Hungary recently won an important court battle against the European Commission with relation to GMOs, confirming the policy of the Hungarian Government. In addition, in 2013 the Government launched programs supporting farmers’ market and local communities.
In its ruling, the European Court of Justice nullified the European Commission’s resolutions allowing the marketing of the genetically modified Amflora potato within the EU for industrial and cultivation purposes and for use in feed. Hungary contested the resolutions at the Luxembourg court citing the fact that the genetically modified potato poses a danger to human and animal health, which was also supported by France, Luxembourg, Austria and Poland. According to the Ministry of Rural Development, the decision confirms that Hungary is on the right track.
One of the strategic elements of the country’s GMO strategy is that it does not allow genetically modified plants to be included in domestic cultivation. In addition, a safeguard clause has been introduced, meaning that if the EU permits the cultivation of a genetically modified plant, Hungary has the opportunity to adopt a different decision.
Several results have been achieved in the legislative regulation of GMO-free agriculture, which is clearly stated in the newly adopted Fundamental Law. Hungary was the first country in the Central and Eastern European region to adopt the strict act on gene technology activities in 1998, which became even stricter following its 2012 amendment. The significance of the law lies in the fact that it makes the provision of samples obligatory and so provides an opportunity for independent testing. It also assures heightened protection for those involved in traditional and organic farming, thus also providing consumers with food self-determination.
Strict measures have also been introduced with regard to monitoring. In view of the fact that it is very difficult for member states to ban GMOs that have been authorised for food and feed purposes because of the principle of the free flow of goods within the European Union, we are working to develop edict-level regulations to ensure that food labelling indicates if a product is GMO-free and foods derived from animals that have been fed with GMO-free feed are also suitably labelled. The new legislation is aimed at providing consumers with more information. In a series of events, representatives of the Ministry of Rural Development, and experts from the scientific and civil communities held lectures on several topics including the social, economic, health-related and environmental effects of GMOs. The Ministry also launched its new interactive website (www.gmoterkep.hu), which presents a host of information on genetically modified organisms via a global GMO map.
In addition to preserving the country’s GMO-free status, the objectives of the new National Rural Development Strategy for the 2014-2020 period also includes the reinforcement of the local economy and communities. Farmers’ markets create conditions for a short food supply chain and local distribution, while by bringing producers closer to consumers they increase the community’s food safety and security, consumer confidence and demand for local products. In addition, they lead to a significant decrease in the use of energy, packaging materials and additives, thus also protecting the environment.
Several measures have been introduced over the past three years to encourage farmers’ markets. Conditions for the operation and opening of local farmers’ markets have been simplified, for instance. In addition, the Hungarian Product Act makes it clear to what extent products on market shelves are Hungarian, while the Hungaricum Act collects our thousand-year treasures of our Hungarian culture in a comprehensive depository. Thanks to eased regulations, there has been a marked increase in the number of local farmers’ markets and increasing numbers of settlements are now seeking to achieve food self-sufficiency and to process and market their surpluses. In addition to the above, programmes and campaigns aimed at directly promoting Hungarian products and trademark programmes relating to various quality categories have also been launched. One of the most outstanding programmes designed to promote and facilitate the production, processing and marketing of local products is the Farmstead Development Programme, which in addition to supporting farming in secluded rural areas also provides funding for the development of farmstead infrastructure.