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BUSINESS & REGULATION: No change to GM food policy in US trade talks-EU trade chief



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   NO CHANGE TO GM FOOD POLICY IN US TRADE TALKS-EU TRADE CHIEF

SOURCE:  Thomson Reuters, USA

AUTHOR:  Michael Shields

URL:     http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/06/europe-trade-degucht-idUSL6N0BY2HE20130306

DATE:    06.03.2013

SUMMARY: "The European Union?s regulation on genetically modified food will not change even if Brussels and Washington agree a free-trade agreement, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told an Austrian newspaper. [...] U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU last month following more than a year of preliminary talks between the two sides. Formal negotiations are expected to begin by June. The chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee has warned he will not support a deal unless the EU tears down barriers that have long blocked U.S. farm exports."

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NO CHANGE TO GM FOOD POLICY IN US TRADE TALKS-EU TRADE CHIEF

(Reuters) - The European Union?s regulation on genetically modified food will not change even if Brussels and Washington agree a free-trade agreement, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told an Austrian newspaper.

In an interview with Die Presse printed on Wednesday, he also urged jetmakers Boeing and Airbus to end a long-running dispute over subsidies and work together to fight rising competition from China.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU last month following more than a year of preliminary talks between the two sides. Formal negotiations are expected to begin by June.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee has warned he will not support a deal unless the EU tears down barriers that have long blocked U.S. farm exports.

Asked about European consumers? mistrust of U.S. food, De Gucht said both sides would gain from a deal that would let Europeans sell apples, pears and beef on U.S. markets.

However, he cautioned against any optimism that regulation in Europe on genetically modified products might change.

?Currently 49 such genetically modified products have been authorised on the European market, of which two are for consumption by humans,? he said. ?However, there are strict rules in place in Europe to authorise such GMOs, and these rules will not change because of a free-trade agreement.?

The paper earlier quoted him as saying: ?As far as genetically modified products go, they can and will be allowed.?

De Gucht still needs to get a negotiating mandate from EU members before talks can begin, but he said he could hardly imagine any country blocking the start of negotiations.

Washington has long been frustrated by EU restrictions on U.S. farm produce, such as foodstuffs made with genetically modified organisms, poultry treated with chlorine washes and meat from animals fed with the growth stimulant ractopamine.

Another tough issue unlikely to be resolved directly by the EU-U.S. negotiation is the battle over subsidies for Europe?s Airbus and Boeing of the United States, the biggest and longest-running dispute in the World Trade Organization?s history.

De Gucht said it would be good to resolve the jetliner row before U.S. trade talks commence.

?The longer this goes on the clearer one sees that both sides are guilty,? he said, adding the rivals should cooperate to counter what is likely to be a highly subsidised large jet to come from China.

?Europe and America still have a duopoly for large jets but not for long. It would make more sense to put more resources into joint research projects rather than fight one another,? he said. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Alison Birrane)



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GMO LABELLING IN AMERICA

SOURCE:  Sustainable Food Trust, USA

AUTHOR:  Julianne Mesaric

URL:     http://www.sustainablefoodtrust.org/2013/03/gmo-labelling-in-america/

DATE:    01.03.2013

SUMMARY: "Politicians and activist groups in over 20 U.S. states are working to pass ballot initiatives that would legally require the labelling of all foods containing genetically modified organisms. A successful state initiative could potentially spur action on a federal level to create a national GMO labelling program. ?The only way to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to act is to have something passed on a state level,? says Andrew Kimbrell, a public interest attorney and Executive Director of Center for Food Safety in Washington D.C. ?Once one state labels, or there is another close election, the FDA will feel the pressure.?"

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GMO LABELLING IN AMERICA

Politicians and activist groups in over 20 U.S. states are working to pass ballot initiatives that would legally require the labelling of all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO). A successful state initiative could potentially spur action on a federal level to create a national GMO labelling program.

?The only way to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act is to have something passed on a state level,? says Andrew Kimbrell, a public interest attorney and Executive Director of Center for Food Safety in Washington D.C. ?Once one state labels, or there is another close election, the FDA will feel the pressure.?

