Cooperation Gesellschaft Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
PROGRESS REPORT ON THE GIZ/DSI "GMO-FREE QUALITY SOYA FROM THE DANUBE REGION" PROJECT IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA AND SERBIA
In late 2014 the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) began implementing its 3-year project "GMO-Free Quality Soya from the Danube Region" on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Bosnia -Herzegovina and Serbia. The project uses the participation of both countries in the Danube Soya (DS) Initiative and their involvement in the DS quality programme as starting point to strengthen the competitiveness of agricultural and rural actors. This shall be achieved by developing favorable policy and legal framework conditions, strengthening research and advisory services, and developing competitive production lines for GMO-free quality soya cultivation and commercialization. The project is carried out in close cooperation between GIZ and the Danube Soya Association. In this article we would like to inform you about some progress and results achieved since the start of the joint project.
IMPROVEMENT OF POLICY AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK CONDITIONS
At the political level, one main achievement in the project's first year is the availability of draft standards for a regionally harmonized labelling and control system for GMO-free food products for Danube Region countries that have been developed in a participatory process. This joint action was agreed on by the agriculture ministers of the regions in the Danube Soya declaration, and aims at clearly informing consumers when a food product has been produced without GMO, guaranteeing consumer freedom of choice.
The participatory development process included a regional technical working group chaired by the Environment Agency Austria. Together they developed draft documents based on the analysis of extant GMO-free labelling and control systems in Austria, Germany, and Slovenia.
During the review process experts from competent GMO authorities from 12 Danube Region countries were invited to provide comments on the draft documents. Seven countries gave concrete comments on the documents, three accepted the documents without comments, and two did not reply. The finalized harmonized documents will be handed over to the governments involved in early 2016 for further consideration and implementation at the national level, especially in countries that do not yet have GMO-free labelling systems in place.
Furthermore, the project supported the design of appropriate incentive systems for GMO-free quality soya. A first result is the inclusion of a specific incentive line for farmers that participate in the Danube Soya Quality Programme in the incentive rulebook 2015 of the Republic of Srpska (BiH). Political dialogue has begun about a harmonized incentive system for the whole of BiH.
STRENGTHENING OF AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTES AND EXTENSION SERVICES
The transfer of knowledge between research institutes, extension services and producers, as well as regional research cooperations were key aspects of the 2015 project support. This strengthened research and advisory institutions in promoting the sustainable cultivation of GMO-free quality soya.
The competence of research and extension experts was strengthened through workshops and training sessions on the cultivation of conventional and organic soybean production, field demonstrations, and study tours. The transfer of knowledge from research to farmers via extension service providers has been improved by activities focusing on the exchange of information, knowledge, and experience between agricultural research institutes and extension services at national and regional levels. This is especially important for BiH, where soya bean production and the competence of extension services regarding soya bean cultivation is significantly lower than in other countries of the region (e.g. Serbia, Croatia). Therefore a number of training events for extension services in BiH have been organized in cooperation with agricultural institutes from Novi Sad and Banja Luka, as well as Vojvodina extension services. Visits to agricultural institutes and extension services in Germany and Austria enabled experts from BiH and Serbia to deepen their knowledge of advanced fields like organic soya production or mechanical weeding, and to identify mutually beneficial areas of cooperation. Further project activities addressed the exchange of knowledge on statuses and challenges in GMO food production, and the prevention of illegal GMO-soybean cultivation. Beside the broad dissemination of the brochure "Genetically Modified Organisms and Biosafety," published by the GMO-council of BiH, and offering training for extension services, the project supported the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Srpska in monitoring illegal GMO soy production.
Some of the main achievements of the activities implemented in this working area are:
- Research and extension advisors dispose of up-to-date knowledge and innovations regarding production techniques, including integrated weed control. Furthermore, a competent soya expert team is available in BiH. This team works to contribute to the expansion of soya bean production in the country. The knowledge acquired through their advisory work for farmers has a direct impact on the profitability and effectiveness of soybean cultivation.
- Communication and exchange among experts and advisors at national and regional levels have improved.
- A regional research project has been established between the agricultural institutes of Novi Sad (Serbia), Banja Luka (BiH), Osijek (Croatia), and BOKU-University Vienna, aiming at increasing the capacity of soya bean breeding to overcome the negative effects of climate change in soya bean cultivation.
- The Bavarian research institute, LfL and Novi Sad institute have applied for the expert exchange program of DAAD.
- Overview information about illegal GMO-soya cultivation in the Republic of Srpska forms the basis for follow-up activities to achieve efficient prevention and control.
- The soya cultivation area in BiH has increased by 44% between 2014 and 2015.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A COMPETITIVE PRODUCTION LINE FOR GMO-FREE QUALITY SOYA
One important first step in this area was the establishment of a Danube Soya regional center in Novi Sad in May 2014, providing services for Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, and Hungary.
The center's main activities include the aim to establish sustainable value chains on national, regional, and international markets, as well as inclusive buyer-seller relations certified under the Danube Soya quality guidelines. Protein partnerships as long term cooperations between organic and conventional domestic soybean producers, processors, and international buyers was the chosen approach to develop value chains to regional and international markets. 13 protein partnership project concepts were developed. Over 15 companies from Germany, Switzerland, and France visited Serbian companies during 2014 and 2015. Various match making events were organized in 2015, including B2B meetings in Vienna, Berlin, and Ulm.
During 2015, Danube Soya domestic labeling projects were developed for the national markets through strong cooperation with domestic food retailers and the support of the government institutions in charge (Ministry of Agriculture and Environment Protection of the Republic of Serbia and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations and Food Safety Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina). This enables Danube Soya quality labelling of products of animal origin using GMO-free soya-based feed (such as meat, milk, eggs...) for the first time in Serbia and BiH, emphasizing the controlled GMO-free quality and origin of the labelled products. Moreover, this is a unique opportunity for other industries using soya ingredients to highlight and valorize particular qualities of their products.
Furthermore, the Danube Soya regional center and GIZ took the initiative to elaborate the sector study "Effects of Liberalization of Law on GMO on the Soybean Market in Serbia" with the involvement of more than 50 stakeholders and experts from soybean and soybean-related supply chains. Supported by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Serbia, it aims to predict and measure what will happen once the Serbian market is open for GMO imports, and to provide information and advice to businesses and policy makers for the development of appropriate strategies for these new open market conditions. The study's results will be disseminated through various media in 2016.
Additionally, the regional center, together with national and international experts, has developed training curricula for conventional and organic soya production, established a network of demonstration farms, and generated best practices of soya production to be disseminated in farmer trainings, winter schools, and field days.
Some of the main achievements of the activities implemented in this working area are:
- Match making efforts resulted in 73 established business contacts, 19 possible new contracts, and 5 signed framework contracts with international buyers from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
- The domestic labelling projects in Serbia also included work with the domestic food industry and food retailers. Mercator S, for example, has requested that their Private Label suppliers of selected products certify under the Danube Soya standard within 3-6 months.
- 6 best practice demonstration platforms for organic and conventional soya bean production were established with various domestic and international partners; 4 in Serbia and 2 in BiH. 430 visitors participated in the Danube Soya field days.
- The results of the field test trials resulted in 5 best practices, including those related to mechanical weed control in large and small organic farms, inter-row distances of selected varieties, or integrated pest management.
- Over 600 producers were trained by domestic and foreign experts in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.