The issue has been subject of a heated debate for some months inside Russia. In February 2014, just days prior to the US-orchestrated coup d’etat in Ukraine, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev created a national research project to obtain scientific information so the Government and Duma might make a decision on GMOs in Russia. Now a definitive decision has been made, and it goes against Monsanto and the US-led GMO cartel. We can say Russia’s crisis has concentrated minds on the essentials of life.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dorkovich told an international biotechnology conference in Kirov September 18, “As far as genetically-modified organisms are concerned, we have made the decision not to use any GMO in food productions.”
Last year the Duma or parliament voted to make tough GMO labeling laws as a first step to the new ban in order to inform consumers of presence of GMO in various foods they buy. That was before US and EU sanctions led to Russian counter-sanctions against EU imports of agriculture products. In August 2014, the Russian government announced its bans on import from the EU and several other countries of meat, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables as a response to the sanctions. It produced surprising results. Since the imposition of tough Russian food import bans, Russian agriculture has undergone a spectacular rebirth.
Russian supermarkets from Rostov on Don to Sochi to Moscow today feature overwhelmingly Russian products, domestically grown. Russians I spoke with during a visit this August to the Rostov region told me they realized that the taste of Russian food such as tomatoes was far superior to that of imported food that often is artificially colored and treated with chemical preservatives that it holds on the shelf, looking fresh. Following the tumultuous collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s the corrupt Yeltsin government opened the doors for western agribusiness giants like Kraft, Nestle, Unilever to fill Russian stores with their agribusiness industrialized food products.
Rich organic soils
The decision to build up domestic Russian food production is a huge one. Russia today has some of the richest most fertile agriculture soil in the world. Because during the Cold War economic restraints dictated that products of the chemical industry were dedicated to national defense needs, the fertile Russian soil has not been subjected to decades of destruction from chemical fertilizers or crop spraying as the soils in much of the west. Now this becomes a blessing in disguise, as EU and North American farmers struggle with the destructive effects of chemicals in their soils that have largely destroyed essential micro-organisms. Rich agriculture soils take years to create and can be destroyed in no time. Where the climate is moist and warm, it takes thousands of years to form just a few centimeters of soil. Cold dry climates need far longer.
Russia encompasses one of only two soil belts in the world known as “Chernozem belts.” It runs from Southern Russia into Siberia across Kursk, Lipetsk, Tambov and Voronezh Oblasts. Chernozem, Russian for black soil, are black-colored soils with a high percentage of humus, phosphoric acids, phosphorus and ammonia. Chernozem is very fertile soil producing a high agricultural yield. The Russian Chernozem belt stretches from Siberia and southern Russia into northeast Ukraine, on into the Balkans along the Danube. The other major Chernozem belt is in the Manitoba prairies of Canada.
Agribusiness vs. Food Security
The Russian Agriculture Ministry has also formulated a Russian Food Security Doctrine that regularly issues targets for domestic agriculture and fisheries production. This month they promulgated a new target of 85% for domestic fish consumption.
A project, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, and developed by two professors at Harvard Business School, developed what they termed “agribusiness.” The Rockefeller idea was to do to world agriculture what Rockefellers had done to oil—create a top-down monopoly or cartel where a handful of corporations would control world food.
It was one of the most effective and by far one of the most destructive of many Rockefeller initiatives. Under pressure from the World Trade Organization “free trade” in agriculture should take precedence over national laws for health and safety. Russia’s return to a far higher degree of food self-sufficiency is a major blow to that agribusiness globalization strategy. Its decision to ban GMO food crops flies in the face of that western agribusiness lobby.
The EU sanctions are already creating major change inside Russia in terms of food production. One of the more fascinating examples is the fish production by the Russian Valaam Monastery on an archipelago in the northern portion of Lake Ladoga, in the Republic of Karelia, Russian Federation, near Finland.
Russian Valaam Monastery on Lake Lagoda is booming trout and other food production as response to Russian food import decisions
The Economic Director of the historic monastery has announced that they will triple fish production to 200 tons of trout a year from the present production of some 60-70 tons. “Previously, our fish had been on shop counters in St. Petersburg and Murmansk. But we did not supply it directly to retailers. We would supply it to the intermediaries who did the processing. Now we would like to attract investment to build fish-processing facilities. Then it would be possible to store it not two or three days but longer, and we would be able to supply it directly to retailers,” the responsible monk told Russian Izvestia. They also make cheese, including Italian varieties such as mozzarella, caciotta and ricotta. They had lost fish production Russian market share owing to cheaper industrially-produced Norwegian salmon in recent years. Norway is afected by Russia’s ban.
Food production in Russia’s under-populated far-east region is also set to boom. On September 3 in Vladivostok at the first Eastern Economic Forum, Russia’s Agriculture Ministry announced the creation of a new $10 billion agriculture development fund together with China.
A number of financial institutions, including Russia’s state-owned Sberbank, will participate in its operations. The aim of the fund is to stimulate the production of 10 million tons of grain and agricultural products annually, beginning 2020.
Both China and Russia will cooperate on joint investment projects in the Russian territories of priority development, nine of which are located in Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District, the ministry added. The projects will include investments in agribusiness, grain growing, processing, storage and logistics as well as the construction and operation of agribusinessinfrastructure. In brief, major positive transformations are taking place in Russian food security and self-sufficiency.
Russia’s new Homestead Law
This July, taking a page out of American history, the Russian government announced it was drafting a Russian “Homestead Act.” The Russian government is finalizing a bill which will give an opportunity to every Russian citizen to obtain one hectare of land, or a maximum of five hectares for a family of five, in the Russian Far East for free.
They can use the land to farm, to do forestry or simply build a home and live, so long as they use the land for the first five years. After, they own the land free if the plot has been used for activities not banned by Russian laws, reported TASS. In the case of non-use the land will be confiscated and revert back to the government. Foreigners will have no right to get the free land. The new land law, if passed in the Duma, will take effect in January, 2016.
A recent poll suggests there is significant interest in the offer, with some 30 million mostly young Russians ready to “go east.” Following the economic devastation of Russia during the Yeltsin era of the 1990s, eastern regions suffered economic collapse and significant depopulation as people migrated to cities to survive.
Into this broader context of recent developments, the definitive government ban on growing GMO crops in the Russian Federation adds a major new attraction. Russia stands to become one of the world’s most desired producers of natural, organic non-GMO-contaminated food for the world.
Today, the once-great American agriculture has been de-humanized, industrialized, by giant agribusiness concerns, and contaminated by Monsanto and GMO plants along with its deadly herbicides containing toxic glyphosate. More than 80% of all US corn is GMO and almost 100% of USA soybeans. This is no small matter. Exports of GMO soybeans and corn are allowed unlabeled, by loopholes, into the European Union as well as into China. That means that most of the meat and even farmed fish that European and Chinese consumers eat contains indirect GMO crops and toxins. In light of all this it might make sense to treat Russia a little more politely in the future if we want to eat healthy food. They are doing what we should be doing, but don’t. Why?
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.