Meat imports from Ukraine and the EU are banned under Russia’s food embargo, so GMO restrictions for these countries apply only to compound feed products. However, Belarus, the largest supplier of meat to Russia within the Eurasia Economic Union has had to impose self-restrictions since the beginning of July, according to Russia’s deputy minister of agriculture Alexander Subbotin.
“Imports into Russia of products of animal origin from several Belarus companies have been temporarily suspended, due to non-compliance with [Russian] quality standards,” Subbotin stated in a letter to Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor. He added that Belarus had agreed with Russia’s complaints and had initiated an internal investigation to identify the factors that had resulted in the supply of low-quality products.
Earlier, Rosselkhoznadzor had raised concerns over GMO in compound feeds and meat from Belarus. The two countries have a free trade zone within the Eurasia Economic Union.
Full ban on imports
On 15 June, Rosselkhoznadzor banned imports of feed from Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and France, after identifying GM components in several shipments. On 22 June, similar restrictions were introduced against Ukraine feed producer Katerinopolsky Elevator as, according to the Russian veterinary watchdog, it had also been found supplying GM feed to Russia.
These decisions have been followed by a new law, effective from 4 July and signed by Vladimir Putin, implementing a full ban on imports of compound feed products containing GM ingredients for livestock, as well as GM animals. The only exception has been made for imports of goods destined for scientific research.
Several market participants have supported new law, claiming it will bring more order to the market, where GM feed has been present for quite some time.
No sourcing guarentees
“For a long time Russian farms opposed the use of GMOs, including their use for growing feed crops,” said Olga Bashmachnikova, deputy director of the Association of Farms and Agricultural Cooperatives in Russia. “However, before the ban we were unable to track the appearance of GM products on the market. Many suppliers of seeds to Russia’s domestic market are large multinational corporations which use GMOs. Even if they write on the label that the seeds are GMO-free, we do not have any guarantee that this is actually true.”
Meanwhile, it is believed the new law will be followed by further legislation aimed at tightening import controls and the use of any GM products.
According to Peter Sevostianov, professor of biology and member of the Russian Academy of Science, with the new law Russia is seeking to ban imports of meat from animals raised with the use of GM feed, but so far the country has no equipment to test if livestock has been raised on a GMO-free diet. With that in mind, he said, it was difficult to understand where a decision on the presence of GMO in Belarus meat had come from.