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2-Plants: Romania bans GMOs in natural protected areas, but illegal cultivation continues

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Romania bans GMOs in natural protected areas, but illegal
        cultivation continues
        Greenpeace supports authorities in the decontamination process
SOURCE: Freenpeace Romania, Briefing
DATE:   Jun 2006

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Romania bans GMOs in natural protected areas, but illegal cultivation
Greenpeace supports authorities in the decontamination process

Romania has banned this January by a Government Ordinance the
cultivation and testing of GMOs in protected areas and 15 km around
them. This means that 80% of Romania should be GMO free, but the rest of
20% means that up to 3 millions hectares are still theoretically open to
be planted with GMOs. The Romanian Government has also decided last
January that cultivation of GM soya will be banned starting the 1st of
January 2007 (1). Instead Romania will encourage the organic
agriculture. "I demand that organic agriculture to be promoted. I
support the Ministry of Agriculture regarding GMOs and I assure that
Romania will obey the EU regulations from now on", said Calin Popescu-
Tariceanu, the Romanian prime-minister (2).

After growing GM soya for 8 years, it was hard to believe that farmers
will immediately switch to conventional soy. The black market with GM
seeds is much spread and there are no means to assure traceability of
the GM soya from field to fork. "We have to admit the fact that we are
not very well equipped with own laboratories in order to can very
accurately see the road of GM soybeans in Romania from its cultivation
to the shelves, said Tibu (3).

Greenpeace has made a spring documentation tour in farms along the
Danube River, in protected areas like the National Park of Comana and
the natural bank of genes that lies in the unique Biosphere Reservation
of the Danube Delta, to see how farmers are dealing with the situation
that they must stop growing GM soya. The results of the research that
Greenpeace has been conducting this spring show very encouraging signals
from the fields. Most of the farmers have already switched to
conventional soya, benefiting 150 euro subsidies from Ministry of
Agriculture this year for each hectare cultivated with non GM soya.
Local supply for non GM seeds is lacking this year after growing almost
only GM soya in the last 8 years. Therefore, the Romanian farmers had to
import this spring non GM seeds for example from Hungary where they are
30% more expensive than the local ones, so the subsidies were very
welcomed. The farmers are growing non GM soya this year mostly for seed
production for the next year, but for food and feed as well.

On the other hand some large scale farmers have started growing GM soya
way long before the permit for import of the seeds and the authorization
for cultivation have been given for 2006. On 1st of April the ship
bringing the Monsanto's and Pioneer's seeds from USA was long illegally
in Romania, as farmers were already planting the GM soya in south of
Romania by that time, and the permits for import and authorizations for
cultivation were given only on 14th of April.

Greenpeace has documentation of two companies that are breaking the
Government Ordinance by growing illegally GM soya in natural parks along
the Danube valley (4) on formerly wetlands and forests with high
conservation value.

The first company found GM positive by Greenpeace is Grivco Group, which
belongs to Dan Voiculescu, leader of the Conservative Party, owner of TV
and radio stations, newspapers and business in agriculture and industry.
Growing GM soya in a forbidden area as it was in the heart of the Comana
Natural Park, the National Guard for Environment fined the company with
10.000 euro together with the decision to destroy their own fields
cultivated with GM soya. The company past the deadline of destroying
their own fields on end of May, so they got a second fine of 20.000 euro
and a new deadline for the 19th of June. The next step it's a legal one
from the authorities' side, but at the Greenpeace visit in the
meanwhile, the company was ignoring the law, irrigating the GM soya
fields without taking into consideration the legal consequences.

The second company caught in the act by Greenpeace was growing the GM
soya in the surroundings of the Biosphere Reservation of the Danube
Delta, a real "museum of biodiversity", the shelter of 1689 flora
species and 3448 fauna species (380 protected by the Berne Convention).
It is the home of almost all common pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) and
curly pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) in Europe, the home of 60% of our
planet's little cormorants (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) and of 50% of the
same planet Earth's red neck gooses (Branta ruficollis). The company
growing GM soya in such an area belongs to Lombardi family, the most
famous soya farmers in Romania since the '70s when they were
successfully growing conventional soya with very high yields. The late
'90s were taken over by Monsanto's poisoned promise of GM soya. Now,
Lombardi family has 3 reasons to return to conventional soya that made
them so famous in the past, one is the 10.000 euro fine, another is the
reality that they are already fighting weeds that have developed
resistance to the Roundup herbicide  and last but not least is to
protect the biological diversity that surrounds their fields.

Growing GMOs and using highly toxic pesticides like Roundup in protected
areas and their surroundings is a very harming activity. Roundup is
highly toxic and kills the entire flora, except for GM soya, which
contains a cocktail of genes from bacteria in order to be tolerant to
this herbicide. Besides problems with toxic pesticides, the forage
distance of bumble bees and wild bees' species are not well understood -
based on these uncertainties a safety margin of 15 km specified by the
new Government Ordinance will not avoid GM contamination by seed
dispersal, but could be envisaged as a political compromise. Besides
pollination, seed dispersal by insects, birds and strong winds, the
human activities is the main driving factor for long distance dispersal.
Distances are reported up to 100 km (5).

A controlled flooding of the sites cultivated with soya in the Danube
Valley and the Delta could have been saved this spring thousands of
households from the worst floods caused by the Danube's waters in the
last 100 years. In the last years, the forests and the wetlands from
this areas has been robbed, just to offer new fields for agriculture
business including GM soya. For example, 25.000 hectares of wetlands and
forests have been dried or cut down along the Danube Valley in the
Biosphere Reservation of Danube Delta from Grindu to Rachelu where
Greenpeace has found illegal GM soya. Some of this GM soya yields from
2005 has been given to Cargill (6), the same company that is responsible
for the robbery of the Amazon ancient forest.

At the end of the spring session research, Greenpeace has handed over
the quick testing equipment for GM soya to the responsible control body
on GMOs, the National Guard for Environment to start making further controls.

Greenpeace is demanding the Romanian Ministry of Environment to:
-	Stop growing genetically modified organisms
-	Control the implementation of laws by banning the growing of GMOs
-	start the re-naturalization of Danube Valley and the Delta and
establish a natural protected area for the whole course of the Danube
from Bazias to Sulina to protect biodiversity and settlements

Gabriel Paun, GE campaigner Greenpeace in Romania.,, + 40744351977
Anamaria Bogdan, Press Officer, Greenpeace in Romania,, + 40721632396
Susanne Fromwald, GE Campaigner Greenpeace CEE,, +436646126706

(1)	Ministry of Agriculture press release, 03.02.2006
(2)	Economistul newspaper, 14.03.2006
(3)	Interview with Adrian Tibu  by Ralph Ahrens, April 2006
(4)	Greenpeace press release 17.05.2006
Greenpeace press release 08.06.2006
(6)	Ministry of Agriculture, National Register of farmers growing and
harvesting GM soya 2005

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
news & information

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