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6-Regulation: Egypt withdraws from WTO GM complaint

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

SOURCE: Friends of the Earth Europe, Belgium, Press Release
DATE:   May 28, 2003

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US-led coalition starts to crumble

Attempts by the United States Administration to force Europe to accept GM
food and crops have been dealt a blow after Egypt announced that it would
not be part of a WTO challenge to the European Union's de facto
moratorium on approving new GM licenses. The Egyptian Government says
that it has taken its decision because it recognizes "the need to
preserve adequate and effective consumer and environmental protection."

On 13 May the United States said that it would be joined by Argentina,
Canada and Egypt in filing a World Trade Organisation (WTO) case against
Europe over "its illegal five-year moratorium on approving agricultural
biotech products" [1]. But the Egyptian Government says that it has
decided "not to become a party" to the WTO complaint. In a letter [2] it
says "The Government of Egypt took this decision in conscious emulation
of the need to preserve adequate and effective consumer and environmental
protection, and with the desire to reduce further distortions and
impediments to international trade that may result due to the further
pursuit of this matter within the WTO".

Europeans are concerned about the threat that GM crops pose to food,
farming and the environment. There are also fears about the long-term
health impacts from eating GM food. Opinion polls show that 70% of the
European public don't want GM food and 94% want to be able to choose
whether or not they eat it (Eurobarometer 2001).

Friends of the Earth Europe's GM campaigner Geert Ritsema said: "We're
delighted that Egypt has withdrawn from this US attempt to force GM food
and crops into Europe. Countries should be allowed to choose what they
eat and what they grow in their fields. The United States should withdraw
its WTO challenge, and stop trying to bully Europe over GMOs."


2. Letter available from Friends of the Earth.

For more information:
Geert Ritseema, Friends of the Earth Europe, + 31 6 290 05908
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International, + 32 477 391496
Jim Murray, Director, European Consumers' Organisation + 32 2 743 1591

Friends of the Earth is the largest grassroots environmental network in
the world campaigning to protect the environment and to create
sustainable societies. Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) unites more
than 30 national member groups with thousands of local groups.

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

TITLE:  Battle Over Biotechnology Intensifies Trade War
SOURCE: The New York Times, USA, by Elizabeth Becker with David Barboza
DATE:   May 29, 2003

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Battle Over Biotechnology Intensifies Trade War

WASHINGTON, May 28 - President Bush said last week that Europe's
opposition to genetically altered crops was a threat to efforts to end
world hunger.

But even many critics of Europe's stance say that the president's
argument does not stand up and that the dispute needs to be understood
for what it is: a multibillion-dollar cross-Atlantic battle over
agricultural trade.

The disagreement will be played out this week at the meeting in France of
the leading industrial countries. It pits European leaders, who say they
are worried about the safety of importing genetically altered crops from
the United States, against the Bush administration, which insists that
Europe's attempts to block the crops are an illegal trade tactic.

The trade dispute heated up after an intense lobbying effort here in
Washington, where some of the nation's most powerful interest groups -
farmers, the food industry and giant biotechnology companies - have been
pressing the administration to take on their case at a time of heightened
tensions between the United States and Europe.

Lawyers and lobbyists for some interest groups have descended on the
White House and Capitol Hill over the last few weeks to influence policy
makers and lawmakers, and in some cases, to simply remind them of the
importance of the Farm Belt in the next election.

Some of the biggest agriculture and biotechnology companies have invested
billions of dollars over the last decade to develop genetically altered
crops. Nearly 100 million acres of farmland in the United States are now
planted with genetically altered crops, and agriculture officials say
farmers have lost at least $1 billion over the last five years because
they have been unable to export some biotechnology crops to Europe.

"We've been very patient with the Europeans, but their use of this ban as
a trade barrier sets a precedent for countries around the world," said
Mary Kay Thatcher, director of public policy at the American Farm Bureau

"We rely on export markets for one-third of our crops; this is a
nightmare," she added.

Last week, the United States filed the equivalent of a lawsuit at the
World Trade Organization, arguing that Europe's effort to block some
genetically altered crops violated international trade rules.

At the Group of 8 summit in France this week, the Bush administration is
expected to press its case that Europe accept genetically altered crops.
But instead of arguing in the name of Monsanto - the giant of
agricultural biotechnology companies - or American farmers, Mr. Bush and
his aides will raise the issue of fighting world hunger.

