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2-Plants: GE crops planted in Romania without oversight

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SOURCE: Asociatia Bioterra, Ecosens, FNAE, all Romania
        ANPED, The Netherlands, FoEE, Belgium, Press Release
DATE:   May 16, 2003

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Bucharest, Brussels - 16 May 2003 - A report released today by Romanian
and international NGOs reveals widespread cultivation of genetically
engineered (GE) soybeans and other GE crops in Romania since at least
1999, due to the absence of a transparent regulatory framework and chaos
within Romania's seed registration body, ISTIS.

The report entitled, "Romania: The Dumping Ground for Genetically
Engineered Crops" intends to alert the public to the potential threats
posed by the growing and eating of genetically engineered crops and food.
It highlights the wide divide between GMO policy in Romania and the EU,
where the public has rejected GE food and in reaction has turned to
organic products. The report examines the implications of this consumer
rejection in Western Europe and how this might impact on Romania's
agricultural economy.

Official estimates put the 2002 area under GE soybeans at some 50,000 ha,
out of a total area of 100,000-120,000 ha under soybeans. The GE soybeans
created by Monsanto are known as Roundup Ready. They are resistant to the
glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, also produced by Monsanto. Farmers
growing GE soybeans claim that up to 75% of Romanian soybeans are
genetically engineered, because farmers are saving the GE seeds for
planting the following year and buying generic glyphosate. "If Romania
gambles on genetically engineered agriculture, it might not only find
itself without customers for its food in the EU, but this would also
destroy efforts being made to produce organic food", said Dan Craioveanu,
from Bioterra, one of the co-publishers of the report.

The commercial growing of GE crops in Romania could also pose problems
for Romania's accession to the EU. "All EU candidate countries should
follow EU legislation. GE crops and food without an EU authorisation will
need to be taken off the market in Romania, prior to accession," said
Juan Lopez, from Friends of the Earth in Brussels, another co-publisher
of the report.

Monsanto's genetically engineered potatoes, designed to kill the Colorado
potato beetle, although registered for commercial planting in Romania,
have failed due to disease. These GE potatoes contain a modified
bacterial gene of the Bt toxin to provide a built-in pesticide. Their
failure resulted in a World Bank project to insert Monsanto's Bt gene
construct into local Romanian potato varieties. "This World Bank Bt
potato project makes no economic sense," said Iza Kruszewska, the author
of the report and GMO Co-ordinator of ANPED, The Northern Alliance for
Sustainability, an NGO network based in Amsterdam. "Monsanto has stopped
selling the Bt potato in North America and it is not approved in the EU.
In 2007, when Romania hopes to join the single market of the EU, any Bt
potatoes may well have to be taken off the market," she added.

The report reveals that already in 1998, the National Seed List allowed
the growing of GE varieties of potato, soybean, sugar beet and maize.
Moreover, a 2002 investigation of the seed registration body, ISTIS that
compiles the seed list concludes that ISTIS used the absence of
legislation durin g 1998-2000 to hasten the testing process for GE
varieties of potato, soybean and maize, in breach of plant variety
testing regulations.

There are no mechanisms to enable public access to information on
environmental releases of GMOs and no procedures for public consultation.
"The Romanian government plays into the hands of the corporations by
excluding the public - including all the other stakeholders who are
totally unaware of what is going on", said Craioveanu.

"In the countries of the European Unio n, public pressure has resulted in
a de facto moratorium on approvals for commercialising GE crops and food,
which has been in place since October 1998 ", concluded Gabi Paun from
the Romanian NGO Ecosens. He called on the Romanian government "to
introduce a moratorium on all releases of GMOs until a national biosafety
framework is in place which enables harmonisation with EU policy on GMOs,
implements the provisions of the Biosafety Protocol and the public
participation requirements of the Aarhus Convention, which Romania
ratified in 2000".

For Further Information:
Dan Craioveanu, Tel: +40 264 431 626 Mobile: +40 722 365 181
Gabi Paun, Tel: +40 21 313 8560 Mobile: +40 744 351977
Iza Kruszewska, Tel: +44 20 8672 3454 E-mail:
Juan Lopez, Brussels, Tel: +32 2 542 0187 E-mail: <>

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