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3-Food: GM foods: Europe accused of "caving in" to U.S.



                                  PART I
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TITLE:  GM foods: Europe accused of "caving in" to U.S.
SOURCE: Friends of the Earth Europe
        http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2004/AB_17_sept_GM_foods.htm
DATE:   17 Sep 2004

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GM foods: Europe accused of "caving in" to U.S.
Eurocrats force vote on modified food

Brussels, Belgium, 17 September 2004 - The European Union's executive
Commission has been accused in a letter today (Friday) by an alliance of
environmental, farming and civil society organisations [1] of "caving in"
to pressure by the United States and the World Trade Organisation to
accept genetically modified (GM) foods.

The Commission will on Monday Sept. 20 push European member states to
vote on the import of a controversial GM maize made by the US biotech
giant Monsanto. This will be the Commission's eighth attempt to get its
member states to accept a GM food. Only last week, the Commission
approved the commercial growing of 17 varieties of a Monsanto GM maize -
making it the first GM seeds commercially available across the whole of
Europe.

The United States, Canada and Argentina started proceedings last year in
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over Europe's position on GM foods.
Civil society groups [1] have today written to the Commission accusing it
of backing down before the case has even finished [2]. They highlight
that since the trade dispute started the Commission has forced through 2
GM products without the support of either the public or the member
states, and has pressurized countries to drop their national bans on GM
foods and crops [3]. The organisations are also critical that the
Commission is arguing in the WTO that there is scientific uncertainty
over the safety of GM foods at the same time as pushing products
domestically in Europe.

European Union (EU) member states have been asked by the Commission to
vote on Monday September 20 on the import of Monsanto's GM maize called
MON863. This maize has been genetically modified to resist some insects
by producing a toxin in the plant. It has been heavily criticised by
scientists from a number of countries, in particular France. The French
Commission for Genetic Engineering (CGB) was alarmed by the results of a
feeding study of MON863 on rats that showed significantly different
levels of white blood cells, kidney weights and kidney structure, as well
as lower albumin/globulin rates in the rats fed the GM maize. The
Director of the French National research body, INRA, stated, "I hear the
argument of natural variability, but what struck me in this file is the
number of anomalies. There are too many elements here where significant
variations are observed. I never saw that in another file." [4]. The
confidential minutes of the CGB meeting (in French) are available from
Friends of the Earth.

Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:

" The European Commission is caving in to the bullying of the United
States. They are forcing more and more genetically modified foods and
crops onto the market against a background of scientific disagreements.
Their actions are undemocratic and against the will of the European
public who have made it consistently clear that they do not want to eat
genetically foods. Europe should stand firm against the US pressure and
protect its people and environment from this genetically modified experiment."

In May this year campaigners delivered a petition to the WTO signed by
more than 100,000 citizens from 90 countries and more than 544
organisations representing 48 million people. The signatories, including
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and French small farmers' leader Jose Bové, have
called on the WTO not to undermine the sovereign right of any country to
protect its
 citizens and the environment from GM foods and crops. [5]

Contact:
Adrian Bebb, GM expert, mobile +49 1609 490 1163
Alexandra Wandel, Trade expert, mobile +49 172 748 39 53


Notes to editors

1. The groups include Friends of the Earth, ATTAC France, ATTAC Hungary,
ATTAC Poland, ATTAC Stuttgart. Both ENDS, Netherlands. CIIR, Catholic
Institute for International Relations. CPE, European Farmers
Coordination. EHNE, Basque Farmers' Union, Spain. Five Years Freeze, UK.
GeneWatch UK. Greenpeace, European Unit. Gooden Waar & Co, Netherlands.
HIVOS, Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries, the
Netherlands. IFOAM, The International Federation of Organic Agriculture
Movements. NordBruk, Sweden. OXFAM Solidarité, Belgium. Rete Lilliput,
Italy. RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). Smabrukare i
Sjuhärad, Sweden. Transnational Institute Amsterdam. URFIG, Unité de
Recherche, de Formation et d'Information sur la Globalisation. Weed,
Weltwirtschaft, Ökologie & Entwicklung e.V. Germany. Wemos, Netherlands.
WIDE, Women in Development Europe.

2. The letter can be found at the end of this press release

3. The Commission approved the commercial import of the GM sweet corn
Bt11 by Syngenta in May, and the Monsanto GM animal feed NK603 in July.
Last week the Commission also approved 17 varieties of Monsanto's MON810
maize - making it the first GM seeds commercially available across the
whole of Europe.

