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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A country of grain and water but not of GMO?

At the expense of what Ukraine can grow new bumper crops
25 September, 2012 - 00:00
EXPERTS SAY THAT IF UKRAINE WANTS TO WIN COMPETITION ON THE AGRARIAN MARKET, IT WILL HAVE, SOONER OR LATER, TO APPLY GMO-TECHNOLOGIES. AS THE COST OF FUEL, WORKFORCE, AND ELECTRIC POWER IS APPROACHING THE ONE IN EUROPE, WE SHOULD SEEK OTHER WAYS TO LOWER THE PRICES OF FARMING PRODUCE / Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

Ukraine has an opportunity to become one of the world economy leaders in the next 10 years, Petro Poroshenko, Minister for Economic Development and Trade, announced at the 9th annual Yalta Summit (YES). In his words, it is the development of the Ukrainian agro sector that can offer this opportunity. According to Poroshenko, in the next decade oil and gas countries will lose their economic leadership to the countries of grain and water, i.e., the ones that have abundant food reserves.

At the same time, the minister noted, it all depends on whether Ukraine will seize this opportunity, in particular, whether it will manage to raise the investors’ trust and its labor efficiency.

Meanwhile, national scientists forecast that Ukraine may reap a grain harvest of over 80 million tons by as soon as 2017. What will ensure this result are new and more productive varieties of grain. Yet there are so far no other preconditions for record crops. Experts estimate that, to reap 80 million tons of grain, one must invest at least 270 billion hryvnias in the sector, 220 billion of which will be used for buying the new equipment. Besides, agrarians are also short of fertilizers – in Ukraine, every fourth hectare is not fertilized at all. The same applies to plant protection means.

However, genetically-modified crops could in theory economize on the latter. Although it is banned to grow them in Ukraine, academics have ample grounds to pin great hopes on GMO.

“We are so far successfully competing with the world because we have cheaper fuel, labor, and electric power. If we had the same agricultural wages as in Europe, if our fuel cost not one but 2-2.5 euros and electricity three times as much, we could no longer compete – unless we applied GMO technologies,” says Mykola BEZUHLY, President of the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences.

Scientists are sure that the use of GMO would reduce the prime cost of agro produce, which foreign farmers, who use GM crops as cattle forage, are already showing. Academics say that permission to eat GM food in Ukraine is just a matter of time. In their opinion, the claim that GMO are dangerous is only the result of the struggle that producers of no less hazardous plant protection means are carrying on for the market. It will be recalled that GM plants do not need these means. Experts warn, however, that, getting rid of one dependency, we are running the risk of falling into another.

“Agricultural producers will have to buy seeds every time because the latter are only available to those who have the intellectual property right with respect to these varieties. These are big multinational corporations. We will thus prevent ourselves from having our national plant varieties. This will reduce the multitude of varieties and agro techniques, and the Ukrainian agro technological school will simply vanish because it will become of no use,” says Tetiana TYMOCHKO, chairperson of the All-Ukrainian Ecological League.

But, as long as GMO are outlawed in Ukraine, the national agro sector has to seek other instruments to remain competitive. In fact, there are quite a few of them. Suffice it to recall energy-saving and alternative technologies which allow the leading countries’ agrarians to fully provide themselves with energy from their own industrial wastes. Meanwhile, in Ukraine, for example, sugar producers have to pay up to 600 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, even though bio ethanol can be made from sugar production wastes.

“Some factories have already built, at their own cost, the stations that can produce bio ethanol. But, unfortunately, there is no law that allows sugar mills to do this,” says Mykola YARCHUK, chairman of the board of Ukrtsukor, an association of Ukraine’s sugar producers.

Most of the agriculture and food industry sub-sectors have similar problems, which hinders Ukraine from successfully struggling for world export markets, even in spite of the never-ending demand for food.

“Every 30 seconds, five children die of hunger in the world. This criterion says that we will be always needed,” Ivan DEMCHAK, director of the Ukrainian Agrarian Productivity Research Institute, notes. “All we have to do is sell our produce efficiently and look for sale markets. We must make an all-out effort for this.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine itself is boosting the import of foodstuffs. According to the State Statistics Committee, a 1.7 billion dollars-worth batch of them was imported in the five months of this year – almost 12 percent up on the same period of last year.

TO THE POINT

A TWINNING project, “Helping Ukraine to Bring the Law on Phytosanitary and Administrative Control into Line with European Standards,” has been officially launched in Ukraine. The EU is allocating over 1.2 million euros for this 21-month-long project. It will be implemented by a joint German-French-Latvian-Lithuanian consortium. The TWINNING project will help the veterinary and phytosanitary service to draw up and implement legislative, standard-setting, and technological instruments, including quality and decision-making systems, based on a phytosanitary risk analysis. Besides, the project complies with national programs of development.

According to Dr. Gerd Mueller, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection of Germany, the harmonization of Ukraine’s legal system with European standards, at which the TWINNING project is aimed, will allow increasing the presence of national products on the international market and boosting trade. “Ukraine’s export potential will considerably increase when the national law is brought into line with European standards. The two-year-long TWINNING project is to render assistance in this and strengthen partnership between Ukraine and Germany,” Dr. Mueller noted. Vadym Symonov, First Deputy Chairman of the State Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service, emphasized that the TWINNING project would be of use because this country is increasing the output of vegetable products and boosting its exports, The Day’s Natalia BILOUSOVA reports.

By Oleksii SAVYTSKY
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