info4action archive


GE -UK/Ireland

1 Chair of FSA also chair of Glaxo - Wellcome.........
2Huge rise in demand for organic produce.Guardian
4Byrne promises tighter rules on GM labelling
5 Charlies new year message
6 EFDEX launch  - press release
7Wariness squashes pioneering tomato
By James Cox 
8 The rise and fall of the GM Tomato Economy- NGIN
9Byrne takes an over-cautious approach to food authority - Irish Times

The announcement today( 12/1/00)of the appointment of Professor Sir John
>the Royal Society as Chairman of the Food Standard Agency, may have some 
>hidden anxieties. 
>The President of the Royal Society is also Chairman of Glaxo-Wellcome, the 
>giant drug company. 

Huge rise in demand for organic produce.
The record growth of the organic food market over the past year has left 
supermarkets struggling to keep pace with demand, leading to fears that 
standards could be diluted. 
Supermarkets have doubled their sales of organic products - topping the 
1million-a-week mark at Sainsbury's - as pressure from health-conscious 
customers beats the hefty price premium on most 'naturally produced' goods. 
The surge in demand was revealed last weekend at the National Conference on 
Organic Food & Farming organised by the Soil Association, whose strict 
specifications appear on more than 800 supermarket lines. 
But supermarkets can barely keep up with demand, and some rogue traders & 
butchers are known to be exploiting the rapidly growing market by selling 
produce grown with pesticides or antibiotics as 'organic' Meanwhile 
large-scale agribusinesses in Eastern Europe & Latin America are able to 
legally exploit lower EU standards to export conventionally grown food as 
"The rate of growth would astonish even the most bullish forecasters," Dino 
Adriano, chief executive of Sainsbury's, told the meeting at the Royal 
Agricultural College in Cirencester. "What were once niche products are now 
part of the supermarkets' main product range." 
Growth is expected to continue for at least five years, with the sector 
expanding at an estimated 2.5 per cent annually overall. 
The Soil Association, which certifies & sets standards for organic farming 
in Britain, said there was a growing problem of policing. "There can be a 
59% difference in price. It's very tempting for people to offer 
conventionally grown food as organic," said Mark Houghton Brown of the Soil 
Supermarkets are having to import most of their organic food because not 
enough is grown in Britain. "It is possible for big farmers in Bellorussia 
or Hungary to get EU certification for a small piece of land and then pass 
off as organic other food grown on their farms," said Thomas Cierpka, a 
director of the International Federation of Organic Farmers. 
The EU is under pressure from agribusiness & supermarkets to dilute 
standards, says Patrick Holden of the Soil Association. Because it can take 
several years to convert a farm to organic farming, Brussels allows farms 
converting to sell their produce after one year instead of up to five in 
John Vidal, Guardian Weekly, 17.1.99 p11

