Articles on Genetically Modified Food received from Richard Wolfson, Ph.D. April 11, 2001

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"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food," said Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications. "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." 
- New York Times, October 25, 1998

"What the FDA is doing and what the public thinks it's doing are as different as night and day." - Dr. Herbert Ley, Former FDA Commissioner

"The FDA serves as the pharmaceutical industry's watchdog, which can be called upon to attack and destroy a potential competitor under the guise of protecting the public." - Dr. James P. Carter  

 

The following information courtesy of Richard Wolfson, PhD, Consumer Right to Know Campaign for Mandatory labeling and long-term testing of genetically engineered food.

EU Plans Tight Biotech Food Controls
Labeling Rules Carry Risk of Trade Dispute With U.S.


By William Drozdiak
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, April 11, 2001; Page E01

BRUSSELS -- The European Union is preparing to enact strict new controls on the sale of genetically engineered foods, which could trigger a major trade dispute with the United States and deal a serious setback to the booming biotech industry.

Faced with growing public alarm about food safety, the European Parliament is expected to approve a resolution this month that will impose tough labeling and tracing requirements on genetically modified products. The 15 member governments will then be asked to make their national laws conform to the new rules by next year.

For the past three years, the EU has banned new bioengineered seeds and crops while it writes laws to govern the sale and distribution of biotech products. As a result of the ban, U.S. corn growers have been shut out of markets worth about $200 million a year. U.S. soybean growers, on the other hand, have been allowed to keep selling a genetically modified variety that was previously approved and earns about $1.5 billion a year in European markets.

While designed to end the moratorium, the EU's new laws may cause wider disruptions in transatlantic trade. Labels would be required for any food item that contains genetically modified substances, even when they cannot be detected because of processing. That means a candy bar would have to carry the special label if it contained sugar from genetically engineered beets or corn.

With U.S. farmers and biotech advocates urging the Bush administration to take a tough stand against any damage to American exports, EU officials say they are aware of the danger of a trade conflict with the United States at a time when the global economy is threatened with recession and protectionist pressures are rising on both sides of the Atlantic.

But they also insist that governments in Europe, which are struggling to surmount a crisis in confidence following several food-related scandals, cannot ignore public demands for health assurances, even at the risk of temporary trade disruptions.

"There are deep fears among public opinion in Europe that are much more complex than in the United States," Romano Prodi, the president of the EU's executive commission, said in an interview. "This is why I am asking for a special panel of the best American and European scientists to gather all evidence on the quality and safety of genetically modified foods. We need a lot more physical evidence before making judgments."

U.S. trade officials raised objections with their EU counterparts in a discussion last month about an initial draft version of the new requirements. "In the form it was presented, it would disrupt a healthy amount of trade," said one U.S. official, who said Washington is waiting to see a new version from the Europeans.

Americans have been growing and consuming genetically modified foods such as herbicide-tolerant soybeans and pest-repellent corn for several years, with little evidence of risks to human health or the environment. But taco shells and other corn products had been recalled nationwide because they were found to contain genetically modified type of corn, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating complaints from several dozen people who believe they suffered allergic reactions from eating such products.

In Europe, polls show a majority of people believe that products made from genetically modified organisms are hazardous to their health. They reject claims from European scientists that engineered crops may be less dangerous because they contain fewer toxic pesticides or herbicides.

"Many Europeans tend to lump together genetically modified foods with the same kind of industrial farming techniques that are being blamed for causing the recent epidemics that have devastated the meat trade," said Helmut Wagner, European affairs spokesman for Monsanto Corp., an exporter of bioengineered seeds whose grain stores of genetically modified soybeans and corn were recently attacked by arsonists in Italy.

U.S. exporters fear that the labeling and tracing requirements will be a major obstacle to trade. The EU law for animal feeds may soon require separate rules for processed foods, such as corn gluten, and force exporters to produce a costly and detailed tracking record for their products through the entire growing and distribution chain.

"The EU system is just not functioning," said Fred Yoder, chairman of the biotech working group for the National Corn Growers Association. "Since August 1998, the EU has failed to complete the procedures to market a single crop product created through biotechnology. And now, the EU is drafting new rules that threaten to disrupt more trade."

EU officials insist that they are not engaging in protectionist tactics, noting that their own regulatory agencies have approved the planting, import and consumption of at least some varieties of genetically modified corn and soybeans. They also claim that since the EU has banned the use of animal remains as a protein source in livestock feed since the epidemic of "mad cow" disease, there will be much greater demand for imported soybeans even of the biotech varieties.

"This is not about protectionism, because we are responding to the demands of consumers and not some producer lobby that wants to keep out American goods," observed Germany's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, one of Europe's most prominent Green Party leaders. "This is about a free market, and in that sense the European consumer has every right to say no to genetically modified foods."

Staff writer Paul Blustein contributed to this report from Washington.

                                2001 The Washington Post Company

__________________________________
Richard Wolfson, PhD
GE News.
__________________________________
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