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At the plenary session of the Parliament held on 20 November Gogi Topadze, leader of the Industrialist Party, introduced an initiative on establishing a modern food laboratory. “The last government adopted an incredibly humiliating law, abolishing control over imported goods in Georgia … Following that, a very short time later, they adopted yet another abstract law. We must be the only country which prohibits the labelling of genetically modified goods. In many countries of Europe, a whole separate department is assigned to the matterof genetically modified goods. Unfortunately, laboratories of Georgia have no means for completing the analytical process for the purpose of detecting improper substances in products. For instance, the share of meat in meat products does not exceed 15-17%, they consist of genetically modified soy, blood, flour, fat and this is what our food is made of… Today, we are compelled to send a product abroad for the purpose of conducting a full examination. This process is very costly and, therefore, we propose to establish a modern laboratory in Georgia.”

FactCheck

took interest in the statement of the Industrialist Party leader and inquired about the accuracy of the indicated facts.

Pursuant to the Resolution of the Parliament of Georgia No. 305-II dated 26 September 2008, Georgia became a party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. By 2013, the Cartagena Protocol had been ratified by 166 states. The Cartagena Protocol

was adopted in 2000 in the city of Montréal and entered into force in 2003. It represents an international agreement on biosafety whichgoverns themovement and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Cartagena Protocol foresees the formation of a relevant legislation, theestablishment of an adequate laboratory base and the development of an infrastructure for the purpose of exercising control overgenetically modified organisms. It also envisages the labelling of genetically modified products. In accordance with the Protocol, each individual country is responsible for ensuring control over genetically modified products and informing its population on the features of genetically modified products.

Despite the requirements stipulated in the Cartagena Protocol, to this day, the Parliament of Georgia has adopted no law on the issue of genetically modified organisms. Therefore, matters related to genetically modified organisms are not regulated by the legislation of Georgia nor is the registration and control of GM products (imported as well as locally produced) exercised on the consumer market of Georgia.

Georgia has no food laboratory, corresponding to European standards and equipped with current technologies, which would provide the means for determining the content of genetically modified components in GM products.

Pursuant to the Decree No. 2-231 of the Minister of Agriculture, dated 11 December 2009, the food products prepared using modern biotechnologies, whose genetically modified components comprise over 0.9% of the total mass, are to be furnished with a special marking on the label. As we were told in the Food and Feed Inspection Department at the LEPL National Food Agency, labelling of GM products cannot be implemented in practice owing to the lack of adequate laboratories in Georgia. According to the spokesperson of the Department, work for the establishment of properly equipped laboratories is already in process.

At the end of 2012, by the initiative of the Georgian Government, the Ministry of Environment Protection started crafting the Draft Law on Genetically Modified Living Organisms which aimed at regulating biosafety at the legislative level. We spoke with the Head of the Biodiversity Protection Office at the Ministry of Environment Protection, Soso Kartsivadze, who was immediately involved in the crafting of the abovementioned draft law. “The draft law forbids the importing and planting of genetically modified living organisms; specifically, seeds on the Georgian territory. Work on the elaboration of the draft law has already been completed, in the nearest future it will be presented at the Government sitting and, in the case of its approval, will be forwarded to the Parliament. We also initiated talks with the European Union in pursuance of establishing a comprehensive system in the countryc omparable to European legislation on biosafety,” asserted Soso Kartsivadze. According to the draft law, genetically modified products will be allowed on the Georgian market only after the proper labelling.

Gogi Topadze claims in his statement that Georgia is the only country where the labelling of genetically modified products is forbidden. This assertion of the leader of the Industrialist Party is misleading as the labelling of genetically modified products has not been restricted in Georgia. We have a legislative norm which prescribes the labelling of GM products (in the case of the GM component of the product exceeding 0.9%) which is consistent with European standards. We do not have a laboratory, however, which would make the measurement of the GM component feasible and this is the reason why the labelling of GM products cannot be practically carried out.

The placing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and foodstuffs containing these, whether they are intended for consumption by humans or animals, on the market of the European Union is regulated by the Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003.

The Regulation entered into force on 18 April 2004. It envisages the labelling of all GM foodstuffs and defines a threshold of 0.9% for the GM component, above which it imposes a requirement of labelling. Provided the indicator is lower than 0.9% and certain other preconditions are satisfied as well, the obligation of labelling is lifted. Additionally, GM products are to satisfy other requirements as well with these requirements concerning crops and other agricultural products.

In his statement Gogi Topadze also notes that the previous government abolished control over imported goods. The said issue has been previously researched by FactCheck.

In 2006 the Parliament adopted the new Customs Code of Georgia which reduced and simplified customs procedures. In agreement with the indicated Customs Code, solely a presentation of relevant documentation was required for the importing of goods. Resolution No. 426 of the Georgian Government, dated 31 December 2010, which went into force on 10 June 2013, changed the conditions for issuance of import permits by the National Food Agency and the Revenue Service and subjected the imported goods to veterinary and photosanitary control. Presently, products intended for import to Georgia undergo the following procedures at the border inspection checkpoint: documentary check, identity check, samples for laboratory or onsite inspections.

Conclusion

In 2008 Georgian joined the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. In accordance with the Cartagena Protocol, Georgia was to develop a law on genetically modified organisms which would exercise control over GM products. Such a law has not been adopted in Georgia to this day. Owing to the absence of such legislation, the government carries out no registration and control of GM products (imported as well as locally produced) on the consumer market of Georgia.

Georgia has no proper laboratories equipped with modern technologies which would provide the means for determining the content of genetically modified components in GM products, as asserted by Gogi Topadze.

In pursuance of Regulation 1829/2003, in all countries of the European Union all genetically modified foodstuffs (for human or animal use) are attached a special label.

The leader of the Industrialist Party notes that Georgia must be the only country in Europe banning the labelling of genetically modified goods. This part of the statement proved to be inaccurate. Pursuant to Decree No. 2-231 of the Minister of Agriculture, dated 11 December 2009, the food products prepared using modern biotechnologies, whose genetically modified components comprise over 0.9% of the total mass, are to be furnished with a special marking on the label. Labelling of GM products is not forbidden in Georgia but despite the existing decree, labelling of GM products is not implemented in practice. As explained by the National Food Agency, the reason for this failing is the absence of adequate laboratories.

It is to be noted that by the initiative of the Georgian Government, the Ministry of Environment Protection crafted the Draft Law on Genetically Modified Living Organisms which aimed at regulating biosafety at the legislative level. As for the importing of the finished goods and their placement on the market, it will be permitted only after a proper labelling. According to the Ministry of Environment Protection, the draft law will be examined at the sitting of the Government in the nearest future.

In his statement Gogi Topadze also notes that the previous government abolished control over imported goods. The new Customs Code of Georgia, adopted in 2006, reduced and simplified customs procedures. The control of imported goods has practically been suspended with solely a presentation of relevant documentation sufficing for the importing of goods.

Pursuant to Resolution No. 426 of 2010 by the Georgian Government, starting from 10 June 2013 imported goods are subjected to veterinary and photosanitary control.

Accordingly, FactCheck rates Gogi Topadze’s statement, “The previous government abolished control over imported goods… We must be the only country [in Europe] which prohibits the labelling of genetically modified goods,” as MOSTLY TRUE.