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6-Regulation: UK - the secret ally of the U.S. in the WTO GMO case?



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

TITLE:  Ministers try to stop labels for GM food
SOURCE: The sunday Times, UK, by David Cracknell,
        http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-699255,00.html
        posted by NGIN
DATE:   June 01, 2003

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COMMENT by NGIN, UK:

GM WATCH daily: http://www.ngin.org.uk

The leaked memos in the Sunday Times article below make totally
transparent the basis of the UK government's strategy on GMOs - pleasing
Washington! What the article fails to make clear though is the steps the
government has already taken to serve Washington's cause and how it is
being assisted in this strategy by the UK's Food Standards Agency. The
last paragrpah of the Sunday Times piece is also completely misleading
about opposition to GM and what the recent Eurobarometer survey showed.
Far from showing as it suggests that "opposition may be weakening" the
survey showed opposition as strong as ever in the UK with only 10% of the
population supporting GM food and only 3% strongly supporting it. That's
the extent of Blair's constituency - or it would be if his constituency
weren't in Washington DC. In Europe the Eurobarometer survey showed 70.9
per cent of European citizens simply do not want GM food while 94.6 per
cent of want the right to choose.

*****


Ministers try to stop labels for GM food

MINISTERS want to kill off plans by Brussels to bring in a comprehensive
regime for labelling genetically modified food. They fear "negative fall-
out" from Washington if they back the consumer friendly policy, leaked
cabinet papers reveal.

The documents, including a memo from Jack Straw, the foreign secretary,
show that ministers are desperate not to antagonise America, the
world’s largest producer of GM crops.

This is despite the fact that Labour has sought to ease fears over GM
products by paying lip service to labelling in the past.

Straw's memo reveals that the British embassy in Washington is helping in
the campaign to "minimise the risks" of alienating the United States. He
argues that members of the European parliament should be "strongly"
lobbied with the argument "made by Washington" that the plans could have
"implications" for Africa, where America promotes much of its GM technology.

Straw discloses that Tony Brenton, Britain's acting US ambassador, has
warned that voting for the regime would be a "hard sell" to the Bush
administration."Our international trading partners, particularly the US,
will need to fully understand our motives if we are to minimise negative
fall-out," Straw says in the "restricted"; memo, dated May 9.

In another memo, Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary,
acknowledges that the Americans are "impatient and dissatisfied". But she
warns that opposing the European Union plans on tracing and labelling GM
will cause "presentation difficulties" -- Whitehall code for a public
backlash.

Beckett, who will launch a public debate on GM this week, admits that the
UK is in a "minority of one" among EU members in opposing the regulations
which, if passed, would see almost all products containing GM ingredients
or derivatives clearly labelled.

The issue will pit the United States against Europe at the G8 summit in
Evian, France, which begins today. America has already filed a complaint
under World Trade Organisation rules against the EU's moratorium on new
GM products.

The latest EU move will intensify the dispute as Tony Blair tries to play
peacemaker between Europe and America.

The documents confirm the fears of anti-GM campaigners who have long
claimed that Britain is under pressure from Washington and the
biotechnology industry to oppose a stricter labelling regime. While the
campaigners argue that consumers have the right to know, the GM industry
says the stricter labelling regulations will set it back decades.

Although opposition may be weakening, 44% of people have safety fears
over GM food as opposed to 28% who do not, says Eurobarometer, the EU
research group.


                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Cabinet's secret war on GM laws
SOURCE: The Scotsman, UK, by Brian Brady & Stephen Fraser
        http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=610962003
DATE:   Jun 1, 2003

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Cabinet's secret war on GM laws

A SECRET campaign is being waged by the government to block tough new
rules on the labelling of food containing genetically-modified ingredients.

Cabinet letters seen by Scotland on Sunday detail the government's
attempts to head off European efforts to force more manufacturers to
reveal whether GM ingredients are present in thousands of everyday goods.

Senior Cabinet members fear the regulations could prove highly damaging
to relations with America, Tony Blair's key ally and the world's leading
producer of the controversial so-called 'Frankenstein' crops.

In a confidential letter, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reveals he has
asked the British embassy in Washington to help the campaign to "minimise
the risks" of alienating the US.

The US is trying to lift a moratorium imposed on new GM crops by the
European Union by taking action through the World Trade Organisation.
American farmers are said to be losing billions of dollars-worth of
potential exports because of the ban.

Ministers plan to lobby Labour MEPs about the new legislation, which
would require food manufacturers to disclose more information about small
traces of GM ingredients. The proposals are due to go before the European
Parliament later this month.

One letter notes trade minister and Edinburgh MP Nigel Griffiths'
recommendation that the lobbying process should "not be done overtly".

Last night US president George Bush made it clear he would not stand for
further restrictions on the GM crops pioneered by American biotechnology
firms and warned poorer nations could suffer.

Ahead of the international G8 trade summit, he said: "I hope European
governments will reconsider policies that discourage farmers in
developing countries from using safe biotechnology to feed their own people."

The revelations of the government's covert moves to oppose restrictions
on the GM industry came as a nationwide consultation by the government
was due to begin this week on whether the crops should be grown in this
country.

The development of crops that are genetically enhanced to produce 'super-
strains', with benefits including greater yield, nutritional value and
resistance to pests and weedkillers, has sparked a fierce debate over the
potential effects they could have on the health of consumers. A backlash
against the products led to many stores, including Marks & Spencers and
Sainsbury's, to refuse to stock foods containing them, and a de facto EU-
wide moratorium on the licensing of new GM crops was introduced four
years ago.

