Raising the limit of radioactive contamination in fertilisersMore results
On 12 August 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry published Regulation 64/2009 on conditions for determining the quality of plant nutrients, deviations in nutrient content and the minimum and maximum values of allowed nutrient content.
- Type of Law
- Capturing a market, an industry or public resources
Description of the law
On 12 August 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry published Regulation 64/2009 on conditions for determining the quality of plant nutrients, deviations in nutrient content and the minimum and maximum values of allowed nutrient content. The regulation, which serves to implement the 2009 Law on Plant Nutrition Products and Soil Enhancers, prescribes methods for testing plant nutrition agents and soil enhancers. One of the measures included in the regulation increases the previously established limits on radioactive contamination by ten times, thus allowing a much higher concentration of radionuclides in inorganic fertilisers. The regulation was repealed on 23 September 2009, 42 days after being published.
After adoption of the regulation, the private company Fertil, which is based in Bačka Palanka, was allowed to import fertilisers with higher amounts of previously banned illicit components. A phytosanitary inspector ordered the company to return the shipment and in October 2016 the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade accused the former minister for agriculture, forestry and water management Saša Dragin of using his position to raise the limit on the amount of radioactive fertiliser that could be imported into Serbia to 2,900,000 kilograms. The trial against Dragin for the import of radioactive fertiliser is still ongoing.
Full Law Name
Regulation 64/2009 on conditions for determining the quality of plant nutrients, deviations in nutrient content and the minimum and maximum values of allowed nutrient content
Type of law
Scope of application
Substantive: regulation on testing plant nutrition agents and soil enhancers
Personal: companies trading nutrition agents and soil enhancers
Temporal: repealed 42 days after being published
Time of adoption and entering to force
It was in force from 12 August to 23 September 2009.
Who drafted it
The Minister for Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry
Who submitted it to parliament or other collective body, such local council
Regulations are internal ministerial orders signed by a minister and they are not discussed at government sessions.
Relevant developments in the process of adoption that show signs it is tailor-made
There were two main problems with the decision to increase the percentage of radioactivity in Regulation 64/2009. The first is that the decision was made under the responsibility of then Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management Saša Dragin, which is contrary to the ministry’s authority. The second is that, according to the established procedure, the competent authorities in the country were supposed to consult with experts prior to the adoption of a regulation to increase the concentration of radionuclides in inorganic fertilisers. Failure to adhere to the procedure for this type of decision allowed the company Fertil to import 2.9 million kilograms of fertiliser containing radioactive contamination. The regulation was lifted after less than two months of being enforced. Also, the Prosecutor's Office for Organised Crime filed criminal charges against Minister Dragin alleging that he had unlawfully changed regulations to allow the import of large quantities of radioactive chemical fertiliser.
Who adopted it
The Minister for Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry
12 August to 23 September 2009
Agriculture, environment & land; health & pharma
Direct beneficiaries and related networks
The private company Fertil was a direct beneficiary. The regulation allowed the company to import 2,994,652 kilograms of fertiliser into Serbia. Nevertheless, a phytosanitary inspector ordered the return of the shipment.
Citizens; other companies that import fertilisers under current regulations; farmers
Had an inspection not revealed that contaminated fertiliser was being imported, the import and use of hazardous materials could have continued. This could have had a long-term impact on human health and permanently endangered the environment.
Impact on rule of law
The case illustrates that ministers in Serbia have considerable discretionary powers and that much greater transparency is needed in decision-making.
Initiatives to challenge it and outcomes
Only 42 days after being published, the controversial regulation was repealed by a new ministerial order on 23 September 2009.
Is there any corruption case that is linked to the tailor-made law?
Yes, an investigation was opened against former minister Dragin in November 2012 as part of proceedings initiated by the Prosecutor's Office for Organised Crime into alleged fraud in the sale of the returned fertiliser. A year later, the Prosecutor’s Office for Organised Crime transferred the case to the First Basic Public Prosecutor's Office. During over three years of investigation, more than 20 witnesses were called to testify, including a large number of employees at the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as employees at the Ministry of the Environment. Experts on radioactive radiation were also interviewed. Saša Dragin remained in custody for ten months after his arrest in 2012 on suspicion of misuse of a position in the sale of returned mineral fertiliser from July 2009 to August 2011, contrary to the decisions of the Serbian government. The Prosecutor's Office charged Dragin and 20 of his associates with causing damages of more than RSD3 billion (€25 million) to the fertiliser plant Azotara based in Pančevo. The trial began in September 2013 and is still ongoing.
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