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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 27, 2013
Polska… tastes good!
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Poland Free of GMOs
March 27, 2013   
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In March the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development launched an information campaign in connection with new regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Poland will be a country free from GMOs—that’s what the government has decided. In this, Poland has joined a group of eight European Union countries, including agricultural powerhouses such as France and Germany, that have banned GMO crops. As of Jan. 28, with the coming into effect of the law on seed production and two government directives, Poland is enforcing a ban on the use of seeds of GMO varieties: MON 810 corn and Amflora potatoes. Rules like those introduced in Poland, namely a ban on specific types of plants, are in force in many countries. All these bans concern the same two varieties, MON 810 corn and Amflora potatoes, since these are the only two varieties allowed to be grown in the EU.

The ban on GMO seeds is mainly due to strong public fears as well as arguments suggesting that such crops have a negative impact on the environment and on human and animal health, and that they pose a danger to beekeeping and the honey market (EU regulations do not authorize the use of pollen produced from genetically modified MON 810 corn) as well as many other safety aspects.

With the new regulations coming into force, the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in association with the Main Inspectorate of Plant Health and Seed Inspection (PIORiN) has launched a two-month information campaign with the motto “Poland Free of GMOs.” The aim was to disseminate information about the ban on using GMO seeds and the penalties for using such seeds in crop cultivation.

“This is very important news for farmers,” said Stanisław Kalemba, the minister of agriculture and rural development, “because using seeds of the banned GMO varieties is now subject to financial penalties, including destroying the crops in question.” Under the new law, a farmer who uses the seeds of genetically modified varieties will be punished with a fine equal to 200 percent of the value of the seeds used and with an order to destroy the crop.

The campaign is targeted not only at farmers and agricultural producers but also at social and environmental organizations that could support the ministry and the inspectorate in its information campaign. “This is a very good time to tell farmers about the new regulations because corn seeds are usually sown in late April and early May,” Kalemba said. “Right now, anyone who has any doubts about their seeds can have them checked by asking the PIORiN’s laboratories to do a test.”

GMOs are produced using techniques that do not occur in nature; this is called genetic engineering. GMO technology can be used in the case of microorganisms (usually for industry or pharmaceutical companies), which does not cause controversy because such GMOs are under control and do not make their way into the environment. The doubts start with genetically modified crops and farm animals, first of all because these GMOs make their way into food production and also because their production takes place in the natural environment. This leads to fears about health safety as well as environmental hazards.

On the other hand, GMOs are promoted as a remedy for the shortage of food around the world. Producers claim these plants yield a bigger crop than traditional cultivation methods. According to those opposing GMOs, in reality this is a questionable claim because many studies show that GMO varieties are not more productive at all.

Apart from potential health hazards, GMOs pose risks to the environment and create socioeconomic problems. As regards Poland, the latter issue seems to be the most serious today. People are afraid of the traditional model of agriculture being eliminated and of increased unemployment in rural areas, of what is called latifundialization of agricultural land, farmers becoming dependent on deliveries of patented seeds, the collapse of organic farming, etc. In addition, Poland could stand to lose its sales markets in Europe, where it is currently a leader in the production of healthy and tasty food. Polish agrifood products are in demand, while food made from GMO crops is not selling well in Europe, which is one reason why American farmers are suffering losses.

It is worth remembering that european agricultural powerhouses like Germany, France and Italy—regardless of the EU regulations—have issued bans on GMO crops. They have done so out of concern for their economic interests and for their farmers and consumers. A ban on GMO crops is also in force in Greece, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Hungary and Bulgaria.
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