6 February 2013 The participants of the public hearing

6 February 2013 The participants of the public hearing

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Second Public Hearing Held on Impact of Genetically Modified Organisms (Transgenics) on Environment and Health

Today, the National Assembly House hosted the second public hearing on “The impact of genetically modified organisms (transgenics) on the environment and health”, organised by the Environmental Protection Committee.

Opening the public hearing, the Chairperson of the Environmental Protection Committee, Milica Vojic Markovic, said that genetically modified organisms are a disturbing topic for Serbian citizens. She also spoke of the legislation in Serbia and the European Union, reminding the participants that Serbia had signed the Declaration of Countries of the Danube Region in Berlin, obliging itself that its would not cultivate genetically modified soybeans. At the same time, membership in the World Trade Organisation allows the member states to ban the trade in specific products based on their own risk assessment, added Vojic Markovic. The Committee Chairperson informed the participants that amendments and modifications to the Law on Genetically Modified Organisms are currently being prepared.

Prof. Dr Ljubisa Topisirovic, Director of the Institute of Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering, was among the first to address the participants in the introductory part of the first session, speaking about the challenges to the future of modern civilisation, molecular biotechnology and impact of GMOs on human health and the environment.

Dr Nevena Nagl of the Novi Sad Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops presented a study on the impact of genetically modified organisms on the seed production of field crops. Docent Dr Aleksandar Trbovic of the Serbian Medical Society spoke of the varied uses of GMOs in medicine and the need for Serbia to develop its biotech industry, however, adding that transgenic technology does have adverse effects.

The concerned participants of the discussion from the ranks of professional public and non-governmental organisations were worried about the use of GMOs in human food and on several occasions opined that it is necessary to call a republic referendum where the Serbian citizens could vote on the use and circulation of GMOs.

Speaking about the danger of GMOs and the European countries’ diverse positions on the issue on the behalf of the Greens of Serbia, MP Ivan Karic stressed that it is necessary to adopt a declaration banning the use of GMOs.

Dr Aleksej Tarasjev of the Sinisa Stankovic Institute for Biological Research, Zeljko Popovic of the Novi Sad Faculty of Science and Mathematics and Prof. Dr Marijana Vucinic of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine tried to explain that it is impossible to formulate a single answer to the question whether GMOs are safe for people and the environment, adding that it is necessary to understand the subject matter in order to offer a concrete response to the issue. They also pointed out that there is no scientific data on how the human organism reacts in contact with GMOs.

Listing arguments against the use of GMOs, Dr Irena Beret from the Civic Association Healthy Land urged the local communities to establish GMO-free zones. Prof. Dr Vladan Joldzic analysed the use of GMOs from the aspect of strategic state planning and warned of the danger of Serbia becoming dependent on imported seeds. Docent Dr Drago Djordjevic of the Serbian Medical Society shared data on the harmful impact of GMOs on the human organism.

The discussion gave voice to opposite views on the use and circulation of GMOs. Some were of the opinion that this complex issue demands an analysis of each individual case and the subject matter needs to be examined from the healthcare, ethical, economic, social and political aspect. The participants also had arguments corroborating the claim that the use of GMOs is necessary in medicine, but there was also a slew of opinions that GMOs have solely a harmful impact on people and the environment. Serbia should focus on developing organic production which is a developmental chance for Serbia, said some of the participants of the discussion.

Committee Chairperson Milica Vojic Markovic concluded the discussion with a firm belief that today‘s public hearing on the impact of GMOs on human health and the environment would provide the material to draft guidelines for future actions for the good of Serbian citizens.

In addition to the representatives of the scientific professional public, international and non-governmental organisations and the executive, the public hearing was also attended by concerned MPs, among them Sanda Raskovic Ivic, Dusan Milisavljevic, Mileta Poskurica, Ninoslav Giric, Snezana Stojanovic Plavsic, Ljubica Mrdakovic Todorovic, Jelena Travar Miljevic, Milica Dronjak, Aleksandra Tomic, Konstantin Arsenovic, Nevena Stojanovic, Sasa Maksimovic and Zivojin Stankovic.

The public hearing was held with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) as part of the project Strengthening the Oversight Role and Transparency of the National Assembly, conducted in cooperation with the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia.

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