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6-Regulation: Wall Street Journal editorials on WTO case

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Modified Food Fight
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal- Europe, Editorial, sent by AgBioView
DATE:   May 13, 2003

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Dear GENET-news readers,
it is interesting to note the differences in attacking the European
attitudes in Wall Street Journal- Europe and Wall Street Journal - USA ...

Hartmut Meyer


Modified Food Fight

Here we go again.

The Bush administration is expected to announce today that it is filing a
complaint with the World Trade Organization over the EU's five-year-old
moratorium on approvals of new genetically modified crops. This will no
doubt be taken as yet another sign that President Bush is a
unilateralist, trampling over European concerns and prerogatives, etc.

Now, we yielded to no one in criticizing the president's steel tariffs.
But the truth here is that the U.S. has been more than patient with the
EU's foot-dragging. The case looked set to be filed in January, but was
held up at the last minute in a fruitless attempt to try to keep the
Europeans on board the Iraq boat. That didn't really work out. And last
week, the EU threw down the gauntlet on its own blockbuster WTO case,
giving the U.S. Congress until the end of the year to resolve the EU's
complaint about the tax breaks of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies.

But even so there are those who argue that the U.S. should avoid rankling
European sensibilities at a time when Iraq's reconstruction is still
being debated. The good news is, the do-nothing crowd appears to have
lost the debate.

The conventional wisdom on GM foods in Europe is that Europeans don't
want American "Frankenfoods" anyway, and so in keeping them out the
European Commission and the member states are only doing their citizens'
bidding. But the evidence for this is hard to find. Yes, there are polls
that indicate some apprehension, but that seems to have more to do with
basic human resistance to change than any deeply felt fear of genetically
modified crops.

The commission approved over 20 GM crops for sale in Europe prior to the
moratorium, and price surveys in Europe indicate that foods currently
labeled "GM free" enjoy no price premium compared to those that are not
labeled. Whatever the polls say, European consumers are not ponying up
for the comfort of knowing that their corn chips are free from the dreaded GM.

To the extent that there is concern, this no doubt comes from the EU's
own ban. It gives the impression -- one belied by the EU's own extensive
scientific research, as Gregory Conko notes nearby1 -- that there's
something to be concerned about. Since that's not true, the quickest way
to dispel those fears is to lift the moratorium.

The other canard is that the moratorium will be lifted faster if the EU
is left alone. But there's little evidence of that, either. Health
Commissioner David Byrne has called the moratorium unsupportable, but so
far to little effect. The prospect of losing a case that the EU has no
chance of winning -- since its own science says the moratorium has no
basis -- may be just the nudge it needs. The U.S. complaint to the WTO is
long overdue.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Genetic Food Fight
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, USA, Editorial, sent by AgBioView
DATE:   May 15, 2003

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Genetic Food Fight

The Bush Administration's trade record is far from spotless, as we've
often pointed out. But its decision this week to file suit at the WTO
against the European Union's moratorium against genetically modified
crops starts a very useful food fight.

The ban is almost certainly illegal under WTO rules, it has no basis in
science and it is hurting some of the poorest and hungriest countries in
the world. A number of African countries, most prominently Zambia, have
been pressured by the EU ban into refusing food aid from the U.S., for
fear that American GM food will "taint" their own crops and leave them
shut out of European markets.

In support of the case, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick
mustered some 3,000 scientists, including 20 Nobel Prize winners, all of
whom maintain that the EU's biotech protectionism amounts to junk
science. The complaint is joined or supported by more than a dozen other

The EU knows that the ban is insupportable legally and scientifically.
Three years ago, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem called it
"illegal and not justified," and Health Commissioner David Byrne has been
saying the same for years. In response to fear-mongering in the late
1990s by countries like France and Germany, the commission launched a
six-year study of the safety of GM foods. Its conclusion, published last
year, was that they not only pose no threat but are in many cases safer
and more environmentally friendly than traditional crops.

They're safer because the genetic modifications are tightly controlled to
achieve a certain aim, such as pest resistance, rather than the result of
random mixing of strains or crops in the hope that a valuable hybrid will
emerge. They are more environmentally friendly because the modifications
often allow for higher yields (meaning less land under cultivation) and
reduced pesticide use due to pest resistance.

Yet when some countries banned the import of even EU-approved genetically
modified crops five years ago, the European Commission stopped processing
applications for approval of new GM strains. Now the EU says all it wants
is an adequate labeling and traceability regime.

What this means in practice, however, is that all crops -- and not just
GM products -- will have to undergo costly and unnecessary testing at
each stage of production to check for the presence of GM foods. The
European greens behind this boondoggle may hope it will drive up the
price of GM-derived products, but the requirements are so stringent that
they'd drive up the price of all food in Europe.

The labeling requirement is merely a scare tactic. If it's truly a
question of consumer choice, then a voluntary "GM-free" labeling system
would allow those who really care to pay extra for the comfort of
avoiding "Frankenfood," without forcing all consumers to pay for their

Unfortunately for Europe's environmentalists, price surveys in Europe
indicate that products currently labeled "GM-free" enjoy zero price
premium relative to unlabeled products. In other words, for all the
huffing about how important the issue is to European consumers, no one
seems willing to pay anything extra for protection from the dread GM.

What we have here is the spectacle of timid European politicians and
bureaucrats flacking for a handful of misinformed and radical -- and no
surprise, mostly French -- environmentalists. If there were ever such a
thing as a just trade war, this is it.