A Consumers' Association survey last year showed 94% of Britons believed
labels should show if any GM ingredients were in products, with 87%
believing they should be told if GM ingredients were used at any stage of
the production process, even if the ingredients were refined out of the
final product.

Now Britain is defying Euro-MPs who want to impose the toughest labelling
regime in the world.

The most significant proposal in a raft of measures before MEPs is one
which would force companies to declare if GM foods made up just 0.5% of
the ingredients. Anti-GM campaigners estimate that at least 30,000 food
products contain traces of GM maize or soya.

Britain has stuck to the present 1% threshold - in spite of condemnation
from environmental and consumer campaigners - saying that a system
requiring checks for anything below would be impossible to enforce. US
producers claim labelling stigmatises products on supermarket shelves.

A series of letters between Cabinet heavyweights Jack Straw, John Reid
and Margaret Beckett detail the government's determination to resist
tougher rules on the control of GM products and technology.

Significantly, all the letters were copied to Tony Brenton, Britain's
temporary ambassador in the US capital.

In a stark warning over the developing trade war in April, agriculture
secretary Margaret Beckett warned colleagues: "There are potential
implications for our domestic agenda on the GM public dialogue and our
relations with the United States."

She claimed Britain was now in "a minority of one" on the issue and was
left only with the alternative of falling in line with a compromise
threshold of 0.9% put forward by fellow ministers from across the EU, in
a desperate bid to prevent MEPs imposing even heavier restrictions on the
industry.

Straw wrote back endorsing the strategy, but warned: "Our international
trading partners, particularly the United States will need to fully
understand our motives if we are to minimise negative fall-out."

The foreign secretary adds that the Americans must be brought onside if
Labour MEPs are forced to compromise and accept some of the proposals.
"Tony Brenton emphasises that we would need to explain our position very
clearly to [the US] Congress, the US administration and industry. He
emphasises that this will be a hard sell."

The delicate tactical manoeuvring reflects the government's extreme
sensitivity over an issue that has sparked an unprecedented public outcry.

Blair is known to favour the development of GM technology and there are a
number of crop trials being carried out around the country. But the
government has striven to foster a public debate on the issue before
deciding whether to back mass commercial cultivation of GM food in this
country.

The GM Nation? consultation exercise beginning in London on Tuesday will
involve a series of regional conferences - including one in Glasgow -
plus smaller debates in towns and cities, before the government cements
its position.

Anti-GM protesters claimed the British government was biased in favour of
the technology. Kath Dalmeny, a spokeswoman for the independent campaign
group the Food Commission, said: "The EU proposal does seem to be very
progressive and backs up what most consumers want, which is more
information on what is in the food they are eating."

Graeme Millar, the chairman of the Scottish Consumer Council, attacked
the British government's attempt to ward off reform of labelling. He
said: "I am surprised and disappointed they don't want to see this change
knowing how sensitive the issue of GM foods is."

Millar said consumers should be told if GM ingredients were present in
products - no matter how in what quantities - through information on
labelling.

The EU proposals insist manufacturers drop the current system, where a
product is scientifically analysed before it is sold to check for GM material.

Instead manufacturers would have to compile "a paper trail" of records
relating to every ingredient or process used in making a product.

This switch could mean manufacturers being forced to label their foods as
containing GM because one ingredient is GM, even though that ingredient
may be lost in the production process.


                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Tories urge support for labelling GM foods
SOURCE: The Financial Times, UK, by Jean Eaglesham
        http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/
FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1054416322954
DATE:   June 2, 2003

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Tories urge support for labelling GM foods

The Tories have increased pressure on the government to drop its
opposition to plans to label genetically modified food.

Responding to reports yesterday that cabinet ministers were concerned to
"minimise the risks" of a US backlash on the issue, Tim Yeo, the shadow
trade and industry secretary, said the government needed to back the rest
of Europe on labelling.

Mr Yeo said he would write to Patricia Hewitt, the trade and industry
secretary, calling on her to "confirm that in this area she will be on
the side of consumers".

The move - ahead of tomorrow's launch by ministers of a public debate on
GM - will exacerbate tensions within government.

Pressure groups claimed yesterday that Britain's opposition to the
Brussels labelling proposals ran contrary to the government's insistence
that this summer's public debate will help to shape policy. Ministers
have said they will decide whether to sanction the commercial growing of
GM crops only when the debate is concluded in September.

But Friends of the Earth yesterday claimed the government's stance "makes
a complete nonsense of its claims of being neutral" and threatened to
undermine the debate. "The public has repeatedly said it doesn't want GM
food or GM crops," Pete Riley, a campaigner at the pressure group said.
"But the government seems more concerned about not upsetting the United
States and interests of the big biotech companies rather than listening
to consumers."

The lobbyists' concerns about US lobbying were heightened by reports
yesterday claiming leaked cabinet documents showed Jack Straw, the
foreign secretary, was leading a campaign to minimise US annoyance.

The reports quote a memorandum from Margaret Beckett, the environment
secretary, acknowledging that the Americans were "impatient and
dissatisfied" but warning the UK's stance could cause "presentation
difficulties."

This is a coded reference to government concerns that voters could react
badly to the UK's isolated position as the only EU member state to oppose
the labelling plans.

The Food Standards Agency, the government body which helps to form
policy, yesterday stressed the government was not opposed to GM labelling
in principle. But it said the EU proposals - which would require
labelling for thousands of food products containing minute traces of GM
material - were impractical and unenforceable.

The Foreign Office and Department for the Environment both refused to
comment on the reports.





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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
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email:  genetnl(at)xs4all.be