GENET archive


8-Misc: European GM markets lost forever US fear

-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE:  Panelist: European GM markets "lost" for now
SOURCE: AgAnswers, Purdue University, USA
DATE:   January 21, 2000

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Panelist: European GM markets "lost" for now

Blindsided by unforeseen objections to genetically modified (GM)
commodities in Europe and Japan, the U.S. government and
agriculture industry need "to take some steps back" to listen to,
and sympathize with, the underlying reasons for the objections,
according to experts speaking at Purdue Friday (1/21). Panelists
speaking to an audience of 400 farmers and alumni of Purdue's
School of Agriculture at the annual Purdue Science Forecast,
agreed that agriculture is a very long way from a worldwide
consensus on GM technology.

"We've stumbled so badly in Europe that certainly that battle is
lost for five to 10 years," said Ron Meeusen, senior vice
president of research plant genetics and biotechnology at Dow
AgroSciences. "It's going to take a tremendous amount of effort
to come to some understanding." Meeusen said that when his
company introduced GM crops in the United States, it held an
ambitious series of public meetings to introduce the technology,
and to hear and address concerns. It worked. Afterwards, the U.S.
debate quieted, he said. But Meeusen pointed out that the success
was enjoyed only here at home. "Our mistake was we thought the
rest of the world was listening," Meeusen said.

Fellow panelist Paul Thompson, a Purdue professor of philosophy
and specialist in the ethics of biotechnology, agreed that the
effort to gain acceptance of GM foods in Europe is lost for at
least five years. Thompson said that objections to GM technology
there are partly due to the common European perception that the
U.S. government and U.S. agriculture never considered Europe's
concerns before using the technology and still aren't much
interested in the European point of view.

He pointed out that the U.S. advocacy of GM technology has
focused solely on the "safety" of GM foods and of the science
that makes them possible, despite other concerns worldwide that
are cultural, environmental or historical and have little to do
with the safety of the food itself. "We have done virtually
nothing to show our respect, and that breeds mistrust," Thompson
said. "We need to start thinking of a relationship in which we go
that extra mile to prove that we are trustworthy." Also
influencing opinion in Europe, Thompson said, are scares such as
the Chernobyl nuclear accident and Mad Cow disease that have
fostered a general mistrust of science and of scientists who
declare anything "safe."

The most potentially vehement domestic objections to GM foods,
Thompson said, are religious ones. He warned that while people
with such objections are in a very small minority, it could
become a highly vocal minority. "We need to be having this
religious and cultural discussion," he said. "Because as we
don't, they are getting angrier and angrier."

Asked whether farmers should plant GM Roundup Ready soybeans this
spring, panel member John Ade, senior vice president of ADM
Countrymark, considered his answer and said: "If you're planting
non-GMO there's not a problem." He added, however, that farmers
should first investigate what processors are using and what their
elevator will take and under what sort of identity-preservation
rules. "It looks to be almost 50-50 this year," he said,
referring to the amount of GM seed versus non-GM seed he has seen
purchased for planting this spring. 


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