-3-------------- Forwarded Story ---------------
Wire Service: PA (PA News) 
Date: Thu, Jan 13, 2000
Copyright 2000 PA News. Copying, storing, redistribution, retransmission, 
publication, transfer or commerical exploitation of this information is 
expressly forbidden. 
By Amanda Brown, Environment Correspondent, PA News 
Government backed rules will fail to protect organic farms from 
contamination by genetically modified pollen spread from crop trials, it 
was claimed today. 
An independent study commissioned by the Soil Association warns of the 
risk that organic plants contaminated by genetically modified organisms 
could be eaten or grown. 
This is because the voluntary system of leaving distances of up to 200 
metres between them and other crops and plants will not prevent 
cross-contamination, it claims. 
The report says that contrary to industry recommended isolation 
distances "oil seed rape presents a high risk for cross pollination between 
source and recipient fields". 
It continues: "Pollen dispersal has been recorded at up to four 
kilometres by insects -- some 20 times higher than the recommended 
isolation distances and three kilometres by the air flow." 
The new evidence contradicts the recommended isolation distances 
endorsed by the industry body charged by the Government to draw up rules 
governing the release of GMOs into the environment. 
These stipulate isolation distances of only 200 metres for organic crops 
and 50 metres for non-GM rape seed crops. 
The report provides evidence of "sugar beet crops presenting a medium to 
high risk for cross pollination both with other strands and with wild 
relatives in the UK ... significant quantities have been recorded at over 
800 metres". 
It is currently proposed to plant hundreds of acres of GM sugar beet 
this Spring with only six metres between GM crops and conventional 
The Soil Association believes the current voluntary code of practice 
fails to protect producers of both organic and conventional GM free crops 
from pollution. 
Patrick Holden, Soil Association director, said current guidelines 
constituted little more than the framework for a license to pollute. 
He said: "Our six mile notification zone proposals should be accepted 
immediately as a precondition for licensing all future trial plants. 
"Given the fact that conventional crops are just as vulnerable to 
genetic pollution, we see no reason why this procedure should not be 
"Protecting the right of consumer choice should be the first priority. 
Government Ministers are on record as pledging to uphold this principle. 
"This new report provides irrefutable evidence that must force the 
Government to amend its GM policy." 
The Soil Association is calling on the Government to honour its pledges 
and to enact legally binding protection with the utmost urgency to avoid 
potential cross pollination from future GM field trials. 
Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman David Heath MP said: "Liberal 
Democrats have consistently called for a scientifically credible protocol 
for future crop trials which includes buffer zones sufficient to prevent 
pollen drift. 
"It is clear that the present voluntary guidelines fail to protect the 
rights of the vast majority of consumers who do not want to eat GM foods 
and the risks to the environment from genetic pollution. 
"There is no point in the Government pumping funds into organic farming 
whilst at the same time pumping GM pollen into the environment." 

January 14, 2000

Byrne promises tighter 
rules on GM labelling

By Kevin O'Sullivan, Environmental 
and Food Science Correspondent
EU rules on labelling GM foods will be made stricter as soon as 
becomes available to detect smaller amounts of GM material in foods, 
to the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr 
His commitment to tighter regulation when feasible comes as the 
group Tesco has significantly amended its recent instruction to growers
not to 
grow crops on fields previously used for testing GM plants.
Responding to environmental interests who rejected the latest EU 
regulations as 
not being strict enough, Mr Byrne said it was not possible to detect 
modified organisms (GMOs) to the 0.1 per cent level sought by the 
Parliament. Should that ability arise, the threshold would be lowered.
The new regulations maintain a 1 per cent threshold for GMO 
ingredients in 
food such as soya and corn, above which a product must be identified as
Meanwhile, Tesco in Britain has indicated that crops could be grown on 
GM test sites if there was "at least one year's separation", in spite 
of last week's 
stricter proposal. It has now said its advice to farmers "would be 
reviewed in the 
light of further scientific advice".
Tesco's initial advice to farmers was first signalled by Greenpeace. 
Tesco later 
implied it had been "bounced" into going public before the details were
The vast majority of scientists working in biotechnology said the 
measure was 
not justified scientifically. Rival supermarkets claimed Tesco had not 
GM ingredients from its own-brand products. Tesco then said it 
farm-scale trials of GM crops - the London Independent claimed this was
the intervention of "a furious Cabinet Office".
Plant scientist Prof Chris Leaver, of Oxford University, said the 
Tesco move was 
indicative of an increasing tendency of supermarkets to exaggerate 
concerns. Taken to its logical conclusion, he said similar controls 
would have to 
be applied to organic farming as it uses the same toxin to control 
Prof Fergal O'Gara, the chairman of the EU scientific committee on GMOs
(which adjudicates on commercial releases of GM foods), said he was 
at the Tesco announcement. While it was up to the public to make its 
mind up on 
GM foods, there was no evidence of human health or environmental risks 
current releases, said Prof O'Gara.
With GM products grown in the EU, the Tesco position did not stand up 
was "not warranted" based on current scientific information.
Tesco Ireland declined to comment. It initially said the move was "a 
commonsense approach to take while the scientific evidence is being 
This was despite the instruction being almost irrelevant in the context
of Irish 
growers, as under five acres in the Republic is being used for GM 
All GM crops here are destroyed after harvesting.


Audio version at 

Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 17:01 GMT 
Charles's message of hope
Prince Charles records his message
This is the full text of Prince Charles's message on BBC Radio 4's first 
Thought for the Day of the new millennium. 

