GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

6-Regulation: U.S. hints it will sue EU over altered crops



-----------------------
genet-news mailing list
-----------------------

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

TITLE:  U.S. Hints It Will Sue EU Over Altered Crops
        Complaint About Food Ban Would Go to WTO
SOURCE: The Washington Post, USA, by Justin Gillis and Paul Blustein
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35421-2003Jan9.html
DATE:   Jan 10, 2003

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


U.S. Hints It Will Sue EU Over Altered Crops Complaint About Food Ban Would 
Go to WTO

U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said yesterday that he 
strongly supported filing an international trade case against the European 
Union for its refusal to accept genetically modified food, throwing down a 
gauntlet on one of the touchiest issues in relations between the United 
States and Europe.

Zoellick's remarks, at a news conference in Washington, signaled that the 
United States is likely to bring suit against European governments in the 
World Trade Organization, perhaps within weeks. Such a suit, long favored 
by American farm and corporate interests and by lawmakers on Capitol Hill, 
would seek to overturn a moratorium on gene-altered plants, such as corn 
and soybeans, that was adopted by European governments four years ago 
during a consumer backlash against the crops.

A suit would be the Bush administration's strongest response to date to 
anti-biotechnology sentiment in Europe, and experts on both sides of the 
Atlantic regard the government's legal argument as compelling. "I tend to 
think the U.S. government probably has a pretty good case," said John H. 
Jackson, a specialist in international law at Georgetown University.

Yet there is concern in some quarters that a suit could stir up European 
public opinion against the United States -- and possibly even set off a 
wider trade war, prompting the European Union to impose sanctions in 
unrelated trade battles. And it is far from clear that even a successful 
legal case would open European markets to foods made with gene-altered 
crops, because resistance among European consumers is perceived to be 
overwhelming.

In essence, Zoellick would be arguing that anti-biotech rules in Europe are 
a response to unreasonable public fears, not to meaningful scientific 
research, and therefore represent trade discrimination against U.S. 
agricultural products. He said yesterday that he was deeply concerned that 
European resistance to the technology appears to be influencing the trade 
policies of other nations, even of African governments that have turned 
down genetically modified American grain meant for starving people.

"I don't see things getting improved," Zoellick said. "Instead I see 
something extremely disturbing: the European anti-scientific view spreading 
to other parts of the world -- not letting Africans eat food you and I eat, 
and instead letting people starve." He called this "immoral" and described 
the European view of biotechnology as "Luddite," a reference to the English 
workers who smashed machines to save their jobs at the beginning of the 
Industrial Revolution.

Zoellick's counterpart in the European Union, Pascal Lamy, told reporters 
yesterday that the issue should be settled through negotiation instead of 
litigation, adding that a trade suit would make finding a solution "more 
complex."

But he added: "If there was to be litigation, of course we would fight it, 
and I believe we would win it."

Genetically modified crops have become widespread in North America since 
the mid-1990s, accounting for half or more of the U.S. and Canadian acreage 
of some row crops. Generally, these plants have been altered in ways that 
help them resist insects or weeds. Gene-altered corn, soybeans and canola, 
or ingredients made from them, appear in a large majority of the products 
on American grocery shelves.

Though environmental groups oppose the crops, and some controversy lingers 
in this country, the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug 
Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency have declared the 
existing crops safe for human consumption and safe for the environment. 
American companies are working on many new varieties of gene-altered 
plants, including some that promise improved nutrition.

The situation in Europe is different. A series of food disasters there, 
involving problems such as "mad cow" disease being passed to humans through 
food, was followed in the late 1990s by a fierce controversy over genetic 
manipulation of crops. Nearly every European government adopted labeling 
laws and imposed moratoriums on the crops, costing U.S. farmers at least 
$300 million a year in export revenue.

U.S. interests contend that the European crackdown is not based on 
legitimate scientific concerns, as it must be under World Trade 
Organization rules, but simply on public fear. While acknowledging that 
they will never be able to force European consumers to buy foods they don't 
want, some American companies want to test whether consumer resistance 
across the Atlantic is really as strong as perceived.

