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
"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
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
"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
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.
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