Azerbaijan may imprison GMO distributors

By Nigar Orujova

Azerbaijan can jail any person - importers or salespersons – engaged in sale of genetically modified products in the country. The naturally rich country prohibits the import and trade of genetically modified plants, as well as use in food of genetically modified elements.

Parliament discussed new paragraphs to be added to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Violations at the meeting of the Committee on Agrarian Policy last week.

Committee Chairman, Eldar Ibrahimov discussed the projects and spoke about the paragraphs which will be added to the Criminal Code in regards to handling trafficking of genetically modified plants and food.

After the discussion, the draft was adopted and recommended to the plenary session.

The first paragraph of the article provides a fine of 3,000-5,000 manats or imprisonment for a term of 2 years for the import or sale of a large volume of GMP, not intended for research or trade shows, and plant materials created by means of biotechnology and genetic engineering, agricultural food produced through genetic materials, as well as usage of genetic material of GMPs.

The second paragraph presuppose a fine of 4,000-6,000 manats or 3 years imprisonment for the production of food from GMP, not intended for research and representation at trade shows, or plant materials created by biotechnology and genetic engineering, agricultural food produced through genetic material, and the use of genetic materials genetically modified plants.

The third paragraph is intended for the above actions on a large scale. In this case, the fine will stand in between 7,000 and 9,000 manats, and imprisonment up to 5 years. The last fourth paragraph provision a sentence of between 3 to 7 years in prison for a person who has already been convicted under such crime.

The article in the Code of Administrative Violations provides a penalty of 80-100 percent of the value of food produced from genetically modified plants, not intended for research and representation at trade shows, or plant materials created through biotechnology and genetic engineering, agricultural supply produced through genetic material, the use of genetic material of genetically modified plants in lesser amounts than 1,000 manats.

The Azerbaijani legislation bans the import and distribution of genetically modified plants and their inclusion in the state register.

Azerbaijan joined the Cartagena Protocol in 2005 and has a commitment to prevent the spread of GMOs and their use for commercial purposes. In 2011, the country approved a law on protection and effective usage of genetic resources, to protect its population's health and the country's biodiversity.

Despite these actions experts believe that modified products are widely spread in Azerbaijan.

Around 95 percent of tomatoes, 95 percent of watermelons and 40 percent of potatoes are genetically modified in Azerbaijan. About 98 percent of the soya beans, which are widely used in food and cosmetic industries are believed to contain GMOs as well, according to the head of the Azerbaijani Free Consumers Union, Eyyub Huseynov.

However, there has been no official confirmation. Samples taken from a number of plants across Azerbaijan have showed no genetic changes.

GMOs, the result of a genetic engineering process, were created as a solution for countries facing famine and poor land conditions. However, nature-rich Azerbaijan is not among such countries thus there is no need for GMO products here and new measures to fight GMO spread in the country are expected to stop the penetration.

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Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar

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