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TITLE:  US sees EU GMO labeling rules as impeding trade
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   October 11, 2001

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


US sees EU GMO labeling rules as impeding trade

WASHINGTON - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said yesterday it would 
be difficult for the United States to accept the European Union's proposal 
on labeling genetically modified foods as not trade distorting. Veneman 
also held out the possibility the United States could challenge the EU 
proposal before the World Trade Organization.

But, EU Consumer Health Commissioner David Byrne said in Washington that 
both officials agreed that lifting the three-year EU moratorium on new 
biotech crops would help bring the two sides closer to an agreement. After 
more than a two-hour meeting with Byrne, Veneman told reporters that the EU 
proposal requiring records for every level in the food-making process - 
from the farm to the grocery store - was seen as unworkable by the U.S. 
agriculture industry. U.S. officials said the new EU provisions could end 
up costing U.S. companies billions in lost sales.

"We need to make sure that if systems are going to be adopted...it does not 
impede trade," Veneman said. "At this point, the anticipation is that it 
could be an impediment to product moving." Veneman said if no compromise 
can be found on the GMO regulations, a U.S. challenge before the World 
Trade Organization could be an option. Byrne reiterated remarks he made 
Tuesday that the European Commission was stepping up its efforts to lift a 
ban on new GM products.

In October 1998, the EU froze all new GM product approvals until 
legislation was put in place governing issues such as consumer labels on GM 
products. "We have agreed that the secret to moving ahead with all of this 
is to get the (new GMO) authorizations moving again," Byrne said. Byrne 
said a European Commission meeting next Tuesday will gauge whether there is 
agreement among the 15 members over legislation governing the approval 
process and consumer labeling requirements for GM products.

If so, the EU likely would establish rules to mirror the legislation. Byrne 
said he was "hopeful" those rules could be put in place sometime next year, 
much faster than the legislation, which isn't likely to be approved until 
late 2002 or in 2003. As the world's largest grain exporter and the largest 
producer of genetically modified crops, the United States argues that any 
restrictions on its food products should be backed up with credible 
science. Many EU consumers have shunned GMO products over concerns about 
its health and environmental effects.



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