About 75 per cent of Bulgarians favour the possible introduction of an optional GMO-Free Standard to guarantee that food products do not contain any genetically modified organisms, not even in quantities which are below the legal GMO labelling threshold, according to a nationwide representative poll conducted by the Market Links consulting firm and unveiled by the non-governmental organization For The Earth (FTE).
An even higher proportion of 78.4 per cent of respondents want the standard to also ensure that animal-based foods were made from animals whose feed was GMO-free, the FTE-commissioned poll shows.
The news comes at a time when a Food Bill, which has been discussed for more than a year now, is due for a second reading in the National Assembly. The original version of the bill stipulated that a GMO-Free Standard would be established by an Agriculture Ministry ordinance for the entire farm-to-table chain. Later on, for unclear reasons, the stipulation was replaced with a requirement for sectoral organizations to devise good manufacturing practices which should be approved by the agriculture minister, FTE said.
After activists raised objections, the bill was altered again and approved by the National Assembly on first reading, leaving critics dissatisfied because it did not meet their main demand that an optional GMO-Free Standard should be established by an ordinance written after broad public deliberations.
The Market Links poll shows that the general public supports the demand of the activists - 82.6 per cent of respondents say that the GMO-Free Standard should be devised by all interested parties, including NGOs and scientific research institutes. Only 5.8 per cent of interviewees suggest that the standard should be devised only by sectoral organizations.
FTE's Ivailo Popov warned that the powerholders are set to distort a good idea: instead of establishing a generally acceptable GMO-Free Standard, they want the sectoral organizations to establish good manufacturing practices. It is unclear what these sectoral organizations are, Popov said, adding that they may even hold conflicting views about GMO.
FTE noted that in Germany there is such an optional standard established by law, and in Austria and France, by ordinance. Four thousand products in Germany carry a GMO-Free sign, and they generate over 4 billion euro in annual sales, the organization said.