Highlights

There have been few developments in Kazakhstan over the last year with regard to genetically engineered (GE) products. The draft law “On State Regulation of Genetic Engineering Activities" was withdrawn from the Parliament where it had sat, under consideration, for the past five years. The reason given for withdrawal of the draft law was that passage of the legislation would have demanded extra budgetary spending. Given the current economic environment, such budgetary expenditures are not a priority.

SECTION I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Kazakhstan's draft law “On State Regulation of Genetic Engineering Activities" (referred to in this text as the Law on GEA) was withdrawn from the Kazakhstani Parliament in May 2016. The draft had sat in the Parliament, under consideration, since September 2010. The reason given for the withdrawal of the draft law was that passage of the law might require additional budgetary expenditure. Without passage of this measure, development of agricultural biotechnology is unlikely to occur in Kazakhstan. Industry sources indicate that it is unlikely that such a law would be considered again before 2018.

Kazakhstan's crop production is dominated by wheat, which makes up nearly two-thirds of all planted area. The Ministry of Agriculture, however, has a strategy of diversifying crop production away from wheat and into more feed grains and oilseeds. Currently, agricultural biotechnology is not part of the Ministry's Seven-Year Agricultural Plan to 2020.

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) regulations (covering not just Kazakhstan but also Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan) recently came into force, regulating labeling and imports of GE products into any of the EAEU member countries. As Kazakhstan continues to integrate into the EAEU, it is expected that policies and views of the other members states (especially Russia) will play a greater role in regulating biotechnology in Kazakhstan.

SECTION II. PLANT AND ANIMAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

CHAPTER 1: PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY

PART A: PRODUCTION AND TRADE:

a) PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: Currently, one GE crop development project has been finished in Kazakhstan. The new GE crop development project is for a drought resistant wheat variety, conducted jointly with Australian researchers. This research project was completed in 2014 and developed 21 polyploid wheat lines. Field trials are currently under way.

b) COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION: Kazakhstan does not produce any GE crops, and without the passage of the Law on GEA, it is unlikely that substantial development will occur. In the new 7-year agricultural program designed by the Ministry of Agriculture for 2013-2020, there is no mention of GE crops or GE technologies. Area in Kazakhstan planted with genetically engineered (GE) varieties for commercial use is extremely small. The only area planted with GE crops are for a farmer's personal use. Industry sources tell us this is a rare occurrence. When it does occur, farmers are reluctant to notify the government because of the bureaucratic procedures. Kazakhstan crop production is dominated by wheat, which accounts for 64 percent of all field crop area, and 83 percent of all grain area. Crops for which GE varieties exist globally for commercial use are not significant in Kazakhstan: for corn (for grain), the area is only 0.5 percent and for soybean the area is only 0.4 percent of total crop planted area. Rapeseed area has been increasing, but remains at only 1.0 percent of total planted area. Cotton area is only 0.6 percent of the total, and sugar beet production area is almost non-existent. The Kazakhstani Government does have a plan to diversify production away from wheat, and this could lead to an increase in the area planted to oilseeds and other feed grains.

c) EXPORTS: There is no commercial production of GE crops in Kazakhstan and Kazakhstan does not export any GE crops to the United States or any other countries.

d) IMPORTS: Imports of GE crops or products are allowed into Kazakhstan, but must abide by Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) regulations which covers Belarus, Russia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. The EAEU Technical Regulation on Grain stipulates that grain/oilseeds (both for food and for feed use) may contain only registered GE lines (registered in accordance with the legislation of the states, members of the EAEU. Kazakhstan imports only small amounts of corn and soybeans. During 2012-2015, Kazakhstan imported soybeans, mainly from Ukraine and China. In 2015, Kazakhstan imported 324 tons of soybeans from Ukraine, significantly down from the imports in 2014, which were 2,545 tons. The Kazakhstani law “On Seeds Farming" specifies that GE seeds for planting can only be imported for testing and research, not for cultivation.

e) FOOD AID: Kazakhstan is not a food aid recipient. Nor did Kazakhstan provide food aid to other countries in 2016.

f) TRADE BARRIERS: Currently, Kazakhstan's imports of U.S. corn and soybeans (and soybean products) are largely non-existent because the GE lines are not yet registered. In October 2012, Kazakhstan banned the importation of GE-corn NK603, mirroring a temporary restriction imposed in September 2013 by Russia (because of a published study by a French scientist questioning the safety of that type of GE-corn). The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) responded to this published study by stating that it was “of insufficient scientific quality to be considered as valid for risk assessment" and that “such shortcomings mean that EFSA is presently unable to regard the author's conclusions as scientifically sound." Russia removed the ban without any public acknowledgement. Kazakhstan has not disclosed publicly if the ban has been removed, however, there have been no imports of this GE-corn since the ban was initiated.