California almost passed a law to require labelling of GMO foods this past November; the bill was defeated by a narrow public vote of 53.1 to 46.9 percent. The defeat of Proposition 37 garnered a collective sigh from both sides ? of disappointment from supporters and of relief from opponents, but before anyone could catch another breath, GMO labeling bills had gained momentum in states across the country: Washington, Vermont, Connecticut, Colorado? An estimated 37 states are engaged in grassroots efforts. Twenty of those have written bills. California proved to be the first domino in a long line of states to take legislative action on GMO labelling.

?Without a doubt, Prop 37 elevated the issue and inspired other efforts, as well as new receptivity on the part of some companies,? says Michael Pollan, American author and food activist.

Each state?s bill differs slightly in origins and terms. All states face tight legislative deadlines as well as lobbyists who want to slow down or kill the bill. A House vote must take place before the legislative term ends (April, May or June, depending on the state), or the bill dies until sessions resume in January 2014. A bill can be proposed more than once, which is good news for its sponsors since several bills have already been rejected on the House floor.

Some State Representatives, like those who voted against a labelling bill in Colorado last week, feel that farmers and consumers would end up paying more for their food if a state GMO labelling law was passed.

Others politicians, like in Vermont, cited fears that their state would be sued by biotechnology companies if a labelling bill was enacted. Kimbrell counters that as long as the proposed state law addresses a matter of public interest and concern ? such as protecting organic farmers? crops from being contaminated by drift from GMO crop fields ? there is no question that any state or local law would be susceptible to a successful legal challenge like the one feared. Almost eight years ago, Alaska enacted legislation that requires the labelling of all products containing GMO fish and shell fish, the first labelling legislation in the U.S., and has received no legal challenges.

Many State Representatives feel that Congress should ultimately be responsible for setting a national standard for GMO labelling ? a point of consonance.

?State by state labelling only make sense in the short term,? says Pollan.

?The FDA has dropped the ball on this,? says Dave Rogers, Policy Adviser for Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of Vermont, whose state?s GMO labelling bill is currently undergoing hearings in the Vermont House to a reported one-third of its members? support. ?States are acting as the laboratories of democracy.?

The FDA has not reviewed its 1992 policy that deems GMO crops to be ?substantially equivalent? to non-GMO crops, and thus needing no label or safety tests, since it was written. The policy was spearheaded by Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lawyer, when he was in the role of deputy commissioner of policy. In 2010, Taylor was named deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA.

?There has been a direct hit on our freedom of choice and the very principles this country was founded on,? says Tara Cook-Littman, a former New York prosecutor and leader of GMO Free CT. ?Eventually our voices will be so loud that our government will not be able to ignore us any longer.?

Indeed, it seems that efforts from organizations like the one Cook-Littman leads are having an impact at the federal level. In mid-January, it was reported that representatives from major food companies and retailers, as well as GMO labeling activists, met with the FDA to discuss lobbying for a national labelling program.

?My sense is that food makers are having second thoughts about fighting labels,? says Pollan, referring to their contribution to the $46 million invested in a campaign to defeat Prop 37. Continuing to sell GMO foods without labels would ?put them at odds with their consumers, which is never a good place to be. Why should they carry Monsanto?s water??

Negotiations on a federal level are not without its risks to state and grassroots movements. GMO labelling supporters fear that further talks will be behind closed doors and negotiated by the biotechnology industry.

If and when a Federal GMO labelling law is enacted, ?there are deep concerns that it would simply be a compromise that the industry could live with, but that would not give consumers the rights and protections we are looking for,? says Cook-Littman. ?Passing a law with no teeth on the federal level would then preempt states from passing laws with stronger language that would give consumers the transparency that the citizens of 62 countries already enjoy.?

Cook-Littman says that she believes state-mandated GMO labelling laws is one solution to avoid a weak federal law. She adds that grassroots leaders from 37 states are currently working together to introduce unified language in GMO labelling bills throughout the country.

Another solution would be ? against all odds ? a compromise between the biotechnology industry, food companies, farmers and other stakeholders the state bills propose to protect.

During his campaign in 2007, President Barack Obama said he would strive to ?let folks know when their food is genetically modified, because Americans have a right to know what they?re buying.?

Seventy percent of processed foods in America contain GMOs.

