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6-Regulation: U.S. politicians press for WTO action against EU GMOpolicy



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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  EU Biotech Ban Based on Fear, Not Science, House Leader Says
SOURCE: Washington Files, USA
        http://usinfo.state.gov/cgi-bin/washfile/display.pl?p=/products/
        washfile/topic/econ&f=03032601.cec&t=/products/washfile/newsitem.shtml
DATE:   Mar 26, 2003

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


EU Biotech Ban Based on Fear, Not Science, House Leader Says
Hastert Urging Bush to take WTO action against EU moratorium

The European Union (EU) and other countries are using non-tariff barriers
against agricultural biotechnology that are based on fear and conjecture,
not science, says the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In March 26 testimony to the House Agriculture Committee, House Speaker
Dennis Hastert of Illinois said he and other members of Congress are
urging the Bush administration to take a case to the World Trade
Organization (WTO) protesting the EU's moratorium on the granting of
import licenses for foods derived from biotechnology. The moratorium has
been in effect for more than four years.

"Official WTO action is the only course that would send a clear and
convincing message to the world that prohibitive policies on
biotechnology which are not based on sound science are illegal," Hastert
stated in prepared testimony.

"The EU should immediately lift its unfair moratorium and evaluate
biotechnology products using a scientifically based process with
definitive timeframes [and] ... keep U.S. exporters informed about
developments in the approval process," he said.

He added that while the administration has been negotiating with the EU
about agricultural policies, development of biotechnology is slowing,
with potential "dire consequences" for developing countries that have
rapidly growing populations and limited arable land.

Some African countries have turned away U.S. food aid that contains
biotech maize, fearing the EU's later rejection of their food exports,
Hastert said.

EU policies are putting pressure on African governments to reject the
aid, testified Congressman Frank Wolf, a Republican. "This is a trade
issue but more importantly, it's an issue of life and death," he said.

He added that last year India also rejected food aid when nongovernmental
aid agencies could not meet the country's demand to guarantee the food
contained no biotech grains.

The European moratorium was having "a chilling effect" on developing
countries who most need the benefits" of biotechnology, testified Jo Ann
Emerson, co-chair of the Congressional Hunger Center.

African governments' concerns about accepting food aid containing biotech
traits also stem from their lack of national biosafety and regulatory
capacity, she added.

"No other food crops in history have been tested and regulated as foods
developed through biotechnology," she said.

Saying most African officials in ministries responsible for enacting
biosafety laws lack the policymaking skills to draft effective
legislation, John Kilama, a bioscientist, told the committee that
development assistance should focus more on strategic capacity building.

(Note: In the following text, "billion" equals 1,000 million.)

Following is the Text of Hasterts' prepared testimony:

(begin text)

Comments and Testimony Regarding the Artificial Barriers to United States
Agricultural Trade and Foreign Food Assistance

Committee on Agriculture U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday, March
26, 2003

Submitted by Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, (IL-14)

Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to appear before the Committee
today to comment on the artificial barriers to U.S. agriculture trade. I
appreciate your Committee's leadership on this important issue, and thank
you for holding this hearing.

Mr. Chairman, protectionism has a new guise. As we speak, the WTO is
discussing a framework for negotiations in the Doha round of trade talks
with the objective of reducing worldwide tariffs on agriculture products.
As you know, world agricultural tariffs today average about 62 percent,
while U.S. agricultural tariffs average 12 percent.

While these negotiations represent an important step towards the free
exchange of farm goods, there is a more imminent threat to the cause of
free trade -- the use of non-tariff barriers.

Over the last few years, we have seen country after country implementing
protectionist trade policies under the cloak of food safety -- each one
brought on by emotion, culture, or their own poor history with food
safety regulation.

We have seen policies such as those imposed by the European Union and
other countries on agricultural biotechnology; the use of geographical
indications to protect agricultural goods; and the taxation of goods that
include agricultural products, such as the tax on soft drinks that
contain high fructose corn syrup in Mexico.

Simply put, non-tariff protectionism is detrimental to the free movement
of goods and services across borders. We all know that free trade
benefits all countries. However, free trade will be rendered meaningless
if it is short-circuited by non-tariff barriers that are based on fear
and conjecture -- not science.

One particular issue I would like to focus on today is the use of non-
tariff barriers to limit the trade and use of genetically-modified products.

As the Representative of the 14th District in Illinois, my district
currently covers portions of eight counties, including four of the top 25
corn-producing counties, and three of the top 50 soybean-producing
counties in the nation. The State of Illinois is the second largest
producing state of both corn and soybeans in the country. Forty percent
of this production currently goes to exports, valued at approximately
$2.7 billion per year.

U.S. agriculture ranks among the top U.S industries in export sales. In
fact, the industry generated a $12 billion trade surplus in 2001, helping
mitigate the growing merchandise trade deficit. It is important to
realize that 34 percent of all corn acres and 75 percent of all soybean
acres are genetically modified.

And what exactly are we talking about when we say "genetically modified?"
The EU and other countries would have you believe this is a new and
special type of food, questionable for human consumption. In fact, since
the dawn of time, farmers have been modifying plants to improve yields
and create new varieties resistant to pests and diseases. Why would we
want to snuff out human ingenuity that benefits farmers and consumers alike?

Such advancements have been achieved by taking plants with desirable
traits and crossbreeding them. In fact, almost all of today's commercial
crops are now distant cousins from the plants that first appeared in this
country. Biotechnology is merely the next stage of development in this
age-old process.

As this Committee is well aware, the European Union has had an
indefensible moratorium on genetically-modified products in place for
over four years with no end in sight. This is a non-tariff barrier based
simply on prejudice and misinformation, not sound science. In fact, their
own scientists agree that genetically modified foods are safe.