The home page for Efdex Uk is: and globally at Below is their launch press release for the UK.

efdex Launches the First Global e-Market for the Food & Drink Industry.
efdex Provides an Internet Trading and Communications System to All Players 
in the $11 Trillion Food and Drink Industry.
efdex, a global e-market company that provides buyers and sellers with 
unlimited direct trading, announced today the launch of their first market 
beta program. The efdex system will be beta-tested by buyers in all parts of 
the food and drink industry in the UK, with sellers from all over the world 
participating in the beta test. Full implementation of the system is 
scheduled to begin in late October and the next buyer markets to be launched 
will be the United States and Continental Europe.
In addition, the company announced today that Ellen Marram has been named 
President and CEO of efdex. Ms. Marram brings to efdex almost 30 years of 
experience in the food and drink industry, having worked extensively with 
all segments of the market. Before joining efdex, Ms. Marram served as 
President and CEO of Tropicana and prior to that was President and CEO of 
the $3 billion Nabisco Biscuit Company.
efdex allows buyers and sellers to trade globally with maximum efficiency 
and profitability. By bringing proven trading technology and in-depth 
information platforms to the $11 trillion food and drink industry, efdex is 
establishing itself as one of the largest business-to-business e-commerce 
companies. Currently, business-to-business e-commerce is a $131 
billion-a-year industry and is predicted to reach $1.5 trillion by 2003 
according to Forrester Research.
`"In virtually every segment of the food and drink industry, the procurement 
process - identifying, negotiating and buying products - is a time-consuming 
and often inefficient process,'' said Tim Carron Brown, Chairman of efdex. 
efdex's managers and industry board members - as well as everyone we have 
worked with - have long felt that a system was needed to maintain and 
improve trading relationships while allowing buyers and sellers to 
communicate better and to make transactions simpler. The efdex system 
provides buyers and sellers with an independent platform which they can use 
to facilitate their existing trading relationships and even broaden the 
market for them''
back to top
How efdex Works for Sellers 
With the introduction of the efdex electronic trading system, sellers will 
have access to the entire food and drink market. The system allows sellers 
to target their marketing efforts more effectively with the help of critical 
information concerning the buyers, such as credit reports and buying 
histories. This information allows sellers to target buyers with key 
messages and personalised pricing, thereby enabling sellers to establish 
personal relationships with their buyers. This 'buyer specificity' ensures 
that buyers are as targeted as possible and allows sellers to increase their 
customer service.
"Sellers will be empowered in their marketing efforts", said Ellen Marram, 
CEO of efdex. "For example, a microbrewer who may normally only sell to a 
handful of bars and restaurants in Manhattan will now be able to research 
the entire market which may want to purchase his product. This will expand 
his possible customer base and reduce his transaction costs, all with little 
additional expense.''
How efdex Works for Buyers
The efdex system also provides efficiencies for buyers in the food and drink 
industry by helping them find better prices for the most critical component 
of their business, while also reducing purchasing costs. In addition, efdex 
provides buyers with access to an extensive range of product options, 
thereby increasing purchasing opportunities. The system also provides buyers 
with a comprehensive database of rated information about the products they 
are purchasing and the vendors with whom they are doing business.
Steve Gray, a managing director at Barilla, the world's largest pasta 
manufacturer based in Italy, intends to utilise the efdex trading system 
beginning in the United Kingdom, "There are tens of thousands of hotels and 
restaurants we need to reach to sell our products. Now, with the efdex 
system, we can effectively get our message out to the right people in a 
timely and efficient fashion.''
back to top
The Business Model
The three key revenue streams of the efdex system are transaction 
commissions, communications and analytics. First, efdex receives a 
commission when a trade is completed using its system. There are no usage or 
subscription charges. Second, efdex realises revenues from the targeted 
marketing and advertising opportunities the system provides to sellers. 
Finally, revenue is generated from the use of efdex's market data and 
analytics - proprietary pricing information that forms the critical indices 
that help businesses negotiate trades more effectively. This is available at 
a flat monthly rate or on a 'pay as you go' basis and is directly linked to 
In essence, efdex is a classic increasing returns business -- as more 
businesses adopt the efdex system, others will be inspired to do the same. 
In turn, more revenue will be generated as the efdex user base grows.
Using the efdex System
At the front end of the system, efdex delivers low-cost business television 
programming from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every working day. efdex uses 
television as a user-friendly medium to lead customers into the text 
information services, the premium pricing information called analytics and 
the trading system. From this television front-end, users will access the 
other services at the touch of a button. A key facility on the system is the 
ability to personalise information services, ensuring that efdex users are 
provided with the most timely and relevant information on topics relevant to 
their business needs.
Behind efdex's news feature, the system's real-time trading technology 
enables businesses to immediately buy and sell products directly. For 
example, a Philadelphia restaurant group can search anytime for the best 
prices on lobster and purchase directly from a lobsterman in Portland, 
Maine. To provide system users with the most information about companies, 
efdex provides buyers with a comprehensive database of rated information 
about products and vendors. Finally, since efdex is dealing with all aspects 
of the food and drink industry, it is also able to provide users with the 
comprehensive analytics, such as detailed, proprietary pricing information, 
which are essential indices for trading.
About efdex
efdex, founded in 1995, is a global company headquartered in Stamford, 
Connecticut, USA. Its European operations are run out of its London hub, 
while its Asian operations are controlled from Singapore. efdex has 
pioneered this field with its strong industry experience and four years of 
developing its proprietary databases, indexes, and transactional systems 
which cannot be easily replicated. A partnership with IBM provides efdex 
with a global software platform with fully integrated transactional systems. 
The efdex system will be introduced to buyer markets on a country-by-country 
basis, but globally to sellers from the outset. The first buyer markets 
coming on to the system will be in Western Europe and North America, along 
with all the vendors around the globe who sell to these territories. efdex 
can be found online at
back to top 

