BTA News

Roundtable in Sofia Discusses New Genomic Techniques, Bulgaria’s Position on Their Deregulation

A roundtable on new genomic techniques (NGTs) was held at the BTA National Press Club in Sofia on Friday. Participating were politicians and representatives of civil society and industry organizations. The discussion was prompted by the still unclear position of Bulgaria for the January 11 vote in Brussels on the European Commission’s draft regulation on NGTs.

Under the document, this new generation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will not be subject to checks and risk assessments. The proposal was already put to the vote on December 11, 2023, but the Member States’ ministers of agriculture rejected it. Bulgaria abstained.

The AGROLINK association, a representative of the For the Nature coalition of environmental civil groups and NGOs, noted the common negative position of civil and branch organizations, scientists, doctors, lawyers, and consumers on the draft regulation. According to Engineer Svetla Nikolova of AGROLINK, the regulation is proposed under the pressure of the agrochemical lobby. In her words, the new GMOs created 12 years ago have not done their job even at the lab level. She quoted a position expressed by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) on December 21, according to which the draft regulation was written on the fly, without scientific reasoning and is inapplicable. The obvious lack of support for the document by the agriculture ministers is a warning to the legislators that excluding NGTs from the EU’s active rules on GMOs will inundate the European fields with patented new genetically modified seeds and will increase the monopolies in the agriculture.

Borislav Borisov of the Association of Bulgarian Villages said that Bulgarian currently finds itself at a key moment where it has to decide whether or not to uphold principles related not only to the culture of Bulgarian agriculture but also to food security.

Assoc Prof Vesselin Dochev of Agricultural Institute – Shumen said it is not right to leave NGTs without any control. The Member States which signed a common position against the draft regulation call for proper labeling of the new GMOs so that consumers, farmers, seed producers, traders, and processors can recognize them and avoid them at any time. Also, the new GMOs should continue to be subject to risk assessment and assessment of their conformity with the EU’s precautionary principle. 

Ivelin Tonchev of the Blizkata Ferma, an organic farm near Sofia,  said that they mostly engage in regenerative agriculture, because after many years of conventional agriculture, the land needs restoring. In his words, the claim that NGTs will help overcome world hunger is throwing dust in society’s eyes, because that hunger is the result of purely political decisions, and not because there is no food. “With the methods of conventional selection, we can feed the world’s population,” he commented.