Russia has likened the Monsanto and Syngenta products to terrorism, even introducing a bill that will punish anyone that uses biotech seeds. Will Putin’s plan backfire?

Sometime before wrestling bears and after hunting tigers, Russian President Vladimir Putin found a few minutes to denounce the use of genetically modified crops (again).

While Russia was widely believed to allow the use of biotech crops shortly after joining the World Trade Organization, the country believes it has found a way to remain GMO-free without violating its obligations as a member nation.

A new bill introduced to the Russian parliament would treat producers of biotech crops from companies such as Monsanto ,The Dow Chemical Company , and Syngenta as criminals — with fines comparable to terrorism. As co-author of the bill Kirill Cherkasov told RT:

“When a terrorist act is committed, only several people are usually hurt. But GMOs may hurt dozens and hundreds. The consequences are much worse. And punishment should be proportionate to the crime.”

If the proposed bill becomes law, punishment could range from 15 years to life.

That seems a bit harsh to me and, when coupled with numerous anti-science quotes and ideologies from the bill and its supporters, I just don’t see how a policy could be sustainable scientifically or economically (what Russia really cares about) speaking.

Additionally, most crops grown in Russia today (wheat, barley, sunflower, oats, potatoes) don’t have GM varieties.

That’s good news for Monsanto and Syngenta shareholders, but Russia claims that it can grow enough organic food to never need biotech crops. Are those bold claims actually true?

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Can Russia farm without engineered crops?
Russia is free to ban biotech crops, but it should do so with more accurately worded proposals. I’d start by scrapping the proposed bill or amending it to a point where it is generally unrecognizable from its initial submission. Then, Russia should insert language that speaks to its concerns that GMOs are not sufficiently tested and its belief that organic farming practices can sustain the country on their own.

After doing that, Russia must come to grips with reality.

Despite being nearly twice as large as the United States, Russia has substantially less arable land, irrigated land, and land dedicated to permanent crops. Consider the following land area comparison between Russia and the United States:


Additionally, Russia simply doesn’t support its farmers as well as its European counterparts. While traditional farming is subsidized to the tune of $410-$545 per hectare in the European Union, organic farming captures federal support of nearly $1,230 per hectare. The Russian Ministry of Agriculture offers domestic farmers just $200 per hectare for producing organic foods. Subsidies may be relative to the economics of each country, but Russia isn’t doing much to compete with European organic farmers.