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Cyprus will be declared GMO-free, says Agriculture Minister
2007-06-07 13:27:11

Nicosia, Jun 6 – Cyprus wants to declare the island a GMO-free zone because it is not big enough to ensure conventional crops will remain unaffected by biotech ones, its Agriculture Minister has said.

Mr. Photis Photiou also said that the Mediterranean island, which joined the European Union in 2004, would support controversial legislation now being drafted by parliament placing genetically modified food on separate supermarket shelves.

Attempts by the Cypriot Parliament to put foodstuffs with more than 0.9 percent authorized GMO content on separate displays had angered the United States during a previous debate on the issue in 2005.

A separation between organic, conventional and GMO crops was not possible on islands the size of Cyprus Mr. Photiou noted.

“Establishing things like security zones is just an exercise on paper,” Mr. Photiou told an environmental conference in Nicosia, called to launch a roadmap of government policies towards genetically modified products.

“We must elucidate these arguments to back our position in detail that there cannot be any coexistence,” he said.

Cyprus’ farming sector is relatively small, contributing about 4.0 percent to gross domestic product.

European public opinion is generally suspicious of genetically modified products, fearing health and environmental impacts. Advocates of biotechnology insist it is safe and will help eradicate world hunger by improving food supply.

A plan pursued by Cypriot legislators in 2005 to separate GMO food in shops angered the United States, which had at the time warned the move could harm bilateral ties.

The US had sent a letter to the Cypriot parliament in 2005 warning the move risked stigmatizing biotech foods and contravene Cyprus’s obligations as a World Trade Organization member.

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