia intends to become the largest exporter of non-GMO foods in the world.
According to official statistics, the share in GMOs in the Russian food industry has declined from 12 percent to a mere 0.01 percent in the last ten years. Currently, there are only 57 registered food products containing GMOs in the country. A law for the obligatory state registration of GM products that might impact the environment will come into effect mid-2017.(1)
In a speech made to Russian Parliament in early December, President Vladimir Putin announced his plan for Russia to become the world’s biggest exporter of “ecologically clean and high-quality food.” He then went on to criticize the production of GMOs in the West in light of the exponential demand for organic food in recent years.(1)
“We are not only able to feed ourselves taking into account our lands, water resources — Russia is able to become the largest world supplier of healthy, ecologically clean and high-quality food which the Western producers have long lost, especially given the fact that demand for such products in the world market is steadily growing,” Putin said.(1)
The Russian president also noted that in the last decade, the country has transitioned from importing half of its foods to becoming a net exporter; meaning, the value of its exported goods has become higher than the value of its imported goods. The president even stated that Russia now makes more money selling food than it does selling fuel and weapons.
“Ten years ago, we imported almost half of the food from abroad, and were dependent on imports. Now Russia is among the exporters. Last year, Russian exports of agricultural products amounted to almost $20 billion — a quarter more than the revenue from the sale of arms, or one-third the revenue coming from gas exports,” he said.(1)
Putin also said that he wants Russia to be completely self-sufficient in terms of food products in less than five years. He proposed officials confiscate unused farmland and sell it to owners disposed to tilt it. “By 2020, Russia must provide itself with all food,” he said. “We need to cultivate the millions of acres now idle.”
Russia has a solid track record against GMOs. In September, Russia announced its plan to ban GMOs from its food production. And in 2012, the country banned imports of Monsanto’s corn after a French study discovered a link between GM products and tumors in rats.(1)
The study found that up to 50 percent of male and 70 percent of female rats suffered from premature death. The rats drank trace amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide at levels permitted in public drinking water. The animals experienced a 200 to 300 percent increase in tumor size.(2)
“As far as genetically-modified organisms are concerned, we have made the decision not to use any GMO in food productions,” Russia’s Deputy PM Arkady Dvorkovich declared at an international conference on biotechnology in the city of Kirov.(1)
Furthermore, the rats that were fed GM corn with trace amounts of Roundup suffered severe organ damage, including liver and kidney complications. The corn fed to the rats was of the same variety as that used in corn-based breakfast cereals, corn tortillas and corn snack chips. The study was later retracted.(2)
“If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” said Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia.(1)