Agriculture Ministry: Hungary maintains GMO-free position

The ministry noted that the European Union had started negotiations on the regulation of new genetic technologies (NGT).

The agriculture ministry said the Hungarian government is not planning to change its strategy of keeping the country’s agriculture free of GMOs, noting that the European Union had started negotiations on the regulation of new genetic technologies (NGT).

According to a draft published by the European Commission last week, produce created using NGT would fall into two categories, the first of which would no longer be governed by current GMO regulations, the ministry said, adding that in the absence of any prior risk assessment, labelling or monitoring, organisms may enter the environment. As for the second category, licensing procedures would be made much easier, “with far fewer data and impact analyses than that which apply to existing GMO”. Moreover, in the case of some organisms, “follow-up would be absent and any harmful effects would never be assessed.” Under the proposal, member states would not have the right to decide if they want to allow the farming of such produce on their territory, the ministry said. “This is an especially sensitive issue for Hungary because the EU’s GMO directive was modified in 2015 … so as to make it possible for member states to decide if they want to grow GMO or not…” “The current proposal would strip members of that achievement,” the statement said.

The statement said that the government supports the research into new gene technologies such as genetic editing in research institutes or universities as those activities would contribute to developments and greater competitiveness. Using such technologies in closed systems eliminates environmental and health risks, it said, while such farming technologies would entail risks that “must be assessed before such a product is marketed”. “Once there is a harmful effect … it is too late to act because those organisms cannot be withdrawn from the environment,” the ministry said, adding that “regulation of activities concerning such organisms is indispensable”. Hungary advocates prudence and will not support any initiative through which such products could be distributed without prior health and environmental risk assessment in the EU, the statement said. Ensuring the food supply and food security, as well as protection of traditional and ecological farming, are high priorities, the statement said, adding that the final decree should stipulate that NGT products are adequately marked, monitored, and could be excluded from ecological farming. Mandatory product marking would also ensure the consumer’s right to make a free choice, the ministry said.

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