Wariness squashes pioneering tomato
By James Cox 
BRACKNELL, England -- AstraZeneca gave birth to the genetically 
modified tomato, a breakthrough fruit no longer grown, processed or marketed.
The Anglo-Swedish biotech pioneer spends $60 million a year trying to 
engineer hardier plants and crops. Yet its revenue from agriculture 
biotechnology is zero.
But even with European consumers so hostile toward genetically 
engineered foods, AstraZeneca executives say the company is ideally 
positioned to profit from gene-manipulating technology. That's because 
everything in its 
research pipeline is six or seven years from reaching consumers.
By then, ''maybe common sense will prevail,'' says Nigel Poole, former 
external relations chief at AstraZeneca's agrochemical division.
At the company's research center west of London, scientists are 
developing bananas that resist fungus, potatoes that won't blight and 
rice with vitamins that make it healthier and proteins that make it 
ideal for Japanese sake wine. Researchers also are using genes to 
re-engineer corn and wheat so the grains can be made into plastic, thus 
reducing the need for oil.
But the company's big discovery is its GM tomato. By isolating the gene 
responsible for ripening, AstraZeneca created a firmer fruit. That meant less 
during harvest and transport, less energy to process and lots more paste per 
AstraZeneca's tomato paste made a big splash on British supermarket 
shelves in 1996. Shoppers got 21% more for the same price as paste made with 
ordinary tomatoes. Company surveys indicated that 67% of those who tried the 
paste thought it was the best they'd ever tasted.
Today, the tomato is no longer sold, a victim of Europe's backlash 
against genetic modification.
The company grew its first tomato crops near Fresno, Calif., banking on 
permission to eventually grow them in Italy and Spain. European regulators 
have yet 
to give their OK.
Retailers' enthusiasm has cooled as consumers' wariness of GM foods 
has grown. AstraZeneca sold the last of its bargain-priced GM tomato 
paste in June.
Officials at the company hope to resurrect the tomato someday. For now, 
they say, they must wait for a more reasoned climate and debate.
'Frustrating? Extremely,'' says Kendra Gittus, tomato biotechnology 
manager at AstraZeneca. ''It was a good, safe product.''