PART B: POLICY

a) REGULATORY FRAMEWORK: In early 2011, the Government of Kazakhstan drafted the Law on GEA in order to regulate biotechnology in Kazakhstan. This law remained stalled in the Kazakhstani Parliament for about five years. The Ministry of Education and Science presented it to the Socio-Cultural Committee of the Parliament in February 2011. Since 2011, it has been under review by the Parliamentary Committee and was not expected to come up for discussion again until February 2016. However, the Kazakhstani Government Decree No 307 dated May 30, 2016 (in Russian) withdrew the draft Law on GEA from the Parliament. The stated reason for the withdrawal was that passage of the law might cause additional budgetary commitments. Given the current economic climate in Kazakhstan, this legislation was not a priority. Without this law in place, development of agricultural biotechnology is unlikely to occur in Kazakhstan. Some sources believe that it is unlikely that this law will be considered before 2018.

In 2015 Kazakhstan joined the World Trade Organization. In order to help with the accession, in January 2014, Kazakhstani President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, instructed the government to adjust the plan for the development of the agro-industrial complex, to permit genetically modified crops. However, implementation of this provision is likely to take an extended period. This draft law on the State regulation of genetic engineering activity specifies separate roles for different government bodies on the regulation of agricultural biotechnology. However, the government has not identified the authorized bodies. The draft law specifically states:

1. The authorized body on health:

a) implements the state policy on genetic engineering activities within its jurisdiction;

b) develops, approves, within its competence, the normative legal acts on genetic engineering;

c) makes within its competence, risk assessment of first-time produced and first-time imported genetically modified organisms (GMOs);

d) runs State Registry of GMOs;

e) makes state registration and re-registration of GMO;

f) approves the form of registration certificate of GMOs; and

g) performs other functions stipulated in this Law, other laws, acts of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

2. The authorized body on agriculture:

a) implements the state policy on genetic engineering activities within its jurisdiction;

b) develops, approves, within its competence the normative legal acts on genetic engineering; c) makes risk assessment within its competence; and

d) performs other functions stipulated in this Law, other laws, acts of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

3. The authorized body on environmental protection:

a) implements the state policy on genetic engineering activities within its jurisdiction;

b) develops, approves, within its competence the normative legal acts on genetic engineering; and

c) performs other functions stipulated in this Law, other laws, acts of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

According to the draft law, the authorized body on genetic engineering issues permits to the following genetic engineering activities:

1) LMOs/GMOs creation and/or testing;

2) LMOs/GMOs use in closed systems; and

3) LMOs/GMOs release into environment and use in open system.

With regard to approval timelines, the draft law states that the authorized body on genetic engineering is required to issue decisions and permits to applicants within the following timelines of receiving the necessary documents from the applicant.

1) LMOs/GMOs creation and/or testing – 120 calendar days;

2) LMOs/GMOs use in closed systems – 90 calendar days; and

3) LMOs/GMOs release into environment and use in open system – 130 calendar days.

4) If any documentation is missing or incorrect, the applicant must submit it within 45 calendar days.

5) APPROVALS: The registration of GE lines for the entire EAEU (Belarus, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Kazakhstan) for use in food is done by the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance in the Sphere of Human Rights Protection and Human Well-Being (Rospotrebnadzor).

c) STACKED or PYRAMIDED EVENT APPROVALS: The draft law on biotechnology does not include any information on stacked or pyramided event approvals.

d) FIELD TESTING: The Kazakhstani law “On Seeds Farming" theoretically allows field-testing of GE crops, although the draft Law on GEA sets out the approval process and until it is enacted, it is unlikely any field trials would occur. Currently there are no field trials.

e) INNOVATIVE BIOTECHNOLOGIES: Not applicable.

f) COEXISTENCE: The draft law does not specify coexistence rules. However, they can be developed after law is passed.

g) LABELING: Labeling rules are now covered by a Customs Union Technical Regulation on Labeling seewhich came into force on July 1, 2013. This regulation states that all products containing more than 0.9 percent GE-ingredients must be labeled as such. If it contains less than 0.9 percent GE ingredients then it does not have to be labeled.

