Czech Republic. Agricultural Biotechnology Annual. Jun 2013 Nov. 4, 2013
The Czech Republic maintains a scientific approach towards biotechnology. The area of BT corn has, however, stagnated due to difficulties marketing commercially. No major policy or legislative changes are foreseen.
PRODUCTION AND TRADE
The Czech Republic is in a consortium with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and several EU new member state research institutions (like the French INRA) that has developed a bioengineered plum tree, called HoneySweet that is resistant to the plum pox virus. The consortium is now seeking EU deregulation to allow for commercial release of the genetic event. While many field trials have been successfully completed already, it is expected to take several years before the EU member states gain final approval.
The Czech Republic is one of a few EU member states with a rational approach towards biotechnology. Since 2005 Czech farmers have been growing bioengineered BT corn MON 810 and in 2010 they started cultivating the newly approved bioengineered “Amflora” potato which produces a higher starch content sought for industrial application. BT corn is used in biogas production and in on-farm cattle feed, eliminating the need for commercial marketing of the product.
The Czech Republic stopped cultivation of the GE potato Amflora after BASF transferred its research operations to the United States due to the hostile political climate towards genetically engineered crops in Europe.
Czech farmers prefer to use the locally produced BT corn on farm, to avoid any marketing issues. It is fed to animals or used as a feedstock for biogas stations.
Czech Republic imports bioengineered soybean meal, a main protein source for feed mixes. The majority of imports are trans-shipped through the main European ports in The Netherlands and Germany. In 2011, soybean meal imports totaled 453 thousand MT.
Food Aid Recipient
Czech Republic, not a food aid recipient, consequently faces no issues related to biotechnology that would impede the importation of food aid donations.
In the Czech Republic, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) is the competent authority handling the notification and regulation of agricultural biotechnology use in the Czech Republic. MOE cooperates with the Ministry of Health (MOH) regarding address of potential risks to human health. The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) is responsible for animal health, crops, feeds, and agricultural risks associated with biotechnology. The MOE is advised by the Czech Commission for the use of Bio-engineered and Genetic Products, an expert advisory body consisting of scientists, representatives from administrative authorities and non-governmental organizations.
The MOE is the Competent Authority relating to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The Czech Environmental Inspectorate is the Competent Authority with regards to state supervision of bioengineered events, cooperating with other state supervising bodies to complete this task.
The MOA is the Competent Authority in reference to food and feed enhanced through biotechnology and on rules for co-existence.
For information regarding bioengineered crops approved for cultivation, food or feed use, please refer to EU-27 Biotechnology Annual Report.
Unlike most EU member states, Czech Republic permits and is conducting field trials involving several different bioengineered events. In 2012, the area of field trials totaled 7, 200 hectares, including buffer zones. In 2013 the area declined to 4,659 hectares including buffer zones, due to conclusion of sugar beets tests. Bioengineered crops under 2013 field test include: glyphosate and corn borer resistant corn NK603, plum pox virus resistant plum tree, flax, tobacco, peas, and barley (producing phytase).
Stacked Event Approvals
There is no different regulatory treatment of multi-trait “stacked” events.
There are no additional requirements rather than those described in other chapters of this report or required by the superior EU legislation.
The Czech Republic coexistence rules are defined by Act no. 252/1987 amended by Act no. 291/2009 and Decree no. 89/2006, and amended by Decree no. 58/2010 on conditions pertaining to the growing of genetically engineered crops.
Legislation amendments were designed to remove administrative duplicities and to add guidance accommodating future situations (e.g. growing of Biotech soybeans). The primary changes included: Farmers are no longer required notifying MOA in writing prior sowing. However, more neighboring farmers now have to be informed prior to sowing. Farmers do not need to mark the area of the biotech crop in the terrain anymore. Farmers will no longer have to send notifications to both MOA and MOE – from the next amendment of the relevant Decree. The MOA guidance on regulations and changes to farmers is available here.
