MBKK Kolomeskoe, which makes a popular brand of wafer cakes, called in scientists from the Institute of Cytology at the Russian Academy of Sciences to verify the GM status of its ingredients - a voluntary move designed to tap into growing concern among Russian consumers about the presence of unlabelled GM ingredients.
Maxim Vonsky, head of the Institute of Cytology told CEE-foodindustry.com that the tests were able to detect the presence not only of GM soya, the most widely used genetically modified crop, but most other GM ingredients as well.
"In accordance with [Russian standard] GOST R 52173-2003, we tested for elements widely used in the development of the most common GM crops. We separately conducted a test to detect GM soya because it is the most widely used. None of the samples given to us by MBKK Kolomenskoe contained any signs of GM ingredients."
For the company, the decision to subject its products to testing was driven by consumer demand. "We decided to conduct tests of our company's products after assessing the level of public opinion against GM products," said Liybov Yakubovskaya, PR manager of MBKK Kolomenskoe. "When we surveyed our consumers, we learned that 80 per cent of them did not wish to buy products containing genetically modified ingredients."
Moscow-based Kolomenskoe is the biggest producer of baked goods in the capital city, and its wafer cakes are famous all over Russia.
"We believe that if you produce food products that are very popular with consumers it is very dangerous indeed to experiment with the way in which those products are made [such as using GM ingredients], as this can clearly have a negative effect on consumer acceptance," said Kolomesnkoe's Albert Mkrtichian. "We took the voluntary step to test our products, but in the future we plan to enforce the mandatory testing of all the raw materials we use, and are working with our suppliers to ensure our continued status as a GM-free food producer."
There is currently little accurate data about the size of the Russian baked goods, mainly due to the highly fragmented nature of the industry which remains focused on local, rather than national, markets. According to estimates by the Information Technology Fund, the market is led by St Petersburg's Khlebniy Dom and Karavay bakeries, as well as Moscow's Cherkizovo and MBKK Kolomenskoe, but they account for between 0.5 and 0.9 per cent of the total Russian market.