GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Fwd: Europe Turns Up Nose At Biotech Food

Forwarded message:
From:	74250.735@CompuServe.COM (John Stauber)
To: (aaMadCowboy), (Rose & Ron), (Howard Lyman)
Date: 97-01-02 11:52:41 EST

--------------- Forwarded Story ---------------

Headline: Europe Turns Up Nose At Biotech Food
Wire Service: DJ (Dow Jones)
Date: Thu, Jan 2, 1997

   By Julie Wolf
   Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
  BRUSSELS -- Western Europe's food business is in a pickle.
  After a long gestation in the lab, agricultural biotechnology is reaching
European farms, offering the promise of higher yields at lower cost. New
of vegetables, fruits and livestock have the potential to dramatically
the agro-industrial sector. But this change is coming at a time when fears of
mad-cow disease have made Europeans jittery about the food they eat.
governing genetically modified crops is either incomplete or nonexistent.
  Time is running short for food companies, retailers, farmers and
As foods made from the new crops begin to reach supermarkets, lawmakers must
decide how to label these products; the agrochemical industry, food
and retailers must convince Europeans that the new species are safe; and
European Union authorities must try to ensure that the effort doesn't produce
new fissures in the already fractured single market. If these efforts fail,
Western Europe's farm sector could be left trailing the Americans in the
grain trade, and food companies could end up with products they can't sell in
  Novartis AG, the Swiss chemical giant formed by the merger of Ciba-Geigy AG
and Sandoz AG, estimates that genetically modified corn could one day account
for half of all corn produced in developed countries. This would mean
modified corn on 15 million hectares (about 37.1 million acres) of land in
U.S., where the annual corn crop is valued at about $24.5 billion, and two
million hectares in the EU, where corn is less important.
  Novartis says the first deliveries of its own genetically modified corn
-- which were developed by Ciba-Geigy and approved for sale in the EU in
mid-December -- sold out just days after they went on sale in the U.S. last
spring. The main attraction of the new variety, which accounted for 0.5% of
year's corn crop in the U.S., is that it resists the corn borer, the larva of
European moth that can destroy up to 20% of the crop in some regions of
and the U.S.
  In the U.S., farmers are already growing a new strain of soybeans that
Monsanto Co. has rendered immune to a powerful herbicide. The St. Louis-based
company says it has also applied to the European Commission for permission to
sell genetically modified corn in the European Union. The commission already
approved modified rapeseed developed by Plant Genetic Systems and chicory
developed by Bejo-Zaden BV.
  But these potential cash crops are unlikely to catch on in Europe until
creators win over skeptical consumers, as a conversation in a Bonn
  "Never in my life will I try this food," says Maria Louisa Plassmann, when
asked whether she would eat products made with genetically modified soybeans
corn. "I think the risk of throwing nature and animal life off balance is
too big," she says.
  Environmental campaigners are working to spread such skepticism. In recent
weeks, Greenpeace has blocked corn and soybean shipments at German harbors
along German rivers and railway lines. Greenpeace argues that genetically
modified products can threaten human and animal health, and can undermine
organic-farming methods.
  The protests have struck a chord in Europe. The new corn developed by
Ciba-Geigy, for instance, won U.S. approval in roughly a year; approval took
twice as long in the European Union. And the EU approval doesn't necessarily
mean the corn can be grown and sold anywhere in the common market: Austria's
health minister last week banned imports of genetically modified corn,
the strain hadn't been sufficiently tested.
  (END) DOW JONES NEWS 01-02-97
   6 00 AM

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