Coexistence regulations require either:
1) A 70 meter buffer between fields with a conventional crop (i.e., corn) and genetically engineered crop (i.e., BT corn), or
2) A buffer zone of 25 rows of conventional crop around the genetically engineered crop field with a 20 meter buffer between the genetically engineered and conventional corn fields, or
3) An omission of the isolation buffer (distance between fields) if a 35 row buffer zone of conventional crop around the genetically engineered crop field.
For organic agriculture, a 200 meter isolation distance between the genetically engineered crop (i.e., Bt corn) and organic crop (i.e., corn) or a buffer zone of fifty rows of conventional crop (i.e., corn), plus a hundred meter isolation distance.
Packaged foods and feeds derived and/or containing biotechnology enhanced ingredients must be labeled. “Contains GMOs” is a typical example of a product label statement found on the Czech market. Labeling is enforced by local authorities and follows EU labeling standards. For more information on EU biotechnology labeling requirements see the EU-27 Biotechnology Annual Report.
There are no trade barriers to U.S. exports on national level. The European anti-biotech climate remains the major trade barrier.
Intellectual Property Rights
In this area, the Czech Republic adheres to EU legislation as well.
Cartagena Protocol Ratification
The Czech Republic has ratified the Cartagena Protocol more than a decade ago. All regulations of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety are in place.
The country hasn’t been taking any significantly noteworthy positions within international fora like the Plant Protection Convention and the Codex Alimentarius.
Monitoring and Testing
The Czech Environmental Inspectorate is the Competent Authority for state supervision of the use of bioengineered events. It covers contained use as well as deliberate release into the environment in both areas: commercial and research.
It cooperates with other state supervision bodies responsible for specific areas:
• Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority – food inspections and control. They test every food products containing or produced from maize, soy, and rice for the presence of biotech material. The detection laboratories are able to check for genetic modification also in also tomatoes, potatoes, oilseeds, and papaya.
• Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in Agriculture – seeds and feed supervision. They have been testing both, domestically produced and imported seeds since 2006, namely corn, soy, and rapeseed for the adventitious presence of bioengineered events.
• State Veterinary Administration – supervision of animal origin products.
• State Institute for Drug Control – covers medicinal products.
• Custom Authorities – are in charge of export and import.
• Regional Agricultural Agencies of the Ministry of Agriculture in charge of field control of cultivation (compliance with coexistence rules).
Six authorized detection laboratories are available for these authorities.
Low Level Presence Policy
The Czech Republic has been open to imports with low level presence of bioengineered events in general. On the EU level they unequivocally supported resolution of the issue, so that imports could be resumed.
Farmers are facing difficulties with regards to the marketing of BT corn therefore they primarily use that crop on-farm as a livestock feed or for biogas production. However some retail buyers of meat and milk products are now requiring farmers guarantee that their livestock are not fed with bioengineered events. The acreage of BT corn planted has slightly decreased in reaction the last few years. Another reason for the decline in BT corn acreage is that the country’s major export markets for agrarian products are neighboring biotech-free EU states, such as Austria and Germany.
Czech consumers in general do not have a problem buying food products containing bioengineered events. They are more concerned about other issues, such as price and origin of the product.
Several non-governmental organizations have been active in the country – both, for and against biotechnologies, and mainly the production and use of genetically engineered crops. The scientific community has been quite proactive and vocal, emphasizing rational approach and benefits of the technology by disseminating accurate information on the topic. In 2010 Czech Scientists published the “White Book on genetically modified crops”, “in desire to shorten the period of false apprehension of GM crops in Europe”, their own words. The book calls for science-based, rather than politically influenced decision-making process regarding genetically engineered crops.
Pro-biotech NGOs in the country include the Czech Biotechnology Society and Biotrin. Contrary to those, organizations like Greenpeace and some other green-oriented NGOs have been publishing scandalous articles in order to threaten consumers.
Czechs are known for being quite pragmatic and when compared to other EU member states, so they come out as being rather liberal.
