GENTECH archive 8.96-97



    SAN DIEGO, March 20 (Reuter) - The current controversy in certain
European Union member nations over genetically modified U.S. crops is being
viewed by the U.S. Agriculture Department as a serious concern, a senior USDA
official said on Thursday. 

    "We view this as a very, very serious situation," said USDA's General
Sales Manager Chris Goldthwait in an interview with Reuters. 

    Goldthwait said EU rulings last year that genetically engineered U.S.
soybeans and corn did not pose any health threats and should be allowed into
Europe should be adhered to by EU nations. 

    Despite the ruling, Germany, Italy, and other nations have expressed
reservations about the crops that were first sold commercially by U.S.
farmers last year, and have staged protests against their use. 

    "We're quite disappointed that other countries are trying to find a way
around it... it shouldn't be allowed to happen," said Goldthwait. 

    The situation could be even more messy this year, as American producers
are expected to sharply increase their plantings this spring of the
gene-altered crops.
    Plantings of Roundup Ready soybeans, developed by Monsanto Co <MTC.N>,
are expected to total eight to 10 million acres, up sharply from just over
one million acres in 1996. 

    Goldthwait, who was attending an annual meeting of the National Grain and
Feed Association, said that U.S. action will be predicated upon what the EU
does, but he maintained that any move to not abide by EU's earlier rulings
would be illegal. 

    The official said U.S. and EU officials are continuing to hold talks on
the issue, and that he hopes the EU will soon be taking some concrete action
on the situation. 

00:37 03-21-97