Russian struggle against GMO feed hurts meat business

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Genetically modified organism, Agriculture

Russia banned GMO-tainted feed imports from four European countries last year
Russia banned GMO-tainted feed imports from four European countries last year
Russian sanitary watchdog Rospotrebnadzor plans to improve the country’s control over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the domestic food and feed market, according to a government plan on food quality improvement.

By 2018, the sanitary inspection office aims to design and launch a new system to detect GMOs, in order to considerably speed up sample testing.

However, this is only one aspect of the campaign Russia is waging against GMOs​. From 1 July 2017, the country has also updated its administrative liability, introducing huge fines for the use of unauthorised GMOs in food and feed products.

In 2016, Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor banned imports of feed from several companies in Germany, Denmark, Finland and France, claiming they had supplied feed containing GMOs without proper labelling.

At present, it is unclear how much feed containing GMOs is used in Russia as, due to consumers’ concerns, almost all meat producers declare the use of GMO-free feed only. However, in a release in early 2017, the Russian Association of Genetic Security reported there were “enormous amounts of feed with GMO components on the domestic market​”.

Also, in 2016, following a large-scale inspection, one of Rosselkhoznadzor’s regional departments reported that nearly 9% of all feed batches in the domestic market contained GMO.

A threat to the competitiveness

According to Maxim Kirillov, head of the trade house RusAgro, the situation in Russia with GMOs has driven up feed prices, putting heavy pressure on meat producers and, ultimately, reducing their competitiveness on the global market.

He claimed the ban for cultivating GMOs in the country was not justified, but added that the main problem was that, since mid-2016, only one company in Russia had been authorised to import GMOs and this entity, he said, held a monopoly position, setting the prices for soybean meal as it pleased.

In early 2017, Galina Bobyleva, head of the Russian Union of Poultry Producers (Rosptitsesoyuz), and Yuri Kovalev, head of the Russian Union of Pork Producers, sent an open letter to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, calling on it to allow imports of hitherto unauthorised GMO crops from South America.

According to Bobyleva and Kovalev, as only one company is authorised to import GMOs to Russia at present, the prices for GMO soybean meal in the domestic market increased by 15-20% in 2016 compared to the global average, accounting for losses in the domestic meat industry of nearly RUB 9.6 billion ($160m).

A spokesperson for the Russian meat industry, who wished to remain anonymous, told GlobalMeatNews​ that the company authorised to import GMOs was GK Sodruzhestvo, which, he said, accounted for nearly 50% of the supply of soybean meal to Russian meat manufacturers in 2016.

Russian farmers have pledged not to use GMOs, but the current market situation with GMO soybeans is adding pressure to their margins, although this was partly offset in 2017 by a strengthening exchange rate for the Russian rouble, which cooled the market situation slightly, he noted. Increasing pressure on the feed business with new inspections was not the best idea, he added.

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