4. Le Monde, 22 April 2004

5. The website of the campaign is www.bite-back.org. Pictures from the
May 2004 action can be found at http://www.foei.org/media/gallery.html

Open Letter by European Civil Society Groups to President Prodi,
Commissioner Lamy, Byrne, Wallstrom, Fischler and Michel. Download here:
http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2004/Letter_to_the_European_Commission.pdf


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

TITLE:  Open Letter by European Civil Society Groups to President Prodi,
        Commissioner Lamy, Byrne, Wallstrom, Fischler and Michel
SOURCE: An European NGO Coalition
DATE:   16 Sep 2004

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European Commission Rue de la Loi, 200 B -1049 Brussels
Brussels, 16 September 2004

Object: Open Letter by European Civil Society Groups to President Prodi,
Commissioner Lamy, Byrne, Wallstrom, Fischler and Michel.

We are writing to urge the European Commission to take a stronger and
more coherent position on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops both
internally in the EU and in the context of the WTO dispute on GMOs.

Like you, we welcome the fact that the WTO case is not being judged
purely as a procedural issue and that it has been decided to ask for
additional scientific expertise. We see the importance that the EU
attaches to a scientific debate at the WTO panel as further affirmation
of the ongoing uncertainty about the safety of GMOs. However, we are
concerned that this position is not reflected in the Commission's ongoing
support of approvals. In fact, saying one thing at the WTO and doing
another in the EU could seriously undermine the strength of the EU's case
at the WTO dispute.

In the interest of winning the WTO dispute, we urge you to bring your
internal policies in line with your public position at the WTO.

We are greatly disturbed that since the dispute has started the
Commission has started to aggressively push GM products against the will
of the public at large and a significant number of member states. In
particular, the Commission has:

· 	Forced through the approval of two GM products (Bt11 sweet-corn and
NK603 animal feed) even though member states were divided over their
long-term effects and the lack of proper testing carried out by the
biotechnology companies concerned. Neither product received a qualified
majority.

· 	Put pressure on those member states that have GMO bans in place urging
them to drop such bans. Considering the lack of scientific agreement and
the lack of knowledge about the long-term effects of GMOs (not to mention
the problems associated in preventing contamination from such products)
national Governments must have the right to suspend the marketing in
their territory.

Whilst the EU argues about the level of uncertainty in the WTO,
consumers, farmers and food companies are exposed against their wishes to
more GM imports. This also sends out a dangerous signal to other
countries, especially those who are developing their own national
legislation on GMOs, that the EU is "backing down" under pressure from
the United States before the WTO case is even finished.

In respect of the large number of applications in the pipeline for GM
foods, feeds and crops, together with the clear lack of support from
member states, the Commissions position is becoming increasingly
untenable and undemocratic. It is unacceptable that the Commission takes
it upon itself to force through virtually every application. We therefore
urge you to suspend your current policy and urgently address the problem
of why consumers and member states do not support the introduction of
these GM products - in particular the lack of proper long-term safety
testing, a real right to choose and strict liability for the developers
of such products.

On a more positive note we welcome many of the points made in the case
made so far by the EU in the WTO dispute. In particular we welcome your
acknowledgement that: "There is a serious question as to whether the WTO
is the appropriate international forum for resolving all the GMO issues
that the Complainants have raised in these cases. The European
Communities can only regret that the Complainants have chosen to start a
dispute settlement procedure based on flawed premises, rather than to
promote international co-operation as a means to build a sound
international framework for addressing the GMO issue." This is an issue
that many civil society groups have been saying for a number of years. We
would therefore welcome discussions with the Commission on how to further
this agenda.

We look forward to hearing from you,


ATTAC France, ATTAC Hungary, ATTAC Poland, ATTAC Stuttgart.
Both ENDS, Netherlands.
CIIR, Catholic Institute for International Relations.
CPE, European Farmers Coordination.
EHNE, Basque Farmers' Union, Spain.
Five Year Freeze, UK.*
Friends of the Earth Europe.
GeneWatch UK.*
Greenpeace, European Unit.*
Gooden Waar & Co, Netherlands.
HIVOS, Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries, the
Netherlands.
IFOAM, The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.
NordBruk, Sweden.
OXFAM Solidarité, Belgium.
Rete Lilliput, Italy.
RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).*
Småbrukare i Sjuhärad, Sweden.
Transnational Institute Amsterdam.
URFIG, Unité de Recherche, de Formation et d'Information sur la Globalisation.
Weed, Weltwirtschaft, Ökologie & Entwicklung e.V. Germany.
Wemos, Netherlands.
WIDE, Women in Development Europe.

* These organisations are European members of the international public
interest amicus coalition that submitted an amicus curiae brief to the
WTO dispute settlement panel in support of the EU in the case "Measures
Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products".



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