h) MONITORING AND TESTING: In 2012, the Ministry of Health reported conducting a series of tests on imported and domestically produced products for the presence of GE traits. The Ministry of Health reported that 1,939 food samples were studied from 27 countries, including 41 percent of samples from domestic production. Of these tests, six samples tested positive for the presence of GE traits. Two samples, of sweet corn from Russia and Hungary, contained a GE presence above 0.9 percent and thus, according to Kazakhstani regulations, should have been labeled. In four other samples, (sweet corn from Russia, a corn dessert from China, a cake product from Iran, and a sausage product from Russia), detections of GE presence were found within permissible limits of 0.9 percent. Another GE test was reported in 2016, when unlabeled food product imports (some from the United States) were suspended due to higher levels of GE crops.

i) LOW LEVEL PRESENCE (LLP) POLICY: Up to 0.9 percent of unapproved GE events are allowed. There are five laboratories in Kazakhstan that can test for the presence of GE events.

j) ADDITONAL REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS: The Kazakhstani law “On Seeds Farming" specifies that GE seeds for planting can only be imported for testing and research, not for cultivation.

k) INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (IPR): The Kazakhstani Law “On Selection Achievements Copyright" allows for patents for plant and crop improvements.

l) CARTAGENA PROTOCOL RATIFICATION: Kazakhstan ratified the Cartagena Protocol in 2008.

m) INTERNATIONAL TREATIES/FORA: After nineteen years, Kazakhstan's negotiations on accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded at a final Working Party Meeting on June 22, 2015. The Working Party forwarded the Accession Package to the General Council for formal adoption by all 161 WTO members. Kazakhstan completed WTO membership late in 2015. Kazakhstan is member of the Codex Alimentarius Commission since 2003 and member of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) since 2015. However Kazakhstan didn't take positions pertaining to agricultural biotechnologies, the use of agricultural biotechnologies and products thereof in other international treaties, conventions or other international fora.

n) RELATED ISSUES: The Ministry of Agriculture welcomed training and discussions on Agricultural Biotechnology Legislation. However, the development of GE products is not a priority of the Ministry. Some producers, farmer groups, and Ministry officials advocate that Kazakhstan could have a competitive advantage in producing and marketing “ecologically clean" agricultural products for exports, and as a result, the country should not develop domestic GE crops.

PART C: MARKETING

a) PUBLIC/PRIVATE OPINION: There is limited active campaigning for or against GE products and/or production. Since Kazakhstan's production of crops for which GE varieties exist is minor, this issue is not of great importance to farmer groups, the Grain Union, or the Ministry of Agriculture in general. Anti-GE sentiment in Kazakhstan is driven primarily by Russian media, but also by Kazakhstan's desire to sell agricultural products to EU countries.

b) MARKET ACCEPTANCE / STUDIES: In Kazakhstan, the public is apprehensive about purchasing GE products. However, there seems to be an understanding that due to global trade, it is difficult to be completely isolated from these products. There is some marketing of products as non-GE (especially for items like baby-food) but for the most part, non-GE labeling is not an important marketing strategy. No known marketing studies exist on the acceptance of GE plants or products in Kazakhstan.

CHAPTER 2: ANIMAL BIOTECHNOLOGY:

PART D: PRODUCTION AND TRADE

a) PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: There is no known development of GE animals or livestock clones in Kazakhstan.

b) COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION: Although the Government has made increased cattle production the top agricultural priority (including turning Kazakhstan into a beef exporter), this strategy includes importing pedigree breeding animals, semen and embryos but does not include any research on GE animals or clones.

c) EXPORTS: Kazakhstan does not export any GE animals or livestock clones.

d) IMPORTS: Kazakhstan does not import any GE animals or livestock clones and there are no restrictions in place.

e) TRADE BARRIERS: Although Kazakhstan imports U.S. livestock, including U.S. cattle, in substantial quantities, there have never been any GE-related trade barriers.

PART E: POLICY

a) REGULATORY FRAMEWORK: Animal biotechnology would be governed by the draft Law on GEA when or if it passes Parliament. The approval process and governing bodies responsible for regulating animal biotechnology are expected to be the same as proposed in the draft law, as it does not differentiate between plant and animal biotechnology. In the draft law it classifies "GMOs" as “products of plant and (or) animal and (or) microbial origin, produced using genetic engineering techniques." As a result, when the draft law refers to the process for registering, regulations, and approvals of “GMOs," this is understood to include both plant and animals.

b) INNOVATIVE BIOTECHNOLOGY: Not applicable

c) LABELING AND TRACEABILITY: Not applicable

d) INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (IPR): Not applicable

e) INTERNATIONAL TREATIES/FORA: Not applicable

f) RELATED ISSUES: Not applicable

PART F: MARKETING

a) PUBLIC/PRIVATE OPINIONS: Not applicable

b) MARKET ACCEPTANCE/STUDIES: There are no known market studies on the marketing of GE animals in Kazakhstan.