According to a survey conducted by Just Label It, 90 percent of Americans support GMO labelling. Over a year ago, the group, along with The Center for Food Safety, filed a legal petition containing over 1.2 million signatures from consumers, farm groups and food companies to the FDA; there has been no response from the federal administration.

With continued state-wide political and grassroots efforts, GMO labelling programs ? at state or national levels ? are inevitable.

Kimbrell says: ?It?s just a matter of time, but everyone would save a lot of effort if we all came to the table now.?



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   HUNDREDS OF U.S. ORGANIZATIONS URGE CONGRESS TO REPLACE FAST TRACK

SOURCE:  Citizens Trade Campaign, USA (CTC)

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/blog/2013/03/04/hundreds-of-u-s-organizations-urge-congress-to-replace-fast-track/

DATE:    04.03.2013

SUMMARY: "Troubled by continued secrecy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, over 400 civil society organizations representing more than 15 million Americans have written to Congress urging that Fast Track be replaced by a more democratic trade negotiating and approval process. Led by Citizens Trade Campaign, more than 100 national organizations, including those representing labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, public health, Native American and human rights constituencies, in addition to to nearly 300 regional, state and local organizations, sent a letter to Congress on March 4th outlining shared expectations for 21st Century trade agreements and urging an end to Fast Track and support for an alternative."

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HUNDREDS OF U.S. ORGANIZATIONS URGE CONGRESS TO REPLACE FAST TRACK

Troubled by continued secrecy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, over 400 civil society organizations representing more than 15 million Americans have written to Congress urging that Fast Track be replaced by a more democratic trade negotiating and approval process.

http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/trade-policies/tpp-potential-trade-policy-problems/

Led by Citizens Trade Campaign, more than 100 national organizations, including those representing labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, public health, Native American and human rights constituencies, in addition to to nearly 300 regional, state and local organizations, sent a letter to Congress on March 4th outlining shared expectations for 21st Century trade agreements and urging an end to Fast Track and support for an alternative.

http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/CivilSocietyLetteronFastTrackandTPP_030413.pdf

?A broad array of organizations have been following the Trans-Pacific Partnership closely, and are unhappy with the direction in which the negotiations are heading,? said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign. ?Handing the executive branch Fast Track powers to rush the TPP through Congress, as some corporate lobby groups are pushing, would abdicate Congress? constitutional authority and real-world leverage to set the terms of U.S. trade policy. We want Congress to replace Fast Track with new procedures that allow for greater oversight and public participation, so that trade agreements can become a tool for creating a more just and sustainable global economy.?

The letter includes eight broad categories that the TPP, a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement and any other U.S. trade pact must address in order to improve quality of life for Americans and people throughout the world: (1) prioritization of human and labor rights; (2) respect for local development goals and the procurement policies that deliver on them; (3) no elevation of corporations to equal terms with governments; (4) protection of food sovereignty; (5) maintaining access to affordable medication; (6) safeguards against currency manipulation; (7) space for robust financial regulations and public services; and (8) improved consumer and environmental standards.

The letter also outlines ways to increase public participation and Congressional oversight in trade policymaking through replacement of ?outdated and extreme procedures like Fast Track.? Fast Track, sometimes called ?Trade Promotion Authority,? is a Nixon-era trade agreement negotiating and approval procedure that delegates Congress? exclusive constitutional authority to ?regulate Commerce with foreign nations? to the executive branch and enables trade pacts to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures. The President?s 2013 Trade Policy Agenda, released on Friday, March 1, indicates that the administration intends to request new Fast Track legislation from the Congress.

?As the TPP enters its sixteenth major round of negotiations this week in Singapore, the Obama administration still refuses to tell the American public what it has been proposing in our names,? said Stamoulis. ?This is a rollback in transparency, and an extremely undemocratic way to craft policy that is likely to influence jobs, health care costs, financial regulations, consumer safety, the environment and more for decades to come. The only way to prevent the public from being saddled with a bad agreement is for Congress to exert its authority.?

The letter points out that the United States joined with 33 other countries in releasing draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americans in 2001, and that draft texts within the World Trade Organization are frequently made available to the public.

TAKE ACTION: Urge Congress to oppose Fast Track for the TPP

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1034/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=12495