GMO-FREE REGIONS & REGULATION: Almost all local governments in Latvia ban GE crops
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TITLE: PROTECTING NATURE FROM MAN
SOURCE: The Baltic Times, Latvia
AUTHOR: Egle Juozenaite
SUMMARY: "According to the Law on Circulation of Genetically Modified Organisms, a local government may determine a prohibition by issuing binding rules for the cultivation of genetically modified crops in the relevant administrative territory upon its own initiative, or on the basis of a proposal by an individual. The prohibition shall be determined for a period of time which is not less than five years. Last year almost all local governments prohibited the cultivation of genetically modified crops within their territory."
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PROTECTING NATURE FROM MAN
Raimonds Vejonis has worked in the field of environmental protection since 2002, when he started service as the Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development. From 2003-2010, he was the Minister of Environment. From March 2010 ? May 2010, he was Acting Minister of Regional Development and Local Governments of the Republic of Latvia. In the same year he also became a member of the 10th Saeima (Parliament). On January 6 this year, Vejonis received yet one more high level appointment, that of Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of Latvia. Vejonis is a politician with the Greens and Farmers Union. This long-serving public servant responded to questions from The Baltic Times on topics ranging from Latvia?s environmental policy, the improvement of sustainable development, and renewable energy use and the protection of Latvia?s natural habitat.
What are the priority areas of environmental policy in Latvia these days?
The main environmental priorities have been on our agenda for a long time, and mostly are relevant for every European country as well. We have to work day to day to preserve our nature, not only within specially protected territories, but in the whole of the country, and we have to manage human activities in such a way that makes the least possible harm to the environment. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development has invested a lot of EU and state money over several years to considerably upgrade the environmental infrastructure - to make the drinking water clean and tasty, to collect waste water safely and to treat it according to the necessary level. We are not any more bringing our waste to many small dump sites, but to modern regional landfills, so avoiding spills into the groundwater, and making it possible to collect the waste gases and make good use of them. The famous Getlini tomatoes being one example of that.
In fact, we are looking at waste more and more as a resource, than as an environmental problem. What has really changed in the recent European environmental agenda is the way we think, the way we try to address environmental problems. Europe is moving away from the classical environmental sectors and more and more look at things in an integrated way, as the environmental problems are interlinked and often are, in fact, tradeoffs between different policies. The common agriculture policy reform works towards an environmentally more friendly agriculture practice. The European resource efficiency roadmap, to be published in September, [is to] highlight areas of action to optimize our resource use. Scientists have calculated that the demand for food, feed and fiber may increase by 70 percent by 2050 and with current consumption and production patterns we would need more than two planets to sustain the world?s population. That is a global problem and Latvia cannot avoid addressing
it. We need to improve our planning, how to manage our main resources, our forests, our land.
People in the Ministry are looking at practical solutions in how to better integrate environmental concerns into municipal development plans, to make planning more consistent, to avoid fragmentation of ecosystems, to improve the planning of new economic developments and residential areas - not to have a new village in the middle of a meadow. A draft land management law has been developed to address these issues.
What is being done to protect the biodiversity and to ensure the sustainability of the environment?
The biodiversity is protected by the establishment and development of a specially protected areas network, by protection and management of species and habitats, by protection zones along the seacoast, rivers and lakes, by regulating the use of nature resources and, as well, by education and incorporation of biodiversity issues into other sectors. In order to protect biodiversity, strategic documents of the Environmental Policy Strategy were adopted in 2009, and the National Program on Biological Diversity was approved; also, the Elaboration of a New Program on Biological Diversity will be started this year. To motivate landowners to protect biodiversity, a compensation system was created in Latvia. Last year about 2.3 million lats were paid to 37 landowners to compensate for nature protection restrictions within their property. 15 LIFE Nature projects of about 17 million euros have been realized until 2006, and the next five, at about 9 million euros, have been started.
According to the Law on Circulation of Genetically Modified Organisms, a local government may determine a prohibition by issuing binding rules for the cultivation of genetically modified crops in the relevant administrative territory upon its own initiative, or on the basis of a proposal by an individual. The prohibition shall be determined for a period of time which is not less than five years. Last year almost all local governments prohibited the cultivation of genetically modified crops within their territory.