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin) website at: 
According to Professor Ray Baker, Fellow of the Royal Society and Chief 
Executive of the UK's pro-GE public funding body the Biotechnology and 
Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the multi-million pound 
research alliance announced in September 1998 between AstraZeneca (then 
Zeneca), most famous for their genetically modified tomatoes, and the 
UK's plant science institute the John Innes Centre, whose research helps 
underpin the biotech industry worldwide, represented the kind of 
commercially supported project which would "benefit UK businesses" and 
contribute to "the UK's economic competitiveness." 
Prof Baker's comments typify the long standing obsession among many 
bureaucrats, bio-scientists and corporations, with ***BIOBIZ*** - 
building businesses and national economic competitiveness from genetics, 
and most especially genetic engineering. 
Less than 18 months on it's all looking remarkably different to Prof 
Baker's bullish predictions. (Despite the GE economic debacle, however, 
most of the same public servants and leading bio-scientists who got it 
so horribly wrong remain in position to continue to misdirect our public 
research strategy.)
Here are 20 FACTS about the rise and fall of what might be termed "the 
GM tomato economy." 

1. Zeneca (now AstraZeneca), by some calculations the world's 
third-largest agrochemicals group, has often been cited as the model for 
the development of a life science (GE) company. 
2. This Anglo-Swedish biotech pioneer produced its first commercial GE 
product by genetically modifying the tomato to make it produce more bulk 
and less water content, thus making a cheaper tomato paste possible.
3. AstraZeneca grew its first GM tomato crops near Fresno, California, 
banking on 
permission to eventually grow them in Italy and Spain
4. Two major UK supermarket chains, one Sainsbury's under the guidance 
of GE enthusiast Lord Sainsbury and the other Safeway, agreed to offer 
AstraZeneca's GM tomato paste for sale in 1996. The prospects for 
commercial success were said to be excellent. 
5. As well as such GE products as GM tomato paste, AstraZeneca has (like 
Monsanto) been developing its own 'Terminator' style technology 
(AstraZeneca's is nicknamed 'the Verminator' because it makes use of a 
gene from a rat's fat cell) which will prevent farmers from saving seed 
from the crops they grow. 1.4 billion poor people world-wide depend on 
farm-saved seed for their food security. 
6. AstraZeneca currently spends 60 million dollars a year on ag-biotechnology.
7. Its investment in GM-related research at the John Innes Centre over 
the next decade is expected to be of the order of 50 million pounds.
8. Professor Ray Baker FRS, Chief Executive of The Biotechnology and

