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3-Food: Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue urges U.S. to drop WTO GMOcase

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                                  PART I
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SOURCE: Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue
DATE:   June 24, 2003

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Groups characterize the US suit as a calculated maneuver to impose
genetically engineered products on an unwilling world

The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) will call upon the US
government to drop its World Trade Organization (WTO) case against the
European Union's policies on genetically engineered (GE) foods at a
meeting with US and EU officials tomorrow, as part of the official US-EU
summit taking place in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2003.

Felix Cohen, head of the Netherlands consumer organisation
Consumentenbond, said,

"Contrary to what we read in the US press, there is no ban or moratorium
on GE foods in Europe. There has been a necessary delay in approvals of
new GE products while new legislation is being put in place governing
safety, formal pre-market approval, traceability and liability. In
Europe, as in the US, it takes many years to pass and finalise
legislation. Nations should be allowed the time to reach agreement on
domestic food safety policy without being threatened with trade sanctions
in the WTO.

"It is the US, not Europe, that is outside of the mainstream on this
issue. By 2004, 35 countries representing half the world's population
will require mandatory pre-market safety approval of GE products.
Moreover, even if the US were successful in its suit, European consumers
would not eat the stuff; you cannot force consumers to eat products they
do not trust yet. The Bush administration's challenge in the WTO is an
assault on every consumer's right to know about the food on their plates
and to be assured of its safety."

Joan Claybrook, president of the US consumer organisation Public Citizen,

"The Bush administration's attempt to link Europe's GE policies with
hunger in Africa is a calculated maneuver aimed at camouflaging the fact
that this WTO case against Europe is about forcing more products from the
agribusiness and biotech industries on an unwilling world. People in
other nations need to know that the US government does not require
mandatory safety reviews of GE foods, making administration claims that
these foods have been proven safe highly misleading. Worse, as has been
repeatedly said by African governments and academic experts, GE crops are
not the answer to hunger in Africa and in fact could worsen existing
problems, in part because all GE crops are subject to patent
restrictions. This means that African farmers cannot save seeds from crop
to crop for replanting without paying an annual fee to the biotech
company who owns that plant variety. A far more effective way to help
improve the agricultural economies of Africa would be for both the US and
the EU to stop dumping subsidized agricultural products in Africa, a
practice that is destroying local farmers and distorting local markets.
It is noteworthy that Zambia, the only country to reject GE food aid and
the country repeatedly noted by the Bush administration as the symbol of
the dangers of refusing GE foods, solved its food crisis without relying
on GE foods and will enjoy bumper crops this year.

"The clear goal of the US WTO suit is to frighten off other nations from
developing their own GE regulatory structures - something a large number
of nations are doing. African nations and other nations of the world are
perfectly capable of making up their own minds on the issue of GE food
aid and the domestic regulation of such products. They can look at the US
and see that the biotech industry has done little for the hungry here and
will do little for the hungry in Africa."


On May 14, 2003, the Bush administration announced that it would initiate
action at the WTO against a delay in approvals by the EU of new
genetically engineered foods. The delay has occurred because the EU is
finalizing legislation on a new policy regarding traceability and
labeling of GE foods and seeds. On June 19, 2003, the US announced that
consultations with Europe at the WTO had broken down and that it was
proceeding to request a formal WTO arbitration panel in the case.

The WTO case is against the EU, yet its target is significantly broader.
There is growing concern in US industry about the number of other nations
that are taking the precautionary approach to biotechnology and
regulating this new technology for safety, traceability and labeling.
Because WTO suits are extremely costly to defend and because plaintiffs
almost always win WTO challenges, mere threats of challenges often result
in the challenged country changing its policy.

In seeking to frame this WTO case for the press and public, the Bush
administration has focused specific attention on Africa, claiming that
the US WTO action was needed to protect the interests of Africa and those
suffering from hunger there. President Bush and USTR Robert Zoellick have
explicitly named the EU as responsible for questions raised about this
new technology by African nations and for Zambia's decision to reject GE
food aid during a recent food crisis.

The administration has failed to mention that Zambia, which rejected GE
food aid for environmental reasons, has worked its way out of the crisis
without relying on GE imports. In fact, the nation has doubled its crop
of white maize this year, positioning itself as an exporter of crops in
future years. Second, the administration has been engaged in a running
fight with a bloc of African countries that, on their own initiative,
sought international rules to regulate GE foods through the negotiation
of a Biosafety Protocol. The Biosafety Protocol was completed in 2000
despite US administration attempts to undercut it. The Protocol went into
effect this month after being ratified by 50 nations. The Protocol calls
for the tracking of bulk GE commodities in global commerce and authorises
nations to refuse shipments on environmental grounds.

