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2-Plants: Ukrainian view on the introduction of GM potatos by Monsanto

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TITLE:  Taming of the garden's Jinn
SOURCE: Golos Ukrayiny (The Voice of Ukraine), No. 41 (2043)
        by Galina Kvitka
        translated by Elena Savinkova
        sent by Hubert Oddoz <>
DATE:   March 5, 1999

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Taming of the garden's Jinn

-----------------------INSERT Box--------------------------------
The representative of "Greenpeace", USA, Kelly Krender:
- The industrialists want to save enough time to pay back the
capital investments, before the catastrophe occurs. It is an
usual strategy of the industry - to deny existence of any
problems, and then to force others to pay off consequences. But
in case of alive species, which are generically engineered
pesticides, harm probably will never be possible to be filled in.
----------------------End INSERT---------------------------------

A real war flared up in Ukraine. At the highest level. Sometimes
even in the same ministry it is possible to hear inconsistent
opinions on this point. The apple of discord has appeared to be a
potato. But not an usual potato.

Two years ago, a batch of genetically modified potato resistant
to Colorado bugs, was delivered to the country by the American
company "Monsanto". The company had plans of Napoleon - to
include kinds of the plant group called "New Leaf" into the State
Register of plants, which are cultivated in Ukraine. It would
give an opportunity to begin industrial production of an overseas
wonder in the country, which traditionally occupies the first
lines in consumption of "the second bread" per head. Therefore,
having rolled up sleeves, the representatives of the company have
started their job.

In the beginning the biotechnological potato sprouted on the test
beds of the research farm of the Potato Growing Research
Institute. And soon it has appeared also in fields of eight farms
in five areas. It should be mentioned, that nothing unlawful has
happened. Transgenetic cultivation moved along the fields of the
country absolutely legally. It has been cast to us, when nobody
even had the slightest idea about the registration of genetically
modified plants in our country (temporary rules of registration
has appeared only in August 1998).

That is why, when the inspections, which should check seed safety
in the country, "have caught up" "a New Leaf" in a field, de-jure
the company felt itself confident: there were no forged
documents, according to the current legislation the grades of
potato were subjected to a three-year state test and had being
cultured on the legal basis, not for the consumption, industrial
use or selling, but merely for getting seeds.

To tell the truth, transgenetic potato took up residence in
private market-gardens, which border upon test acres (can a true
farmer resist to the temptation to take miraculous seeds for his
own market-garden?). Individual farmers spread this potato around
- the product that has not been investigated at all, is being
offered by them as seeds for the price 1 grivna ($0.25) per
potato in the market places. The representatives of "Monsanto"
justify themselves saying that problems that arose are merely
problems of the lack of order in the country. And as an
alternative they suggest to close eyes to the fact that the
potato testing procedure in Ukraine is not finished, and to
include grades of potato into the Register ahead of schedule,
saying that "the New Leaf" has passed all possible tests in USA
and Canada - is it reasonable to waste time, if the company has
investigated everything?

As a reply to such action the representatives of the company have
already promised in this season to sell sorted and marked potato
4 grivnas ($1) per kilo wholesale and 5 grivnas ($1.2) per kilo
retail. And in addition, to create a network of the producers of
sown material in our country to make Ukraine a stable exporter of
generically modified potato seeds, and to add three million
dollars till the end of the current year to one million dollars,
which have been already "swallowed" by the tests carried on
potato resistant to wreckers.

 Such generosity and strong desire of "Monsanto" to save the
Ukrainian fields from the hated bug can be explained. Abroad
generically modified plants gradually give up the position. In
case there will be a sudden break through of potato in our market
and it happens smoothly, "Monsanto" can persuade "unreasonable"
Europeans with extra arguments, saying that Ukrainians eat such
potato - and nothing terrible happens. Disagreements on
generically modified products take place in the countries of
Europe, do not descend from pages of all European newspapers,
particularly British: the cautious Englishmen have proclaimed the
moratorium on commercial cultivation of the generically modified
agricultural products. It will be valid until the country is
convinced, that such plants not only are useful to the people,
but also do not cause harm to the environment.