Sciences Research Council was quoted as saying of this alliance: "... 
they have the Research Council's full support and build on the major 
investment made by the Council over the past few years. These 
developments reflect closely the aims of the Government White paper 
"Realising our Potential", published in 1993." [ 
ss/980917.htm ] Baker also stated that 
such "commercially supported strategic projects" would benefit UK 
businesses, and contribute to UK economic competitiveness. [ 
.uk/opennet/press/releases/jic.html ]
9. Within a matter of months of Baker's bullish predictions the two 
major UK retailers selling AstraZeneca's GM tomato paste both had to 
withdraw it as consumer awareness of the GM foods issue grew and their 
sales of the product plummeted. 
10. European regulators have still not given their OK for growing 
AstraZeneca's GM tomatoes anywhere in Europe.
11. AstraZeneca sold the last can of its GM tomato paste in June 1999.
12. AstraZeneca's GM tomatoes are now no longer grown, processed or 
marketed anywhere in the world.
13. Despite its massive investments in the sector (see above), 
AstraZeneca's total revenue from agriculture biotechnology is *zero* 
14. AstraZeneca's stock (like that of the other gene giants Monsanto, 
Novartis and Dupont) has fallen over recent months.
15. The life science model, which Zeneca pioneered, is now widely agreed 
by investment experts to be "dead" [ - 
29/99 PRNewswire 
NEW YORK -- in which Sano Shimoda, President and Founder of BioScience 
Securities Inc., examines the outlook for Monsanto & the Future of Ag 
Biotech: <>]
16. Dr Nigel Poole, former external relations chief at AstraZeneca's 
agrochemical division, who like Dr Phil Dale of the John Innes Centre 
was removed from the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment 
(the UK's key GM crop regulatory body) because of his direct involvement 
with the biotech industry, says of the future: ''maybe common sense will 
prevail.'' [
<>http://www.usatoda ]
It seems it already has: 
17. AstraZeneca after looking, without any success, for a buyer for 
their ailing agrochemical/life science division ,are spinning it off as 
part of SYNGENTA, a collaboration with fellow troubled gene giant 
Novartis. The hope is that by separating this sector of their operations 
off in this way, SYNGENTA can either be sold off more easily or else its 
continued poor performance will do less damage to the rest of the parent
18. Despite the death of the life science model, German life-science 
company AgrEvo has still recently got into bed with France's 
Rhone-Poulenc to form the world's largest such group under the name 
Aventis. AgrEvo/Aventis has been declared public enemy no. 1 in the UK 
because of its aggressive promotion of its GM crops in the face of 
community resistance -
19. Relations between AgrEvo and John Innes Centre scientists appear 
very warm with JIC scientists turning out to explain to sceptical 
communities the benefits of having AgrEvo's GM crops (banned in some 
other countries -, trialed in 
their locality. However, the reliability of the pro-GE public statements 
of some JIC scientists has been seriously brought into question -
20. The membership of the committees of the UK's public funding body the 
BBSRC, which is the JIC's principal sponsor, heavily reflects the 
interests of industry. Many representatives of companies and large 
corporations sit on the BBSRC's boards giving them the ability to 
influence its research and direction ( 
/scigag.htm ). Among the big corporations 
represented are AgrEvo, Rhone-Poulenc and AstraZeneca. The BBSRC's 
Chairman was, until very recently, the Chief Executive of Zeneca
QUESTION: if it weren't for the wisdom of the humble consumer, just how 
long would it be before we were all living in a GM tomato republic?
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PROTEST at the industrial alignment of independent 
science and public service, go to
Public investments in science should no longer serve to subsidise 
private interests and outcomes that have no public mandate!
"Civil society must demand a response of who the university and other 
public organizations are to serve and request more research on 
alternatives to biotechnology." - Miguel A. Altieri, Department of 
Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Division of Insect 
Biology, University of California 
The Irish Times January 13, 2000 SECTION: CITY EDITION; 
> OPINION; Pg. 18 LENGTH: 1079 words HEADLINE: Byrne takes an 
> over-cautious approach to food authority The proposed 
> European Food Authority should anticipate safety issues, 
> rather than manage them, argues Raymond O'Rourke BODY: 
> Irish Commissioner Mr David Byrne yesterday unveiled plans 
> to establish a European Food Authority as the centrepiece 
> of a Commission White Paper on food safety. In the past 
> year it has been hard to escape issues of food safety, even 
> with a cursory reading of the daily newspapers. Dioxin 
> contamination in Belgium, the safety of genetically 
> modified foods and the quarrel between France and Britain 
> over the EU ban on British beef have all been highlighted 
> in the news. In one of his first speeches to the European 
> Parliament in July 1999, Commission President Mr Romano 
> Prodi stated that winning back consumers' confidence in 
> food would be one of the main tasks of his tenure in 
> Brussels. The announcements yesterday by Mr Byrne are part 
> of a strategy to do just that, but will they be successful? 
> Mr Byrne advocates the establishment of an independent Food 
> Authority modelled on the European Agency for the 
> Evaluation of Medicinal Products in London. The new 
> authority will be primarily involved in risk assessment, the 