The US-led coalition supporting the WTO case is already shaky. On May 28,
2003, Egypt withdrew its initial support of the GMO action at the WTO.
Senior members of US Congress have responded by warning Egypt it was
endangering the potential for the US to agree to negotiations of a US-
Egypt Free Trade Agreement in the future.

Two recent incidents in the US involving new applications of genetic
engineering have demonstrated the inadequacy of the current regulatory
system to ensure safety of the food supply. In one incident, corn
experimentally engineered to contain a pig flu vaccine contaminated a
silo of soybeans worth $2.7 million. In the second, pigs that may have
been experimentally engineered with growth hormone were sold as food
without the government's knowledge or permission. Coming right after the
2000 StarLink contamination, when biotech corn approved only for animal
feed made it into a variety of US food products, these events not only
diminish public confidence in the efficacy of the US regulatory system,
but also intensify consumer concerns about the safety of GE products.

Since its inception in 1998, the TACD has urged the US and EU governments
to settle their difference by adopting an EU-type system for regulating
GE products on both sides of the Atlantic and to refrain from challenging
each other's environmental, public health and food safety policies in the
WTO. The issue has consistently been one of the organisation's top
priorities. The TACD is a forum of US and EU consumer organisations that
develops and agrees to joint consumer policy recommendations for the US
and EU governments. The TACD has a membership of some 65 consumer
organisations in the US and Europe, including BEUC, Consumers Union,
Public Citizen, Consumentenbond and the UK Consumers Association. Between
them they have more than 20 million individual members. For more
information, visit

* * * *

US Contact: Chris Slevin, Public Citizen: 202-454-5140
EU Contact: Kaye Stearman: +44 207 226 6663

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Critics Slam Bush for 'Ignorant' GM Foods Comments
SOURCE: Reuters, by Patricia Reaney
DATE:   June 25, 2003

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Critics Slam Bush for 'Ignorant' GM Foods Comments

LONDON - A transatlantic storm is brewing over genetically modified
crops, with the U.S. extolling the benefits of biotechnology and
Europeans insisting on proof that "Frankenstein foods" really are safe to eat.

In the latest salvo in what is turning into a bruising battle, President
Bush accused European nations of contributing to famine in Africa because
of their reluctance to accept GM foods.

But critics in Europe said his comments are more about promoting the
biotech business than ending world hunger.

"He can only have been informed by the multinationals, the Monsantos of
this world, to make a statement which displays as much ignorance as
that," Patrick Holden, of the environmental group the Soil Association,
told Reuters.

Monsanto Co., the St. Louis, Missouri-based agribusiness giant, is moving
to commercialise biotech wheat.

"It is nonsense," Holden added. "Even serious experts on GM will concede
that there is no evidence that GM can make any greater contribution to
feeding the world than existing agricultural science."

Friends of the Earth, echoed his comments and accused the U.S. leader of
exploiting famine to sell GM products.

"GM crops will not feed the world. Indeed making poor farmers dependent
on biotech companies for their seed may only make matters worse," said
spokeswoman Clare Oxborrow.


The debate about GM foods highlights huge differences between Americans,
who seem to have accepted the technology in which plants are genetically
altered to repel insects and withstand drought, and Europeans, who are
more skeptical and less trusting of regulatory authorities after food
scares such as the outbreak of mad cow disease.

Last week the Bush administration announced it would file a formal
complaint with the World Trade Organization to overturn a European ban on
new biotech foods.

"If Bush thinks that getting his way with Europe over Iraq was a
precedent for this GM decision, he should think again because the degree
of informed public opposition to commercialisation is growing by the
day," Holden said.

Proponents of GM technology say it will increase farm yields, lower
costs, reduce the level of chemicals used on plants and help to feed a
hungry world.

Critics warn that too little is known about health risks such as allergic
reactions and resistance to antibiotics and that not enough testing has
been done.

They are also concerned about the threat to the environment and that GM
crops could contaminate other natural breeds. Environmentalists worry
about the creation of so-called "super weeds" and the loss of biodiversity.

"No one really knows what the long-term impact of GM will be on our
health or the environment," Friends of the Earth's Oxborrow said.
"Consumers in Europe know this and have made it perfectly clear that they
don't want to eat GM food."

Holden said Americans are more accepting of biotechnology because they
have not been given information about it.

"There has never been a proper public debate (on GM crops) in America,"
he said.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
mobile: +49-162-1054755
email:  genetnl(at)