Hungary Set To Pass "Strictest" GMO Crop Law
Author: Andras Gergely
The law, supported by the opposition as well as government parties, is expected to be passed on Monday in case the European Union forces Hungary to abandon its complete ban.
"This is Europe's, perhaps the world's, strictest GMO law," Agriculture Minister Jozsef Graf said.
Although the European Union permits cultivation of the MON 810 maize hybrid produced by biotech giant Monsanto, Hungary banned the crop in 2005.
Hungary, which has millions of tonnes of surplus maize, extended the ban in February, saying GMO’s were dangerous to health, the environment and to its position as one of Europe's biggest seed producers.
A simple majority of EU states supported a draft order in September for the Hungarian ban to be lifted, but that was not enough under the EU's complex voting system.
The issue is likely to be discussed next at a meeting of EU environment ministers in December, and if there is no agreement it could return to the European Commission for a default rubberstamp.
The new Hungarian law will prescribe a 400-metre buffer zone between GMO and conventional crops. Farmers will also need the approval of neighbouring landowners and users to plant GMO’s.
That will be too complicated in a country where many plots are small, rented or farmed in cooperatives with many members, farmers said.
FARMERS SEE DISCRIMINATION
Farmers' group MOSZ said the law will exclude all but the biggest landowners from GMO production.
"Our main problem is not that it is stringent, but that it is not equally stringent towards everyone," MOSZ Secretary Istvan Toth told Reuters.
"In some respects it is discriminatory."
The law may also be ineffective because it only separates GMO and conventional crops at the growing stage, without any guidelines on harvesting, processing or packaging, Szent Istvan University Professor Laszlo Heszky said.
Graf said Hungary is erring on the side of caution for now but it may later reconsider its stance on GMO’s, especially for use as biofuels, not for human consumption.
"We cannot bury our heads in the sand, we'll have to do something with GMO’s," he said.
Another reason Hungary does not want to allow GMO’s yet is that there are not yet any varieties suited to local conditions, Graf's deputy, Zoltan Gogos said.
"We are not hindering research, but then let those be Hungarian types," Gogos said. "But that will take years."