Controversy sparked in Armenia after US embassy promotes GMOs

The United States embassy in Yerevan has sparked controversy by promoting the controversial American agribusiness giant Monsanto’s business in Armenia.

On November 1, the embassy held a conference on Armenian agriculture. Two American companies, Monsanto and Valmont (a company specializing in irrigation equipment) presented at the event to drum up business in Armenia.

“Agriculture […] accounts for 19.6% of Armenia’s GDP and employs 36.2% of Armenia’s labor force,” said Rafik Mansour, temporary head of the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan during the event’s opening. “The United States is dedicated to improving the commercial opportunities for both our countries, and to deepening our trade and investment relationship.”

But the presence of Monsanto – notorious for its production of genetically modified organisms – sparked a backlash in Armenia and among Armenia's diaspora, both of which fear that the country's famed produce could be under threat.

The Armenian National Committee of America held a twitter poll asking “Should @usembarmenia promote @MonsantoCo products to #Armenia's farmers?” Eighty-eight percent of the respondents voted no.

Local activists also drafted a letter to the Armenian government and to U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard M. Mills voicing opposition to the plans to expand Monsanto’s business operations in the country.

Armenia banned the production of GMOs two years ago but the import of food containing genetically modified components is allowed if the products are marked as such. The market is unprotected from the sale of such products.

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