Those citizens of Kazakhstan who often travel abroad willingly or accidentally learn about genetically modified products (GMPs). After hearing GMPs-related horror stories our compatriots return home and try to find out whether genetically modified products are sold in Kazakhstan.

This is almost impossible since in stores no GMPs-related data is available and sales staff is often even not aware of the mere fact of GMPs existence. Hence, people living in Kazakhstan are prompted to jump to a wrong conclusion that there are no shipments of genetically modified products to Kazakhstan.

Of course, in reality the situation with genetically modified products in Kazakhstan is totally different. Significant quantities of genetically modified products have been imported for a long time already. However, in Kazakhstan GMPs are sold without any special marking, unlike, say, in Russia where all genetically modified components are required to be specially marked.

Attorney of the National Consumers League, Ms. Natalia Dalabaeva suggests: “Nobody does “GMP” marking in Kazakhstan. However, for example, cereals and chocolate imported from Canada are said to be produced using genetic engineering methodologies. No one knows for sure. Relevant expert analysis is not conducted. National Consumers League recently started to conduct research on the issue, however the study was initiated by the League’s staff and not by consumers. So far consumers have never raised the issue with the League and no complaints have been filed.

We have just started our research. Of course, we shall cooperate with government officials, biologists, medical experts. However, we are not in the position to recommend whether to buy or to stay away from genetically modified products. Our goal is to make sure that products are appropriately marked. Then consumers will have to decide for themselves which products to choose”.

Ms. Dalabaeva considers that based on the currently available data it is possible to suggest that nothing horrible has been going on so far. Sometimes there are unexpected allergic reactions. However, genetically engineered “new generation” of products demonstrates high resistance to adverse effects, is not affected by pesticides, looks perfectly well and is sold at lower price levels. American scientists (The US is the world’s leader in genetically modified production of crops, particularly, soy beans, corn and potatoes. Consequently, some researchers argue that in reality anti-GMP protestors are afraid of American monopoly on the world’s agricultural commodities markets) believe that genetically modified crops will help developing and poor countries fight otherwise inevitable mass starvation. How will the new products affect future generations? There is no definite answer for this question.

By the way, Kazakhstan’s new Consumer Rights Law approved by the Parliament’s lower chamber and passed on to the upper chamber contains no reference to genetically modified products.

The National Sanitary and Epidemiological Station also provided no information regarding genetically modified products sold in Kazakhstan. Head of the Station’s Foodstuff Section, Ms. Marina Kuzhukeeva explained that there were no methodologies, equipment or staff available to conduct relevant testing. Allocated resources barely allow to test safety and hygiene properties of products. Representatives of the State Standards Agency’s Foodstuff Certification Section at first did not understand the nature of the questions. Later, the Head of Foodstuff Certification Section, Ms. Enlyk Tynybek, stated that Kazakhstan had no equipment to conduct relevant tests.

Food Institute’s staff seemed to be much better informed. However, Professor Igor Zoi positively assured us that no genetically modified products had reached Kazakhstan. At least, he was unable to recollect any certification testing performed on such products. The fact that no testing was performed means that theoretically no GMPs can be sold in Kazakhstan. Considering that currently in Kazakhstan there are no legislative acts dealing with genetically modified products, GMPs suppliers do not break any laws by not submitting their products for testing.

What is Professor Zoi’s personal opinion of the products eagerly consumed by Americans and despised by Europeans?

Mr. Zoi’s opinion appears to be very positive because genetically modified products have predefined characteristics meaning that it is possible to increase content of certain important elements or to improve resistance to adverse effects thus increasing crop yields.

Aren’t you appalled by arguments presented by GMPs opponents stating that humanity will pay dearly for genetic experiments and that introduction of foreign DNA into key foodstuffs is unnatural and is associated with profound health risks?

These arguments are groundless. I am positive that we, too, need to start growing genetically modified products. Thanks to genetic engineering we can improve resistance of plants to insects and adverse weather conditions, and, I repeat, to improve positive qualities of products. Of course, negative qualities can be aggravated, too, since every product contains negative characteristics as well as positive ones and there is nothing 100% safe for all living organisms. However, this fundamental dichotomy can not be changed. We have to learn how to select and choose.

It is considered that further development of genetically modified products will widen the gap between rich and poor both at the international level and within countries. For example, currently in the United States consumers can buy 100% non-modified products in special organic farming stores at relatively higher prices. Our consumers do not have the right to choose between organic and genetically modified products. Quality of life of the vast majority of our people is so low that consumers prefer whatever is less expensive.

By Lubov Krasnova


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