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On 27 November 2013, at the plenary session of the Georgian Parliament, the leader of the Greens Party of Georgia, Giorgi Gachechiladze, spoke about the state obligations to control genetically modified goods. According to his statement, these obligations are not fulfilled. Gachechiladze declared: “Currently, four documents, including one international, oblige us to control these goods, but we violate them. These are the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety ratified in 2008. It obliges us to protect Georgia from genetically modified goods. The second one is the Decree of the Ministry of Agriculture of 2010 demanding the labelling of genetically modified goods, although this one is also violated. There is the Law on the State Budget of 2013 with the article about environmental protection and natural resource management directly stating that the import of genetically modified seeds and planting materials will be banned, labelling such goods will be mandatory, etc. This one is also not fulfilled. On 30 June 2013, the Georgian Government adopted a “fantastic” resolution about organic production that excludes the usage of genetically modified organisms.”

FactCheck

took interest in the international obligations and internal legislation Georgia has in respect to genetically modified goods and whether or not they are fulfilled. We investigated Giorgi Gachechiladze’s statement.

The Georgian Parliament ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2008.

The Cartagena Protocol was adopted in 2000 in Montréal. It is an international convention on biosafety that entered into force in 2003. The Cartagena Protocol encompasses the development of respective legislation, setting up a relevant laboratory base and labelling the genetically modified goods.

After the ratification of the Cartagena Protocol, Georgia should have adopted the Law on Genetically Modified Organisms although the Georgian Parliament has not yet done so. During the conversation with FactCheck,

the representative of the Ministry of Environmental Protection declared that the relevant draft bill will be discussed at the next sitting of the Georgian Government; afterwards, the draft bill will be sent to Parliament.

The second document Gachechiladze speaks about is Decree No. 2-231 of the Minister of Agriculture of Georgia dated 11 December 2009. According to the Decree, it is mandatory to label the goods produced using the latest biotechnologies and containing more than 0.9% of genetically modified components. Despite this fact, the system of labelling the genetically modified goods is not working. As we were told at the National Food Agency this is caused by the lack of relevant laboratories that would identify the genetically modified components in food.

Gachechiladze also mentioned Resolution No. 198 of the Georgian Government on Organic Production. This resolution defines the management of organic production, processing, marking, labelling, distribution, realisation and certification as well as other respective processes. According to the Resolution, the usage of genetically modified organisms and products is banned except for veterinarian purposes. However, it should be mentioned that the Georgian Government adopted Resolution No. 198 on 30 June 2013; it will enter into force on 1 January 2014.

The Law on the State Budget of 2013, in particular, the article about environmental protection and natural resource management, identifies the priorities, particularly the following part:  “The import of genetically modified seeds and planting materials will be banned; mandatory labelling of genetically modified goods will be introduced.” The abovementioned priorities were not/could not be implemented this year.

By the end of 2012, on the initiative of the Georgian Government, the Ministry of Environmental Protection started working on the draft bill about the Modified Living Organisms that will regulate biosafety at the legislative level. The draft bill bans the importing/seeding and planting of modified living organisms, seeds and seedlings. According to the draft bill, the introduction of the genetically modified goods will be permitted in the market network only after appropriate labelling. The Ministry of Environmental Protection declared that the draft bill is ready and will be discussed at the next sitting of the Government; afterwards, it will be sent to the Georgian Parliament for discussion.

It is noteworthy that the aforementioned priorities are also presented in the Law on the State Budget of 2014.

Conclusion

We discussed the four documents the leader of the Greens Party of Georgia spoke about.

In 2008 Georgia ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Georgia does not implement any of the obligations imposed by the abovementioned international convention. After the ratification of the Cartagena Protocol, Georgia should have adopted the Law on Genetically Modified Organisms but Parliament has not done this so far. Additionally, Georgia does not have a relevant laboratory and genetically modified goods are not being labelled.

According to Decree No. 2-231 of the Ministry of Agriculture of 2009, it is mandatory to label the goods produced using the latest biotechnologies and containing more than 0.9% of genetically modified components. However, the genetically modified goods are not being labelled. As the National Food Agency explained, this is caused by the lack of relevant laboratories that would identify the genetically modified components in food. Resolution No. 198 of the Georgian Government on Organic Production bans the usage of genetically modified organisms and products except for veterinarian purposes. However, this resolution will enter into force on 1 January 2014. Evidently, the aforementioned resolution cannot be violated until it enters into force.

As Gachechiladze indicated, the state budget of 2013 in fact prioritised the “banning of import of the genetically modified seeds and planting materials, labelling such goods will be mandatory.” However, these priorities were not/could not be implemented this year. At this stage there is no respective draft bill about the Modified Living Organisms reflecting the abovementioned priorities of 2013. Nevertheless, the draft bill has not yet been presented to the Government and the Parliament. The priorities are included in the Law on the State Budget of 2014.

Therefore, we conclude that Giorgi Gachechiladze’s statement:  “Four normative acts oblige us to protect the population from genetically modified goods, including one international act; but we keep violating them,” is MOSTLY TRUE.