February 2006
Issue of the month: With news that Romania is producing the highest number of genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe, we ask some experts will GMOs save or destroy Romanian agriculture?

Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)
     It would save Romanian agriculture, without a doubt. Ten years ago, before biotech agriculture was launched, questions were raised regarding the risks of biotech products on the consumer health and the environment. Ten years later, we have the answers. First, many academies of science and medicine have declared that food from biotech crops is as good as from non-biotech crops. Secondly, biotech crops have a significant contribution to the reduction of the amount of pesticides. For example, biotech cotton helps decrease the application of insecticides by 50 per cent. So the question is not anymore what risks there are in using biotech crops, but what is the risk in not using them. Romania is an important model to put on the table, showing that this technology has significant advantages to it, so why give it up?

Gabriel Paun, coordinator of the Anti-GMO Campaign, Greenpeace Romania
     We strongly believe that GM crops will destroy Romanian agriculture. There are negative effects on the organisms which are not the target of the modification. For example, in the case of the genetically modified potato, largely cultivated in Romania, there has been a higher level of mortality of the monarch butterfly. Secondly, in the case of soy, through the use of the total herbicides which come in one package with the GM seeds, like Monsanto’s glyphosate, in time, weeds grow resistant to these herbicides and super-weeds are created. Then there are negative effects on the soil. So farmers are lied to when GM seeds are sold to them and huge crops are promised, it’s a poisonous offer. On the other hand, if we continue to grow GM crops, it will be a bad sign for the EU, as, for example, sales of GM soy are not authorised in the EU. Still, according to the most recent common declaration of the Romanian ministers of agriculture and of environment, GM crops in Romania will drop in 2006 and will be forbidden in 2007. We have asked the Government to subsidise the farmers with organic seeds.

Gheorghe Flutur, Minister of Agriculture
     In terms of GMOs, Romania, as loyal member of EU, will adapt its measures regarding the GMOs to EU standards.

Gheorghe Predilita, president of the Romanian Farmer’s National Union
     It’s too much to say whether it could save or destroy Romanian agriculture. In Romania we don’t even cultivate GMOs on surfaces that large, nor are we tempted to extend over more surfaces, despite the fact that genetically modified seed producers put pressure both on the EU and Romania. We shouldn’t enlarge GM crop surfaces in Romania. Genetically modified crops have higher productivity, but I do not support GMOs because, when there are so many other factors damaging
our health, why should we take on GMO products when we are not yet sure whether or not this will put our health in danger? But when peasants need money and when, by cultivating GMOs, they obtain larger crops, how can we stop them? If we want them to practice organic agriculture, the state should give them larger subsidies to cover the fall in profits.

Ionel Vasile, farmer, Braila Country
     In plant cultivation, GMOs can save Romanian agriculture a great deal. By cultivating GM crops we have higher profits. Of course, it would be very good if the population was offered natural, non-modified products, but, in modern Romania, we have to have a profit. We have to live off something. I have also used GMO soy crops and, besides bigger crops, I had to spray herbicide over the GMO soy crops only once. Whereas I have to spray herbicide on normal crops two or three times.

Aurelian Eremia, general director of non-GMO soy products firm Inedit Food
     According to strict economics, GMOs can save agriculture, because plants grown from GM seeds have a better development, so the crop yield per hectare is much higher. I do not use GM crops due to health reasons, despite the fact that non-modified soy is 20 per cent more expensive than GM soy. The problem arises when we think about the consumer, knowing that researchers have shown that GM product consumption can cause various diseases and mutations in the human body. Nevertheless, Romanian farmers use GM crops because of their poverty, as GM seeds are cheaper than non-modified ones.