As you may already know, in response to US and European Union sanctions on Russia's violent foray in the Ukraine, Russia has imposed an embargo on most Western food imports—with the sole exception of caviar. That ban has been in place for quite some time now, and Russia has taken pride in keeping its food supply as purely Russian as possible.
But guess what? Russia is damn happy to do business with the rest of the world when the money lands in its pockets. In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Russia could in fact become the world's largest supplier of ecologically clean and high-quality organic food. And since Russia has banned genetically modified organisms, they think you'd be better off eating their food anyway. And they might just be right.
Sometime in the near future, you may walk into your local Whole Foods or other purveyor of high-end, non-GMO foods to find many of the labels reading "Made in Russia." Assuming, that is, that US and EU sanctions are lifted in our lifetimes.
Addressing the Russian Parliament this week, Putin eagerly patted himself on the back for making Russia an almost entirely self-sufficient country when it comes to food production. He's calling for complete self-sufficiency by 2020.
But he's not leaving things there. According to Putin, Russia is now primarily an exporter—not an importer—of food. And he wants to supply you with exactly the kind of food you're looking for. Putin said, "We are not only able to feed ourselves taking into account our lands, water resources—Russia is able to become the largest world supplier of healthy, ecologically clean, and high-quality food which the Western producers have long lost, especially given the fact that demand for such products in the world market is steadily growing."
You heard it right, Russia is eyeing the organic, high-quality food market and wants to supply your every need.
What? You don't think of Russia as a bountiful supplier of food products, besides some caviar and vodka? Well, think again. Putin explains: "Ten years ago, we imported almost half of the food from abroad, and were dependent on imports. Now Russia is among the exporters. Last year, Russian exports of agricultural products amounted to almost 20 billion dollars—a quarter more than the revenue from the sale of arms, or one-third the revenue coming from gas exports."
That's right. Not arms, not gas: Food exports are bringing the big rubles into Russia.
Putin sees the healthy food sector as the place to be. In September, the Kremlin voted against the production of food containing GMOs. That's in pretty stark contrast to the US's position, which the Library of Congress sums up as follows: "Compared to other countries, regulation of GMOs in the US is relatively favorable to their development."
The Russian embargo on Western food, however, is not going anywhere. After Turkey shot down a Russian bomber last month, Russia voted to ban the import of fruit, vegetables and poultry from that country as of January 1, 2016.
So, if Putin has his way, the food will be flowing one way only: out of Russia and into a supermarket near you.