UPDATED: GMO draft law: Lawmakers heard Ukrainian farmers

UPDATED: GMO draft law: Lawmakers heard Ukrainian farmers

Regulatory rules have been adjusted

UPDATED: GMO draft law: Lawmakers heard Ukrainian farmers
Photo: depositphotos.com

At the end of last year, the Verkhovna Rada considered and passed in the first reading Draft Law No. 5839. This document defines the legal and organisational framework for state regulation of genetic engineering activities in Ukraine, state supervision over the use of genetically modified organisms and the circulation of genetically modified products. The document is part of the obligations the state assumes under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement as a candidate for accession to the European Union. The draft law was registered in the parliament in the summer of 2021, after which it was not considered. The return to its consideration on an urgent basis is due to the plan of legislative work within the framework of European integration. However, Ukrainian farmers appealed to lawmakers to take their time and finalise the draft law.

The day before, during a roundtable discussion with representatives of the agrarian community, the authors of the draft law listened to the wishes of the latter. They made appropriate adjustments to the draft document for the second reading.

Siuzana Grygorenko, Executive Director of the Seed Association of Ukraine, and Oksana Prosolenko, Executive Director of the Donau Soja Organization in Ukraine, have told Mind how the document will affect the agricultural sector.

Number and date of registration: No. 5839 dated 05.08.2021

The subject of the right of the legislative initiative: The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine

Alternatives: the draft law does not have any alternatives at the time of publication of this article.

Stage: the draft law was adopted as a basis on 16.11.2022 with a reduction of the preparation period. If the document is adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, it is expected to enter into force 3 years after its publication.

Content: The Cabinet of Ministers declares improvement of the system of GMO risk assessment for possible impact on human health and the environment, introduction of European mechanisms for state registration of GMOs, improvement of requirements for labelling of GM products, strengthening of state control over GMOs with the establishment of liability for violation of legislation in this area. Moreover, it is suggested that the powers of public authorities should be delimited in order to eliminate duplication of functions in the field of GMO management.

Thus, the amendments to the draft law No. 5839, which were discussed with representatives of the Associations on 15.03.2023, propose and reflect the provisions of EU Directive 2015/412, which allow EU member states to impose a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified plants registered in the EU on socio-economic or political grounds. During the period of EU Directive 2015/412, 19 EU member states have used this opportunity.

In its conclusion, the Main Scientific and Expert Department of the Verkhovna Rada has stressed that the draft law needs to be thoroughly revised to ensure compliance with European regulations on GMOs, in particular the terminology used in it.

The position of agrarians:

Siuzana Grygorenko (SAU):

– We are grateful to members of the government and the parliament. We believe that the purpose of legislative initiatives is primarily to fulfil Ukraine's international obligations and European aspirations, which we fully support.

The draft law is needed, and its quality content is a priority. For Ukraine, Draft Law 5839 affects the supply of export products: corn, rapeseed, and soybeans, for which Ukraine has premium markets and in which investments are made along the production chain, in particular in the cultivation of corn seeds. The SAU submitted proposals that were taken into account as of mid-March 2023.

We expect that the issues of liability, GMO risk assessment, and application procedures will remain in the finalised draft. Foremost, at the time of accession to the EU, only those GMOs for which there are EU notifications can be used in Ukraine, and only in accordance with the purpose of the designation. Thus, if the permit and application for imported feed are registered in the EU, the same should be true in Ukraine.

Crops such as corn, beetroot, and rapeseed are pollinated in the field. Therefore, pollen from a field where a GM plant is grown can easily get to other non-GMO fields. Accordingly, these plants may show signs of contamination with GM plants.

Later, such products cannot be exported to the EU or China, where GMO regulations have been clearly defined for many years. With an open register of fields where GM crops are planted, agricultural companies will be able to plan their crops better. They will not have any problems with the future sale of their crops.

Ukrainian exporters work with premium markets and commit to supplying a certain type of product. So by disrupting supplies to the EU because of even GMO residues in the crop, they lose credibility and subsequently markets.

It will not be possible to redirect production volumes to other markets. We know nothing about them, have no agreed terms of sale, and no agreed varieties that can and cannot be grown. The alternative is illusory, and the cost of losses is billions.

Also, since some crops are cross-pollinated, it is necessary to clearly define the rules for planting GM seeds in border areas with countries where GM food is prohibited. If this issue is not settled now, we may face major international litigation later.

Oksana Prosolenko (Donau Soja):

– The EU has a Precautionary Principle, which means that GMOs should not be introduced in practice, as there is scientific uncertainty about the expected risk to human health or the environment. As a result, in the vast majority of EU member states, GMO cultivation is not only not carried out but is also prohibited by law. And this ban is monitored.

The EU takes into account the position of the end consumer, so food products in the EU do not contain GMOs, and the cultivation of GM crops is not done or is strictly prohibited. It demonstrates the EU's unwillingness to carry out 'experiments' on its citizens. And then the question arises, is Ukraine ready to run a GMO experiment on its people?

The most widespread GMO contaminants registered in the EU are corn, soybeans and rapeseed, whose genetic modifications are also grown in Ukraine. It is confirmed by market research, data from survey companies and information from open sources. Allowing the cultivation and circulation of these crops in Ukraine will inevitably lead to contamination of the entire supply chain, including the food on the shelf.

According to a sociological study by the Social Monitoring Centre, almost 63% of Ukrainians have a negative attitude towards the use of GMOs, and about 76% consider genetically modified products to be dangerous.

In the European market, a 'premium' for non-GMO crops is a common practice. In particular, the premium for soybeans in the EU in previous seasons could reach $150 per tonne of pure product. Even the world's major GMO producers, such as Brazil, are intensifying the promotion of their non-GMO products in Europe (including non-GMO soybeans).

If draft law No. 5839 is adopted in the current version with its existing drawbacks, Ukrainian products risk becoming uncompetitive in the EU. We will lose markets due to a lack of trust in the quality of our products, budget revenues and jobs.

Who will benefit: If the changes discussed during the roundtable on 15.03.2023 on the issue of regulating the circulation and use of GMOs with members of the Agrarian Committee, First Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine Taras Vysotsky, Head of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection Olga Shevchenko, representatives of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Ecology, State Ecological Inspectorate of Ukraine and representatives of associations remain in the draft law, then Ukrainian producers will have regulated rules of operation.

Conclusions: Ukraine, of course, must fulfil all the conditions for joining the EU and the obligations it assumed when signing the Association Agreement with the EU. And in this case, taking into account the proposals from producers operating in these markets and the European community itself is a test for Draft Law 5839 and the European integration process. Meetings and discussions have been held, which confirms that the text has been revised to take into account the position of agricultural market players. We are waiting for the decision to be finalised.

The OpenMind authors, as a rule, are invited experts and contributors who prepare the material on request of our editors. Yet, their point of view may not coincide with that of the Mind editorial team.

However, the team is responsible for the accuracy and relevance of the opinion expressed, specifically, for fact-checking the statements and initial verification of the author.

Mind also thoroughly selects the topics and columns that can be published in the OpenMind section and processes them in line with the editorial standards.

This project uses cookies from Mind to deliver its services and to analyze traffic.Learn moreOK, Got it