GENET archive


8-Misc: How US put pressure on Blair over GM food

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

SOURCE: Guardian, UK, by David Hencke and Rob Evans
DATE:   February 28, 2000

-------------------- archive: --------------------

How US put pressure on Blair over GM food

President Clinton was briefed to put intensive pressure on Tony Blair 
to open up Britain and Europe to US genetically modified food and 
crops during private talks at the Downing Street summit in 1998, 
papers released to the Guardian revealed yesterday. And within 24 
hours of US protests, Britain had acted to modify proposals to try to 
open the way for more GM food being sold in Britain and the rest of 
the European Union. The approach, which was never made public, was 
timed for three separate meetings - two in Downing Street's state 
dining room, and at Dunbar Court in the foreign office, at the EU 
summit on May 18.

Documents released to the Guardian under the US freedom of 
information act reveal President Clinton was briefed to warn Mr Blair 
- who then held the EU presidency - that "the EU's slow and non-
transparent approval process for genetically modified organisms has 
cost US exporters hundreds of millions in lost sales." It goes on: 
"In the spirit of increased US-EU regulatory cooperation, we urge the 
EU to take immediate action to ensure that these products receive a 
timely review." Papers for the meeting show the same complaints were 
put to President Jacques Santer, then head of the European 
Commission, and Sir Leon Brittan, then EU foreign affairs 
commissioner. The papers show more detailed complaints were put to 
Margaret Beckett, then trade secretary, and Robin Cook, the foreign 
secretary, by William Daley, the US trade secretary, and Madeleine 
Albright, the US secretary of state, at meetings in the foreign 
office and Downing Street that morning.

Participating in the talks were the co-chairmen of the Transatlantic 
Business Dialogue - a lobbying organisation - Lodewijk de Vink, chief 
executive of Warner-Lambert (now Time-Warner), the US international 
media company, and Juergen Schrempp, chief executive of Daimler-Benz, 
the car makers, who back deregulation of European-US trade. The 
papers show that not only did the US attack the EU over the slow 
approval of GM crops but it criticised the labelling of GM foods. The 
brief reads: "Differences among member states over labelling have 
been an impediment to reforming the approval process. We will be 
watching the commission's efforts to implement its new guidelines for 
labelling and we hope the EU can now move quickly to complete review 
of the products in the pipeline.That said, the US sees no reason to 
label a product simply because it has been genetically engineered. 
Mandatory labelling of GMOs should be based on sound science."

The next day the Financial Times reported that the UK presidency had 
brought forward proposals to scrap plans for labelling food saying 
"it may contain GM ingredients" which had created an impasse with 
national governments. The UK government - in line with US policy - 
proposed to limit the products that could be labelled as containing 
US soya bean derivatives.


Last night the Guardian's disclosure was welcomed by Tony Juniper, 
Friends of the Earth campaigner on GM food. He said: " The government 
has repeatedly denied in private and public that the US has ever 
raised or tried to put pressure on the government over GM food. These 
previously secret briefing papers suggest the opposite occurred." The 
papers also show that neither John Prescott, the deputy prime 
minister, who had overall responsibility for the environment, nor 
Michael Meacher, the environment minister in charge of GM crops, were 
invited to these discussions. The briefing papers will be banned 
under home secretary Jack Straw's freedom of information bill until 


|                   GENET                     |
| European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering |
|                                             |
|             Hartmut MEYER (Mr)              |
|          Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51            |
|            D - 37083 Goettingen             |
|                 Germany                     |
|                                             |
| phone: +49-551-7700027                      |
| fax:   +49-551-7701672                      |
| email:                    |