> provision of scientific advice, opinions and 
> recommendations, as well as communicating with EU consumers 
> about issues of food safety. It is disappointing that Mr 
> Byrne has not taken the radical step of giving the new 
> authority decision-making and law-making powers. The 
> explanation by the Commission is that such a move would 
> require a change to the EU treaties and would represent "an 
> unwarranted dilution of democratic accountability". This is 
> a feeble argument against enhancing consumer health and 
> ensuring the continued viability of the European food 
> industry. 
> The issue of accountability could be easily dealt with by 
> specifying that the authority produces an annual report, 
> which could be debated by the European Parliament. 
> Additionally, the director of the authority could be 
> permitted to answer questions about the authority's work 
> whenever requested to do so by the Parliament's 
> Environment, Consumer Protection and Public Health 
> Committee. The European Parliament is ideally suited to 
> this role, having been the main catalyst for changes to the 
> EU regulations for foodstuffs following the BSE crisis. The 
> Commissioner, instead, should have used the US Food and Drug 
> Administration (FDA) as a model for a future European Food 
> Agency. Over the years, it has built up an enviable 
> reputation for protecting the interests of consumers, as 
> well as having the full confidence of the food industry. 
> The FDA has immense powers, a very large staff and a broad 
> range of activities. It can be sued for its judgments, 
> while also having the ability to institute legal 
> proceedings. The FDA boasts that it protects the health of 
> 274 million Americans, at a yearly cost to the taxpayer of 
> $ 3 per person. With more than 360 million Europeans, is 
> (pounds) 2-(pounds) 3 not a small price to pay for 
> protecting European consumers? Unfortunately, Mr Byrne is 
> seeking a much less radical solution to the issues of food 
> safety, by creating an authority which will be unable to 
> give final judgments on issues relating to EU food policy. 
> Placing many of the EU scientific committees within the 
> ambit of this authority is a good idea. The Commission 
> argues that over a short period, the authority will 
> establish itself as an authoritative point of reference for 
> consumers, the food industry and national food agencies 
> with regard to food safety issues. At present, the EU 
> scientific committees, with limited resources, have earned 
> themselves a worthy reputation for producing authoritative 
> scientific advice. As the recent furore over the French 
> decision to continue to ban UK beef demonstrates, unless 
> scientific advice is acted upon it will remain worthless. 
> Mr Byrne must come up with some system whereby the 
> recommendations of the new European Food Authority are 
> adhered to by all EU member-states. Specifically, regarding 
> the UK-French "beef war" debacle, the Commissioner should 
> be advocating at the forthcoming Intergovernmental 
> Conference a treaty change to allow for "expeditious" 
> judgments from the European Court of Justice in cases which 
> severely impact on the smooth functioning of the internal 
> market. 
> The Rapid Alert System (RAS) for food emergencies, which 
> is activated when the health of EU consumers is under 
> threat from a food safety problem in more than one 
> member-state, is also to become part of the remit of this 
> new authority. This system came into play during the dioxin 
> contamination crisis in Belgium, but it was hindered when 
> the Belgian authorities delayed by some weeks the provision 
> of information to the Commission. Mr Byrne proposes to 
> strengthen and extend the RAS to include the animal feed 
> chain, but the most effective change would be to introduce 
> the possibility of imposing sanctions against countries 
> such as Belgium which flout the rules. There are, though, 
> important initiatives within the White Paper, which must be 
> applauded. The document identifies more than 80 areas where 
> European food law needs to be amended and improved. The 
> list includes a general food law directive, as well as 
> proposals on food labelling claims, foods for diabetics and 
> streamlining food hygiene measures. It includes a "Work 
> Programme" for the enactment of these measures by 2002, 
> which is an important innovation. The Commission has also 
> adopted guidelines for the operation of the "precautionary 
> principle", which specifies that questions of consumer 
> protection and public health, rather than being simply 
> scientific advice, will be taken into account when devising 
> new food legislation in certain controversial areas. The 
> Commission also promises a number of initiatives in 
> relation to genetically modified foods, aimed at improving 
> the labelling of such products. Mr Byrne has begun an 
> important discussion on the future European regulatory 
> regime for foodstuffs. He has taken some long-overdue 
> decisions, but in relation to the establishment of an 
> independent food authority, he has erred on the side of 
> caution. A European Food Authority must be able to 
> anticipate potential food hazards and rectify the situation 
> immediately. The authority Mr Byrne proposes could too 
> easily fall into the role of managing food emergencies, 
> rather than anticipating them. The hope is that these 
> anomalies will be rectified before the Commission finalises 
> its proposals for the European Food Authority by September 
> 2000. Raymond O'Rourke is a food lawyer with Mason Hayes & 
> Curran, Solicitors, Dublin 

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