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9-Misc: Romania bans gene-spliced soy to harmonise with EU

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TITLE:  Romania Bans Gene-Spliced Soy to Harmonise With EU
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   13 Feb 2006

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Romania Bans Gene-Spliced Soy to Harmonise With EU

BUCHAREST - Romania will ban the cultivation of genetically modified soy
from next year to harmonise with European Union norms as it gears up for
EU entry, the Agriculture Ministry said on Friday.

The Black Sea state which hopes to join the EU in 2007 was Europe's
biggest soy grower until 1989 and remains the continent's sole producer
of gene-spliced soybeans, brought a decade ago by US biotech giants
Monsanto Co and Pioneer.

Environmentalists have accused firms pioneering GMO's of using poor east
European states as a back door to a reluctant EU which effectively had a
moratorium on new gene crops and products between 1998 and 2004.

"The ministry decided to ban the cultivation of genetically modified soy
from next year to comply with the European regulatory norms," Constantin
Sin, the agriculture ministry's GMO expert told Reuters.

Monsanto officials in Bucharest were not immediately available to comment.

Biotech firms say their technology helps fight hunger and poverty but
environmental groups and many Europeans oppose GMO's, which they fear
might be unsafe for humans.

Romania, where there is almost no reluctance to embrace biotech foods
among its 22 million population, put 61,000 ha under soy in 2004. The
acreage had risen to 88,000 ha last year, or 0.6 percent of the country's
total farmland.

Gene-spliced soy, which is used by Romanian farmers as animal feed, is
the only GMO crop cultivated in Romania and accounts for two thirds of
its overall soy output.

Sin said the ministry is also drafting legislation to ban sowing
genetically modified seeds from previous years' crops in 2006. The bill
will come into force later this year, he added.

"The bill aims to discourage farmers from planting (genetically modified)
soy. There will be fines worth thousands of euros for those who don't
comply with it," Sin said.

He said a switch to traditional soy crops would help farmers - who
started growing GMO's tempted by the higher profit margins - to benefit
from badly needed EU aid once the country joins the wealthy bloc.


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