The Russian Orthodox Church declared eating unhealthy foods such as potato chips sinful this week. The statement follows a greater effort to encourage Russians not to consume Western foods.
“The Church has laid down a strict rule — sin is that which harms human health,” stated Moscow Patriarchate deputy speaker Roman Bogdasarov.
These foods include anything that contains “various trans fats, alcoholic beverages of poor quality, potato chips, energy [drinks] – everything that negatively affects a person’s health.” He even included genetically modified foods [GMO], claiming they can “severely harm a person” and “their offspring.”
In September, Russian officials banned “production of goods using” GMOs.
“The question is complicated, but the decision was made: We are not going to produce any food products using genetically modified organisms,” said Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich.
Russia stopped importing GMO goods in 2014. The government then drafted a law to ban “GMO cultivation, except for research purposes.” Dvorkovich also said the country “has ‘chosen a different path’ to boost crop yields.”
Tensions with the West spanned to the food world when Russia banned Western imports in 2014. Russians can no longer accept food from Albania, Montenegro, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Ukraine. The list includes meat, fish, milk, dairy products, and fresh produce. The Kremlin had already banned most food from the U.S., EU, Canada, and Australia in 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree over the summer that allowed the government to destroy “foods that have been banned for import in retaliation against Western sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.”
In late September, Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s agricultural watchdog, reported the Kremlin has destroyed 738 tons of food since Putin signed the decree. Russians expressed outrage in August when a television station broadcasted workers destroying the food “in a country with rising poverty and a history of food shortages.” The ban forced food prices to rise 20 percent.
Over 500,000 people signed a petition that asks Putin to stop destroying the banned foods.
“Why destroy food that could be used to feed veterans, pensioners, the disabled, large families, victims of natural disasters and other people in need?” the author wrote in the petition.
Russian officials admit it is not easy to replace the banned food even though Medvedev wants “Russian industry to overtake foreign imports.” Dvorkovich brushed off any criticism, insisting “it is too early to talk about major results.” But without the Western food, Russians eat lower quality products. The government hopes to buy more food from China while importing cheese from Iran. Inspections of the cheese passed tests from Rosselkhoznadzor.