There have been no recent country-specific studies on marketing or acceptance of biotechnology. However the 2010 EU-wide survey “Special Euro-barometer 341/ Wave 73.1 - TNS Opinion & Social: Biotechnology Report 2010” shows that Czech people in general have liberal approach to the use of biotechnology and bioengineered events. Biotechnology and genetic engineering is supported by 65 percent of respondents while 36 percent of respondents agree with bioengineered events in food products, a high number compared to other EU member states. For more details please review the survey linked here.
The April 2011 European Commission document shows the Socio-economic implications of bioengineered events cultivation.
CAPACITY BUILDING AND OUTREACH
FAS Prague organized outreach activities including the preparation of short educational videos. This outreach initiative, funded jointly by USDA and State under the latter’s biotechnology outreach program, is a regional outreach model, videos are being translated into several languages found in the Central Europe/Baltic region.
FAS Prague organized a seminar, where the videos were introduced to media and academia audience. Viewing of the videos was followed by a case study presentation on the “Seralini affair”, provided by Czech scientists. The videos and accompanying materials were very well received, which turned out during the lively discussion that followed.
As an outcome of the seminar, several institutions are partnering with FAS Prague on distributing the videos to the target audience. It includes mainly students and younger generations.
USDA resources were also used to partially support efforts of the Biotrin non-governmental organization to publish information from reputable resources from all over the world in English and Czech languages. Several Czech official authorities refer to Biotrin for unbiased information related to biotech issues and subscribe to the monthly bulletin.
FAS Prague facilitated participation of Dr. Peter Davies, a U.S. speaker, at The Student Scientific Conference on Biotechnology and Biomedicine that took place on April 12-13, 2012 in Brno. Dr. Peter Davies, professor of Plant Physiology at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, has been serving as a Jefferson Science Fellow in Agricultural Biotechnology in the Bureau of Economics and Business, Office of Agriculture Biotechnology and Textile Trade affairs, with the responsibility of promoting agricultural biotechnology. His travel was funded through the Jefferson Fellowship.
Strategies and Needs
FAS Prague’s outreach strategy remains supporting efforts of Czech scientists calling for a rational approach towards biotechnologies and for their attempts to dispel myths about the technology spread by NGOs like Greenpeace. The target audience remains the younger generation and students using new media.
PRODUCTION AND TRADE
Biotechnology Product Development
In the Czech Republic there are no genetically engineered animals under development.
In the Czech Republic there are no commercial applications approved for GE animals for food or feed use, and no notification of the use of GE animals for food use or other agricultural use has been filed with the EU.
Genetically Engineered animals are regulated in the same way as any other genetically engineered organisms in the Czech Republic. The basic national legal instrument is Act no. 78/2004 Coll., on the use of genetically modified organisms and genetic products, as amended by the Act no. 346/2005 Coll., with the implementation of Decree No. 209/2004. The competent authority handling the notifications and regulation on the use of GMOs in the Czech Republic is the Ministry of Environment. The responsibility for regulation of food originating from genetically engineered animals comes from Ministry of Health and covers the area of “novel foods.”
The projects using GE animals that have been authorized in the Czech Republic so far fall under the scope of contained use. The authorized GE animals are classified as risk category 1 or 2 (minimal risk). Authorization process: The entity that intends to use GE animals notifies the Ministry of Environment. The notification must include risk assessment, a description of proposed containment measures and handling of the GE products including their transport, storage, and disposal of waste.
Labeling and Traceability
The Czech Republic has been following the EU regulations in this area; there is no national policy in place.
Main trade barrier remains the EU policy.
Intellectual Property Rights
Czech authorities are currently not considering preparing a legislation addressing specifically intellectual property rights for biotechnologies on national level.
So far there haven’t been significant discussions on the topic that would divide the general public into distinctive opinion groups. Scientific community has been supportive, publishing every once in a while popular-science articles introducing and explaining basic facts on animal biotechnology.
FAS Prague is not aware of any market studies related to animal biotechnology and genetically engineered animals