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8-Misc: US to draft proposal to speed up EU's GM approvals



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TITLE:  US to draft proposal for faster GM crop approvals
SOURCE: Reuters, by Julie Vorman
DATE:   September 30, 1999

----------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ ------------------


US to draft proposal for faster GM crop approvals

WASHINGTON -- Peter Scher, special U.S. ambassador for
agricultural trade, was cited as saying today that U.S. trade
negotiators are working with other countries to draft a proposal
that would force the European Union to speed up its approval
procedures for imports of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The story says that the regulation of bioengineered crops is
expected to be a contentious issue at the World Trade
Organization talks that begin in November, because of consumer
concern about potential long-term impacts on health and the
environment.

Scher was cited as telling a Senate Agriculture subcommittee
hearing on the world trade talks that a U.S. proposal for GM crop
approval procedures will not be ready until mid-2000, adding,
"Our goal is to ensure that the approval process is done in a
science-based, transparent and timely way. Our goal is not to
dictate to Europe." He did not elaborate on what kinds of
procedural changes

Washington might seek in its WTO proposal next year but did add
that U.S. negotiators were already discussing options with their
counterparts from Canada, the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation,
and other farm experts. Gus Schumacher, a U.S. Agriculture
Department undersecretary on foreign issues, was quoted as
telling the same hearing that, "The EU has frozen the approval
process, and it needs to be thawed."

Under questioning by Senate Democrats on the panel, Scher also
said that U.S. trade negotiators were determined to hold the EU
to regulatory approvals it has already given to GM crop
varieties. For example, currently all types of GM soybeans grown
by U.S. farmers are approved by the EU for imports.

"We've made it very clear that if that would become a problem for
them it would become a major trade crisis for us," Scher said,
referring to any retroactive action by the EU. The labelling of
foods made with GM crops is also likely to be raised at the WTO
talks, which are expected to continue for about three years.
American farm groups worry that labels could be improperly used
as a non-tariff trade barrier.

Scher was quoted as telling reporters after the hearing that, "We
believe that labelling should be science-based and should not
impede trade in any way. It should be implemented in such a way
that is consistent with international obligations."

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman earlier this year urged
companies to consider voluntary labels on foods made from GM
crops, citing the desire of consumers for more information. The
U.S. government has repeatedly said that labels are not needed on
foods made from GM crops unless the nutritional content of the
food was changed, an allergen introduced, or if cooking
procedures needed to be changed.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., one of the nation's biggest grain
exporters, shook up the U.S. agribusiness industry earlier this
month when it told suppliers and farmers they must begin
segregating GM crops from conventional crops to satisfy consumer
demands. "ADM made what was obviously a business decision," Scher
said. "A lot of us would be interested in why they made that
decision." 



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