Britons are provident because they were already victims of not
forecasted effects. Having the aim to get big profit, the famers
tried to use flour made of meat and bones of sheep having
encephlitis. The scientists assured: the activator of illness
cannot pass through inter-species barriers. But actually it has
passed through the wall not only between the cows and sheep, but
it also has not stopped before a barrier between the cows and
Homo Sapiens, and "awarded" people with a new version of terrible
illness damaging the brain. Besides, Britons had to kill
practically all cattle and to incur unprecedented economic

French people also rebelled. One year ago they have forbidden to
grow the modified turnip in their country. The European Union has
been considering the idea of more careful research of the
generically modified products before they are offered in the
market. In Europe the majority of people voted for three years
moratorium on commercial use of the generically modified crops.
These crops are often compared with a jinn that having been let
out of a test-tube, cannot be drove back any more . The
scientists emphasize: it not a crusade against science, it is an
appeal to the temporary discontinuance of commercial use of
generically modified crops, until science arrives to the final
conclusion concerning their safety.

There are also many opponents of the American wonder in Ukraine.
Those experts whose eyes have not been covered with dollars yet,
foretell all possible troubles in case of full legalization of
the "New Leaf " in fields of the country. For us, "marked" by
Chernobyl, - they claim, - all this is absolutely undesirable.
The majority of them warn: farmers will start to grow " the
second bread " using seeds of "Monsanto" for selling, without
waiting until it is registered. And the consumer will buy
generically modified potato in the markets, knowing nothing about
its origin.

The experiments on Genetic Engineering, as the manager of a
department of the Research Vegetable-Growing and Market-Gardening
Institute of the Ukrainian Academy of Agrarian Science, Victor
Muravyev, - change biochemical structure of potato, and today
science can not give the definite answer to the question how
consumption of such potato and collateral products will effect on
health of people. "Ukraine, having in 40 percents of global area
of black earth, has all possibilities to provide itself with its
own food products, natural and of high quality", - Vasily
Shevchuk, the Minister of Environmental Security is sure in it.

For this reason the ministry cautiously concerns the Canadian
program of the technical help, standing in the way of the
distribution of the generically modified products in the country,
particularly potato seeds of "Monsanto", capable to resist to the
Colorado bug. There is a supposition that generically modified
plants can cause virus diseases of other plants, animals and even
of people. " In case of distribution of such potato, - Victor
Masalay, the Head of the Ukrainian State Inspectorate, suggests
his version of development of events, - it is possible that the
Colorado bug will rush to eggplants and tomatoes. These plants,
as well as potato, belong to Solanaceae and are much more costly.
The choice of genetic modification of potato will bring about the
necessity to use protective methods for eggplants and potato at
such extent, that the human physiology would not be able to
withstand such a burden of pesticides".

There would be only one way out - to consume generically modified
tomatoes and eggplants. Besides the uncontrolled distribution of
generically modified crops can result in gradual monopolization
of the market with the new goods. But it is necessary? Absolutely
not. By the way, the domestic sorts of potato, for example,
potentially are not less fruitful, than "a New Leaf". If one
observes the technology, one will get both productivity and
quality. "One should be very cautious regarding the products of
Genetic Engineering, - Theodor Adamel, the member of the State
Committee on Research of Sorts, the Scientific Secretary of the
Plant-Growing and Products Treatment Department of Ukrainian
Academy of Agrarian Science, has explained his position,- and
first of all we must find out all probable consequences of its
effects. In Canada such potato is grown on an island, so that it
could not contact with the environment. Modified potato is used
to produce starch used for the technical purpose.

Dmitry Melnichuk, the Rector of National Agrarian University,
Doctor of Biological Science, said: " We aspire to participate in
European Trading Market. Suppose the generically modified plants
have penetrated to our fields. And tomorrow Europe will say: "
For what do we need your agricultural products polluted by
generically modified organisms?" Like that we block ourselves the
way to the international trading markets. Maybe it is reasonable
to lend an ear to these warnings?


-| Hartmut Meyer
-| Co-ordinator
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
-| Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51
-| D - 37083 Goettingen
-| Germany
-| phone: #49-551-7700027
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