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2-Plants: Romania dumping GMO soy may not stop spread

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TITLE:  Romania Dumping GMO Soy May Not Stop Spread - Greens
SOURCE: Reuters, by Radu Marinas
DATE:   23 Feb 2006

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Romania Dumping GMO Soy May Not Stop Spread - Greens

BUCHAREST - The decision by Romania, Europe's only producer of
genetically modified soy, to stop growing it from next year may not
prevent its spread into the biotech-wary European market, green groups
and traders say.

Representatives of green groups, in interviews this week, said a ban on
GMO's should have come into force well before Romania joins the European
Union either next year or in 2008.

An earlier ban would have given farmers enough time to switch to
conventional crops and authorities more time to develop a monitoring
system for biotech produce, they said.

"We welcome the government's decision (to ban GMO's) but I don't see how
it is possible to have totally clean fields and crops next year," Ana
Maria Bogdan of Greenpeace told Reuters.

Earlier this month, the Black Sea state's government passed legislation
banning cultivation of gene-spliced soy starting Jan. 1, 2007 to bring
it in line with EU norms, as debate heats up worldwide on safety of such
crops to health and environment.

"The ban should have been imposed this year. Time is too short to stop
uncontrolled seeding... that will end up in contaminating traditional
crops beyond entry date," Bogdan said.

Europe's biggest soy grower until 1989, Romania brought GMO seeds a
decade ago from US biotech giants Monsanto Co and Pioneer, who say their
technology helps fight hunger and poverty.

Europe's shoppers are known for their wariness towards GMO's, often
dubbed as "Frankenstein foods", but Romania's 22 million population
seems to have no problem with them.

GMO soy is the only genetically modified crop grown locally on 88,000 ha
(217,500 acres), or 0.6 percent of Romania's farmland. It accounts for
two thirds of overall soy output.

Environmentalists say there is no way to stop GMO crops from spreading
because of crossbreeding, cross-pollination and illegal trade.

"God only knows when we'll be free of (genetically) modified soy. It's sell seeds without documents and this might create
consumer suspicion in the (European) Union," Ion Scurteli, chief of the
grain wholesalers association, said.

Uncontrolled seed trading is common in Romania whose farmland has been a
patchwork of plots whose ownership is contested since Stalinist
collectivisation was scrapped after the 1989 fall of communism.


In a bid to prepare farmers for the shift, the government said it was
drafting additional norms to ban sowing of GMO seeds from the previous
years' crops in 2006.

However, it has yet to establish how it will destroy stocks of GMO seeds
to prevent blending with conventional crops in the future or if any
compensation would be granted to farmers.

"If there is any need for financial compensation the ministry might
consider discussing the matter," Agriculture Ministry spokesman Adrian
Tibu said.

The ministry said it was eager to explain to farmers the benefits of
shifting to organic crops including getting badly needed Brussels aid
and teach them how to tap the EU's market.

Farmers, who shifted to GMO crops a decade ago in a bid to give up using
costly herbicides, see it differently. They said the shift would
inevitably imply production losses.

Constantin Necsulescu, 63, who grows GMO soy on his 500 ha farm near the
Danube Rriver on the border with Bulgaria, accepts the changes but fears
possible damages.

"What should I do? I must comply with the ban," he told Reuters.

"I ordered 1,000 tonnes of (conventional) seeds to build up new stocks.
But there's no secret, I expect to harvest two tonnes of soybeans
instead of four... and my costs will rise...I'm not sure if subsidies
will cover costs," he added.

Monsanto said the government's ban was disappointing.

"Monsanto is naturally disappointed by the declaration ... The people
most affected are the farmers who have managed to double their profits
through choosing Roundup Ready soya and transforming the Romanian soya
production," Jonathan Ramsay of Monsanto in Brussels told Reuters.


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