On January 26, on the initiative of the RA NA Standing Committee on Territorial Administration, Local Self-Government, Agriculture and Environment parliamentary hearings were held over ''Genetically modified organisms; alternatives or compulsion?'', in attendance were the RA NA deputies, government staff officers and representatives of non-governmental and international organizations, scientists , sectorial executives.
In his opening remarks, Vardevan Grigoryan, the Chairman of the Committee stressed that during the previous convocation the National Assembly considered the RA law draft on "Biosafety of the use of genetically modified organisms" adopted in the first reading , however afterwards it was countermanded by the Government. According to him, the problem has become more urgent due to the activity of the American Monsanto Company, as well as contradictory moods in the commercial and scientific circles of the society.
By Mr. Grigoryan’s assessment, the parliamentary hearings are aimed at debating the proposals and remarks of all stakeholders.
RA Deputy Minister of Agriculture Ashot Harutyunyan submitted data regarding the activities of “Monsanto” company in the main report, emphasizing that the latter imports small amounts of vegetable seeds to our country. According to 2017 data, over 125 kg.
The Deputy Minister briefed that the seed market in Armenia is liberalized; there is no legislative act banning the import of genetically modified (GM) seeds. The law on “Food safety” was adopted in 2016, which directly relating to the sphere, defines the requirements of safety, labeling and packaging of food substances and auxiliary ingredients that are sold in Armenia. According to that law, the mark on GMOs should also be indicated in Armenian, if the labeling of GM food is higher than 0.9%.
Ashot Harutyunyan presented the actions and steps implemented by the Ministry towards GMOs. A commission was set up with the participation of officers of the Ministries of Agriculture, Healthcare and Nature Protection, NGO representatives and scientists to discuss issues regarding supervision over sound application of GMOs. The speaker also informed that corresponding departments of the RA Ministry of Agriculture were instructed to create a working version of the project based on the propositions of the interdepartmental commission, which will be submitted to the public and extensively discussed.
RA Deputy Minister of Nature Protection Khachik Hakobyan, illustrating the treaties ratified by the Republic of Armenia, also returned to the procedure of discussing the draft on “Biosafety of the use of genetically modified organisms” adopted in the first reading of the previous convocation. The Deputy Minister stated that an ideological approach to the legislative regulation has not been changed, but the responsibilities under EAEU and the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) shall be surveyed.
There was noted that the developed draft streamlines environmental and biodiversity preservation, biosafety-related possible impacts concerning the acquisition, testing, multiplication, storage, elimination or balancing out GMOs in Armenia, including export, import and transboundary movements, thus taking into consideration threats posing human health.
Acting Head of Medical Assistance Policy Department of the Ministry of Healthcare of RA David Melik-Nubaryan touched upon the possible impacts of GMOs on human health and international approaches to its management. He presented data of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the risks of food use with GMOs. The speaker stated that presently, the Ministry of Healthcare has no facts that the application of GMOs brought about health problems in Armenia.
The speaker set a great store on mandatory labeling of food that contains GMOs, as well as availability of document verification for its export and import.
The questions addressed to key reporters, as well as responsible persons' speeches of the sphere refer to the effects of foods containing genetically modified organisms on human organisms, their usage risks, regulation in other countries, consumption and export statistics in producing countries, protection of consumers' interests, pricing policy for realizing these foods, amounts of plant cultivation in Armenia. It was suggested to study the experience of countries where their import and production are prohibited.
Deputy Chairman of the Committee Arayik Hovhannisyan thanked the participants for effective discussions and emphasized that the purpose of the hearings was to perceive the operating procedures in this sphere in our country. He noted the importance of complying international experience with the possibilities of Armenia. Arayik Hovhannisyan attached importance to the activities of the interdepartmental commission.
In his concluding speech, Vardevan Grigoryan, the Chairman of the Committee assured that the Committee will be consistent in further activities, taking into account that the issue signifies the public's and remarkably consumers' interests.
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Environmental Protection and Mining Inspection Body was defined as a subordinate body to the Government by the RA law on “State administration system bodies” adopted on March 23, 2018, thus citizens may send their calls and applications to the Head of the Inspection Body (Address: 46 Charenc, Yerevan, tel. 011-81-85-92).