We should all be concerned that this irrational policy is spreading.
China, for example, has developed new rules for the approval and labeling
of biotech products. An overwhelming portion of the entire $1 billion
U.S. soybean export crop is genetically modified. Although implementation
has been delayed, such a labeling program would certainly result in
higher food costs for consumers and higher production costs for farmers.

And what exactly are we labeling? There is general consensus among the
scientific community that genetically modified food is no different from
conventional food. What's different is not the content of the food, but
the process by which it is made. Labeling genetically modified products
would only mislead consumers and create an atmosphere of fear.

It's important for the public to know that the U.S. government has safely
regulated biotechnology since its inception over 30 years ago. And with
the rapid evolution of plant biotechnology in the early 1980s, additional
regulation was added. Ask any American farmer about government regulation
and not.one will tell you that they are under-regulated.

Biotechnology products are screened by at least one, and often by as many
as three, federal agencies. From conception to commercial introduction,
it can take up to 10 years to bring a biotech variety to market.
Throughout the process, the public has ample opportunity for
participation and comment, and data on which regulatory decisions are
based are readily available.

Still, regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, bans on
genetically modified products continue to persist and multiply. The
worldwide impact has been staggering.

The current EU moratorium on genetically-modified products has translated
into an annual loss of over $300 million in corn exports for U.S.
farmers. More disturbing is the recent trend in Africa, where several
nations have rejected U.S. food aid because the shipments contained
biotech corn. This based solely on the fear that EU countries will not
accept their food exports if genetically modified seeds spread to
domestic crops.

These actions by our trading partners have consequences. U.S. farmers are
already beginning to plant more non-biotech seeds. This trend will
increase farmers' cost of production as well as increase the damage from
harmful insects. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has
recently approved a corn technology that will allow the commercialization
of the first corn designed to control rootworm -- a pest that costs U.S.
farmers approximately $1 billion in lost revenue per year. It is absurd
to think that farmers would not be able to take advantage of this technology.

Clearly, the long-term impact of these policies could be disastrous for
U.S. farmers in terms of competitiveness and the ability to provide food
for the world's population. Addressing world hunger is particularly
critical when approximately 800 million people are malnourished in the
developing world, and another 100 million go hungry each day.
Biotechnology is the answer to this pressing problem. Farmers can produce
better yields through drought-tolerant varieties, which are rich in
nutrients and more resistant to insects and weeds, while those in need
reap the benefits.

As Hassan Adamu, Minister of Agricultural and Rural Development for
Nigeria, stated in a September 2000 Washington Post Op-ed:

"Agricultural biotechnology ...holds great promise for Africa and other
areas of the world where circumstances such as poverty and poor growing
conditions make farming difficult. Fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides,
machinery, fuel and other tools that richer nations take for granted as
part of their farming regimen are luxuries in poorer countries. These
circumstances demand unique agricultural solutions, and many have been
made available through the advances in agricultural biotechnology."

As you can see, halting or even slowing down the development of this
technology could have dire consequences for countries where populations
are growing rapidly and all arable land is already under cultivation.

It is my opinion that official WTO action is the only course that would
send a clear and convincing message to the world that prohibitive
policies on biotechnology which are not based on sound science are
illegal. In fact, I would like to thank the members of this Committee who
recently joined me in sending a letter to the President in support of WTO
action -- these are policies which simply must not be allowed to persist.

The EU should immediately lift its unfair moratorium and evaluate
biotechnology products using a scientifically-based process with
definitive timeframes for approval. It should also keep U.S. exporters
informed about developments in the approval process. And if these
procedures require additional time, information, or reviews by different
committees, they should be justified, officially adopted and communicated
to the affected industry. Only then will we have an international process
which can benefit both consumers and producers worldwide.

I greatly appreciate the chance to offer my thoughts on this important
issue. It is my opinion that the U.S. Government should immediately take
a case to the WTO regarding the current EU moratorium. After all, the
price of inaction is one we can no longer afford to pay. With that said,
I look forward to continue working with my colleagues, the Administration
and the Committee to eliminate all barriers to free trade.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Zoellick Seeks International Coalition For WTO Biotech Case
SOURCE: Food Chemical News, by Stephen Clapp
        http://www.gefoodalert.org/News/News.cfm?news_ID=3515
DATE:   Mar 10, 2003

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


Zoellick Seeks International Coalition For WTO Biotech Case

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick told the Senate Finance
Committee March 5 that he is seeking an international coalition to file a
World Trade Organization complaint against the European Union's biotech
moratorium. (see related story, Page 11)

"We need to win the biotech debate in world popular opinion, not just win
a legal case," Zoellick told ranking minority member Max Baucus (D-
Mont.), who pressed him on the timing of a WTO case. An EU official last
month reported that Canada, Argentina and several African countries had
been approached to support the United States' cause.

"When are you going to bring a case?" Baucus asked repeatedly. "Who [in
the Bush Administration] is saying no?"

"I hope soon," Zoellick replied, declining to offer specifics. "I've told
you what I can tell you. There is lots going on in the international
context. Everyone in the administration agrees that we need to get the
moratorium lifted."

"I heard a lot of words but no actions," Baucus complained.

In opening remarks, Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)
also expressed disappointment over the administration's stance. "Every
day that we delay, the market value of our biotech products diminishes,
as new products enter the marketplace to compete with existing biotech
products," he said, adding:

"Let me be clear -- once a biotech product's economic growth cycle is
gone, it's gone for good...The status quo is totally unacceptable. I hope
the administration will do the right thing and bring a case to the WTO to
stop the EU's unjustified policies."