"Biotech companies would be happy to have their products put to that kind 
of test," said Val Giddings, vice president of food and agriculture for the 
Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group in Washington. "Get 
trade barriers out of the way and see what consumers really do."


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

TITLE:  US trade war threat as Europe bars GM crops
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by David Teather
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,872118,00.html
DATE:   Jan 10, 2003

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


US trade war threat as Europe bars GM crops

The US last night threatened to take the EU to court over the refusal of 
Brussels to import genetically modified crops, in what would be a dramatic 
deterioration in increasingly bitter trade relations between the two blocks.

Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, yesterday launched a 
ferocious attack on officials in Europe, describing their views on 
genetically modified food as "Luddite". He said the consensus was growing 
among the Bush administration that the European Union should be hauled 
before the World Trade Organisation.

"I personally am of the view that we now need to bring a case," Mr Zoellick 
said. "My sense is that there is pretty broad agreement on this [in 
Washington]." He called the moratorium a "total violation of the WTO".

A decision on whether to lodge a complaint will be made in Washington later 
this month.

The EU has annoyed US officials and farmers with a ban on the approval of 
any new genetically modified crops since 1998. The moratorium was put in 
place because of public disquiet about potential risks to health and the 
environment.

Genetically modified crops in the US are big business. About 70% of 
soybeans and more than 25% of corn in the US are now grown from genetically 
modified seeds. Farmers in the US claim to have lost billions of dollars in 
sales because of the European ban.

Genetically modified seed has been re-engineered to add characteristics 
that, for instance, add vitamins or make the plant more resistant to pests. 
Critics fear those genes being transferred to nearby wild plants.

The issue has been thrust back to centre stage in recent months as famine-
stricken countries in Africa have turned away tonnes of food aid from the 
US because it contained biotech corn.

The US has accused Europe of leaning on poor countries and threatening to 
withdraw economic aid unless they prohibit modified crops.

"I find it immoral that people are not being supplied with food to live in 
Africa because people have invented dangers about biotechnology," Mr 
Zoellick said. He called it "extremely disturbing" that the "European anti-
scientific policies are spreading to other corners of the world".

EU trade commissioner Pas cal Lamy said Europe would fight any case brought 
before the WTO. "If there was to be litigation, of course we would fight it 
and I believe we would win it," he said.

Some European states are in favour of relaxing the moratorium and allowing 
individual countries to decide but no agreement has been reached. A new 
system for tracing and labelling genetically modified foods is also mired 
in wrangles over the best method to use if the ban were lifted.

Washington has previously been concerned that bringing a case before the 
WTO could backfire and cause further resistance among consumers.

Trade relations between the US and Europe have become increasingly 
fractious in recent months with disputes over steel and agriculture 
subsidies.

The UK environment minis ter Michael Meacher said that Britain will not be 
"bounced" into accepting biotech crops by the US. Britain has been running 
a three-year trial of modified rapeseed.

The US has also been putting Brazil under pressure to accept genetically 
modified seed and scored a victory last month when the new minister of 
agriculture argued for lifting its ban. But his view is opposed by others 
in the leftwing Workers' party.

Brazil is among the world's last large agricultural countries to resist 
biotech crops.

The hard line in Europe and Brazil contributed to the ousting of Monsanto 
boss Hendrik Verfailllie last month. Monsanto, the best known maker of 
genetically modified products, has been wrestling with falling sales and 
issued two profit warnings in the past 12 months.



--


|*********************************************|
|                   GENET                     |
| European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering |
|                                             |
|             Hartmut MEYER (Mr)              |
|               Kleine Wiese 6                |
|           D - 38116 Braunschweig            |
|                 Germany                     |
|                                             |
| phone:  +49-531-5168746                     |
| fax:    +49-531-5168747                     |                      
| mobile: +49-162-1054755                     |
| email:  genetnl@xs4all.be                   |
|*********************************************|