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7-Misc: US biotech industry reply on Glickman's speech

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TITLE:  GM industry turns on its latest critics
SOURCE: Independant, UK
DATE:   July 15, 1999

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THE US biotechnology industry struck back yesterday against
"celebrity" critics, including the Prince of Wales and Hollywood
stars, for their vocal opposition to genetically modified crops
and other advances, saying that they "just don't know enough
about the issues they use their star power to highlight".
Speaking in Washington, Carl Feldbaum, president of the
Biotechnology Industry Organisation, which lobbies on behalf of
almost 1,000 companies and research centres worldwide, defended
the industry's record, especially in medical research, and said
that it was inconsistent to embrace the medical benefits while
denouncing parallel developments in agriculture.

Mr Feldbaum insisted that the industry was phlegmatic about
measures announced this week by the US Agriculture Secretary, Dan
Glickman, to monitor the safety of GM crops because he was
confident that the products were safe. Mr Glickman had announced
his intention to launch an independent scientific review of
official procedures for approving biotechnlogy products and set
up a series of regional projects for the long-term monitoring of
GM crop developments. The measures, which included a pledge to
consider European demands for labelling of food made with GM
crops, were seen as the first US concessions to European worries
about genetic modification of food and an indication that
European consumer fears were spreading to the US.

Announcing the additional precautions on Tuesday, Mr Glickman had
hedged his remarks with multiple expressions of confidence in the
safety of GM techniques, but also mentioned for the first time
the need to "stay on top of any unforseen adverse effects after
initial market approval", the first nod by the administration to
the possibility that the scientific evidence might be incomplete.

That a powerful lobby group like the Biotechnology Industry
Organisation should have chosen to speak out so soon after Mr
Glickman's announcement indicated that the unresolved trans
Atlantic dispute over GM products is in danger of flaring up in
the US, pitting powerful corporate interests not just against
consumer worries, but potentially also against farmers. US
agriculture, already demanding government subsidies to help
offset depressed crop prices, sees the world market for their
produce shrinking as a result of the European ban on GM imports,
and fears that it could shrink still further.

Alluding to their dilemma this week, Mr Glickman warned the
biotechnology companies: "What we cannot do is take consumers for
granted ... a sort of if-you-grow-it-they-will-come mentality."
The risk was that fearful consumers would not come, and that
farmers would be left with unsaleable crops. According to the US
agriculture department, 44 per cent of soybeans and 36 per cent
of maize in the US are grown from GM seed, only a few varieties
of which have been cleared for sale in Europe.

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-| Co-ordinator
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
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