In a speech last week he accused Europe of hindering the "great cause of
ending hunger in Africa" by banning genetically modified crops.
Administration officials say that such moves by Europe encourage African
nations to reject technology that could save millions of lives.

That has upset European diplomats who are negotiating a compromise on

"It is quite shocking of Mr. Bush to tell us to follow his lead on
African aid when the United States gives one of the smallest proportion
of its gross domestic product for global development than any other
wealthy nation," said a senior diplomat here. "This has not helped us."

Pascal Lamy, the top European trade official, even challenged the notion
that Europe has a moratorium, saying that Europe is on the verge of
completing new regulations that could open up the Continent to more
genetically modified crops. Europe approved the sale of genetically
altered soybeans in the 1990's, but then in 1998 Europe instituted a
moratorium on approving new biotechnology crops like certain varieties of
genetically altered corn. So while soybeans have been largely unaffected
by the moratorium, corn exports have been harmed.

Several agriculture experts who want to lift European restrictions said
that the problem would not be solved by opening up Europe's market.

"It's quite a stretch to tie the problem of the ban against genetically
modified food in Europe to starving children in Africa," said Dan
Glickman, who served as secretary of agriculture in the Clinton
administration. "It is also a bit provocative to say the Europeans don't
care about world hunger."

Scientists also agree.

"In general, that is not the case at all," said Pedro Sanchez, director
of tropical agriculture at the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

"The main problems in Africa have to do with soil fertility," he said.
"Until you solve the soil problems, it doesn't matter whether you use
conventional or genetically modified seeds."

Backers of genetically altered crops say that they have been properly
tested and that there is no scientific evidence that they pose a risk to
humans or the environment.

Mickey Kantor, the first trade representative for President Clinton and a
lawyer whose firm represents Monsanto, says the trade dispute has grown
beyond complaints from biotechnology companies.

"It's not just about the industry anymore," he said. "It is a technology
that can have a positive effect on world hunger."

If the biotechnology companies had done more for poor countries, that
argument might hold, said Peter Pringle, author of the coming book,
"Food, Inc.," (Simon & Schuster 2003).

Instead, he writes in his study of biotechnology, "while the industry
claimed that their products would save the world from malnutrition, seed
companies created only crops that made money for themselves and the
wealthier farmers who could afford the premiums."

The current trade debate centers on opposing views about food safety and
the need to test a product before it is put on the grocery shelf. How
this dispute is resolved could determine the future course of
agriculture, according to many agriculture economists.

Genetically altered crops, which have been biologically altered to do
things like release their own insecticide, are already planted on more
than 140 million acres worldwide, mostly in North and South America.

But consumers and regulators in Europe worry that the crops could pose a
threat to humans or the environment.

Five years ago, Europe placed a moratorium on approving biotechnology
crops. In preparing to end the moratorium, Europe is planning to impose
new rules and regulations to trace crops back to their origin and label
all genetically modified products, a move that could make it more
difficult for Americans to export their biotechnology crops to Europe.

America's two biggest agricultural exports - corn and soybeans - could be
greatly threatened by the new regulations to label the product, industry
officials say.

"We think that's the equivalent of putting a skull and crossbones on the
packages, saying these things are bad," said Bob Callanan, a spokesman
for the American Soybean Association in St. Louis.

American exports of corn to Europe have virtually dried up because corn
farmers have widely adopted a form of biotech corn that kills pests.

"We went from about a 1.5 million metric ton market in 1998 to 23,000
metric tons, so it's pretty much been obliterated," said Hayden Milberg,
director of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association, which
is based in St. Louis.

The corn industry estimates that it has lost more than $1 billion since
the moratorium.

Some farmers are questioning the administration's strategy for opening
the European market.

Harvey Joe Sanner, the director of the Soybean Producers of America, said
Europe was the largest export customer for soybeans last year and he
criticized some of the stronger remarks made by Robert B. Zoellick, the
United States trade representative, in the current dispute.

"We are very concerned with the harsh rhetoric of late by Mr. Zoellick,"
he said in a statement today. "I am wondering how brilliant it is for a
key government official, who should be promoting sales of U.S. soybeans,
to use such derogatory terms in describing our largest single buyer."


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)


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)