I blogged here in March about proposed laws concerning alcoholic beverages in Russia and the prospect of a WTO dispute (assuming that Russia does become a Member). It seems that the Duma will consider the WTO accession agreement over the next 6 weeks and that we should know by the end of July whether Russia will become a Member.
In the meantime, English language information about some of the steps Russia may take and how those steps could affect health is starting to trickle out. There was a story out yesterday on an agricultural news service suggesting that Russia will amend its domestic law to permit importation and production of GMO products. One of the interesting things about the story is that a Russian official is quoted to the effect that Russian scientists should be developing GMO crops in order to protect public health, food and environmental safety.
Obviously, opening the market in this way may encourage domestic research and development, but it is somewhat surprising that the opening of the market is being sold as good for health and safety. I am no expert on GMOs, but there has been quite a vocal movement against GMO crops due to fears relating to their potential effects on human health and the environment. At present, voters in California are even preparing to vote in November on the proposition that California law require labeling of foods containing GMOs.
In the WTO context we have already seen a dispute (EC – Biotech Products) concerning management of the risks associated with GMOs. It will be worth watching how Russia approaches the issue and how California’s vote affects the US posture on it.