GMO vilification may put Russian domestic producers at disadvantage


Since July 2016 it has been prohibited In Russia to cultivate and breed genetically modified plants or animals for commercial purposes. Controversially though, this limitation does not concern imports. However, from July 2017 imports of products that are made with the use of genetically modified organisms will need to prove their safety and undergo a mandatory state registration, and inclusion in a special register.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are controversial in Russia. Regardless of popular opinion, this law means that Russian manufacturers are at disadvantage, as they need to compete by price, and often by real or perceived quality (such as larger potatoes) with imported GMO goods.

Detractors of GMO say it causes serious health damage, such as allergies and certain type of cancer, though these criticisms often have scientific inconsistencies. While the damage from GMOs has not been scientifically proven, the benefits are more immediately clear. It is easy to understand the frustration of producers in Russia when looking at the benefits of GMOs, which are likely to achieve higher profitability from greater product yields. Further benefits from GMOs, such as longer shelf life, resistance to bruising or enhanced nutritional value, also add value to the regular staple fruits, vegetables and grains. Additionally, features like not requiring or requiring less pesticides, and drought-resistance will make such plants more environmentally-friendly.

However, despite these benefits, GlobalData’s 2015 Q2 survey found that 73% of Russian consumers perceive food or drink products with a genetic modification claim to be less nutritious. They are not alone – globally, though in a lower proportion than in Russia, GlobalData found that a sizeable 58% of consumers consider GMO products to be less nutritious.  To counter this negative perception, producers of GMO products must employ educational campaigns in order to inform consumers on their benefits, both nutritionally and economically. This will also help to counter spurious journalism, which often fans negative perceptions of the adverse effects of GMO. By running campaigns that draw on credible research from trusted institutions, producers will be able to turn the tide in favour of GMO, and highlights their benefits.

Changing public opinion of GMOs in Russia will be a tough and lengthy task due to the widespread negative perception of these products. However, with the rise of discount retailers and consumer desire for better value for money ratio, it will be an investment for the future.