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6-EU §§: US pressures EU to streamline GE regulation



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U.S. urges EU to speed up GM crop approvals
By Andrew Osborn

BRUSSELS, March 18 (Reuters) - The European Union must act swiftly to 
improve its approval system for genetically modified crops whichis losing 
U.S. firms millions of dollars, Richard Rominger, Deputy U.S. Secretary 
of Agriculture, said on Thursday.
"For the U.S., in the short term, the EU's lengthy, complex process costs 
us money -- about $200 million last year in lost exports to Spain, 
Portugal and other EU members," Rominger told a Brussels conference on 
GMOs.
"Since several U.S. biotech corn varieties remain unapproved in the EU, 
it's entirely possible that we won't export any corn to the EU this 
year," he added.
There was little chance, however, that the United States would take the 
EU to the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation (WTO) to get its way on 
GMOs, said Rominger. The WTO was not the way for the United States to 
solve all its trade problems.
The fact that many biotechnology companies responsible for developing and 
marketing GM products are American has placed GM products at the heart of 
the transatlantic trade relationship.
But European consumers have shown themselves reluctant to embrace the new 
technology and British research suggesting GM food may be risky received 
huge media coverage last month.
A group of 25 anti-biotech demonstrators were arrested at the start of 
the conference, sponsored in part by U.S. agri-food giant Monsanto, after 
being refused admission.
Rominger said he expected the EU to sort out problems with those EU 
member states -- namely Austria and Luxembourg -- which operated 
unilateral bans on GM food.
The United States's principal concern was with the EU's approval process 
for GM products.
"In the U.S. it takes an average of nine months for a biotech product to 
pass through the regulatory process. In the EU, that time frame is 18-24 
months for approval to be granted, and the process is not open, 
transparent, or predictable."
The result was that European companies were discouraged from developing 
GM varieties that would benefit the 15-nation bloc's farmers and 
consumers.
The answer was a "safe, open and transparent system with sound science as 
its base," Rominger said. A common EU/U.S. approach to the regulatory 
process would be useful.
"We would favour a common regulatory approach so that a company would 
apply for approval in the United States and the EU simultaneously."
Rominger also warned that calls from European consumer groups to 
segregate GM crop varieties would be costly to implement and push up food 
prices in the short term.
Dr. Kenneth Baker, Director of Government Affairs for Monsanto Europe SA, 
lent his support to Rominger's call for the EU to improve its regulatory 
system.
"It is essential that regulatory structures in Europe be improved and 
coordinated...biotech won't produce all the solutions but must be allowed 
to play its part and so far that is not happening," he told the 
conference.
It was a myth that biotechnology had only taken hold in the United States 
since it had also been welcomed in Argentina, China, Canada, South Africa 
and Uruguay, he said.

Brussels newsroom
phone +32 2 287 6842
fax +32 2 230 5573
Andrew.Osborn@reuters.com

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