Bulgaria: National GM crop situation

Bulgaria: National bans of GM crops

Bulgaria prohibits the cultivation of maize MON 810 and all GM crops under national decrees. No detailed reasons and offical documents of the bans were sent to the EU and EFSA. Bulgaria never fulfilled the legal conditions to impose these bans, but the bans remain in place unchallenged.

Genetically modified maize line MON810

Use: Cultivation
Legal ground for ban quoted: National ruling

  • Ban: In 2010 the Bulgarian government adopted an interim ban on MON 810. The ban lasts 5 years. There is no formal submission to the EU of the measure adopted at national level.
  • EFSA: No scientific opinion of EFSA was released since Bulgaria has never submitted any scientific documentation to the European Union

Reactions European Commission, European Court of Justice, national courts

  • Failure to fulfill legal requirements: The ban has been in place since 2010 although Bulgaria has never started any formal procedure forseen by the European Law and provided detailed grounds for considering that genetically modified maize MON 810 constitutes a risk to human health or environment
  • General Ban: Bulgaria adopted a biotech law in 2004 banning the use of all GMOs into the areas included in the National Ecological Network as well as into the adjoining areas.
  • No action of the EC: The European Commission did not take any action against the Bulgarian bans.

General situation for GM crops in Bulgaria

Pilot survey and summary by Prof. Bojin Bojinov, Agricultural University of Plovdiv

General

In Bulgaria the agricultural sector accounts between 5 and 10 per cent of GDP. In contrast with the industrial sector, agriculture has declined since the beginning of the 21st century. Production in 2008 amounted to only 66 per cent of that between 1999 and 2001, while cereal and vegetable yields dropped by nearly 40 per cent after 1990. Since 2009 agriculture is in rise and during the crisis years is the only sector that maintains growth (3-5 per cent per year).

Key crops

Wheat (1 152 999 ha); sunflower (795 319 ha); maize (430 914 ha); rapeseed (220 252 ha); and barley (174 010 ha). Key constraints in these crops are pests and diseases, and competition from weeds that can result to yield losses up to 80 per cent.

R&D efforts

Bulgaria used to be one of the leading biotech countries in Europe in 1990ies. Many GM crops were under development and pre-commercialization testing at the time, including virus-resistant tobacco and tomato varieties, and herbicide-tolerant cotton.

Regulatory situation

The current GMO law includes clauses that essentially prohibit GM-related research, and any commercialization efforts. For example, the law states that growing and releasing into the environment of GMOs is prohibited within 30 km of “Natura 2000” territories, within 10 km from stationery apiaries and within 7 km from any organic farm.

Experiences of farmers

Insect-resistant Bt maize was grown in the country in the 1999-2003 period, with a peak acreage of around 19,000 ha in the year 2000. GM potatoes were grown on a small scale in 1999-2001. With the increased occurrence of insect pests, numerous Bulgarian farmers have indicated interest in growing GM crops, but that the current political and regulatory climate makes this impossible.