The Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Act has caused a stir in Bulgaria, prompting parliamentary debates and public protests about lifting the country's five-year ban on GMOs.
Mid-January, the Bulgarian parliament gave a first reading approval to the GMO Act's amendments proposed by the ruling GERB-party government (Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria) to ease the GMO restrictions and get in line with EU legislation.
However, by early February, GERB came under strong pressure from parties across the political spectrum – as well as NGOs – regarding the GMO's potential health hazards.
The opposition Union of Democratic Forces MPs called for banning GMO crop field trials for vines, wheat, oilseed rape and tobacco.
Borisov against GMO
Caught in a tight spot, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov began campaigning against GMOs while members of his cabinet went the other way.
Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naydenov even voted for introducing genetically modified animal feed into EU countries during an EU Council meeting.
In response to the public protests that ensued, Borisov in a TV news show earlier this month said that he and Parliament Speaker Cecka Cacheva guarantee GMOs will not be allowed outside labs, even under threat of EU sanctions.
But European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek (Czech Republic) further complicated matters during his visit to Bulgaria on March 3rd when he said "it is very hard to reject GMOs altogether".
President Georgi Parvanov responded this week, saying he will veto any amendments lacking strict GMO safeguards. He also said he may call on parliament to hold a national referendum to maintain GMO prohibitions.
So far, five municipalities have been declared GMO-free by local authorities. In addition, genetically modified crops are banned in areas of the National Ecological Network and in a 30-km radius buffer zone around them.
As the legislative battle gears up, Cacheva commissioned public opinion research showing that 71% of Bulgarians believe the GMO risks outweigh any possible benefits.
Source: SE Times