Today in AgBioView: May 22, 2003
* Bush Links Europe's Ban on Bio-Crops With Hunger
* Bush Scolds Europe on Biotech Food, Global Aid
* President Bush on Famine and Agricultural Productivity
* Genetically Modified Foods: The New Transatlantic Fight
* United States v. European Union
* Trade War Looms as US Launches Challenge Over Transgenic Crops
* Trade War: What is it Good For?
* U.S. WTO Dispute Could Bend Poor Nations to GMOs - Groups
* Biotech-Food Fight - Trade Stoppers at Home
* Re: Public Versus Private Ownership of the World's Food Supply
* Philippines: Hunger Strike Against GM Food Ends Today
* Biotechnology, the Media, and Public Policy - AEI Meet
* Pew Proceedings of Harvard Meet: When Media, Science and Public Policy
* GM Crops Useful but Eating Them Uneasy - Japan Survey
* Monsanto's Headquarters in Brussels Occupied by Greenwar
* Germans Banned from Killing Ants
Bush Links Europe's Ban on Bio-Crops With Hunger
- David E. Sanger, New York Times, May 22, 2003
NEW LONDON, Conn., May 21 - President Bush charged today that Europe's ban
on genetically modified food had discouraged third world countries from
using that technology and thus undermined efforts to end hunger in Africa.
Mr. Bush's accusation, long a complaint of American farmers, was made
during a graduation speech at the United States Coast Guard Academy that
dwelled on initiatives to combat AIDS and poverty.
It is almost certain to exacerbate the divisions between Washington and
Europe that emerged before the war in Iraq. While Mr. Bush has made the
case before that Europe should stop obstructing the sale of genetically
modified food, today was the first time he linked that policy with world
hunger. The speech signaled the tough stance Mr. Bush is likely to take
when he goes to France in 10 days for the annual economic summit meeting
of seven major industrialized nations and Russia. White House officials
have already said
Mr. Bush plans no reconciliation with the leaders of France and Germany,
beyond what they call a perfunctory "courtesy visit" to President Jacques
Chirac during the summit meeting, to be held in the French town of Évian.
In a speech that the White House said would put forward what aides called
a positive agenda that would show a far softer side to American foreign
policy, Mr. Bush insisted that widened use of "high-yield bio-crops" would
greatly increase agricultural productivity in some of the poorest nations.
"Yet our partners in Europe are impeding this effort," he said, clearly
meaning France and Germany, though he named no countries. "They have
blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears."
The result, he charged, was that African nations that fear being shut out
of European markets are not investing in the technology. He appeared to be
referring to countries like Uganda and Namibia. "European governments
should join, not hinder, the great cause of ending hunger in Africa," he
Mr. Bush made no mention of the United States' own strong economic
interest in the outcome of the dispute with Europe. American corporations
lead the world in biotechnology and are anxious to open the lucrative
Last week the administration filed the equivalent of a lawsuit with the
World Trade Organization to force Europe to lift its ban on genetically
modified food, a step that Mr. Bush had delayed during the debate on Iraq.
Inside the White House, the emotions about the countries that tried to
stop the invasion are still raw; recently a senior administration official
told reporters that diplomacy to disarm Saddam Hussein had been going well
until, in the official's view, France stabbed the United States in the
back. The French have complained that such comments are part of a
concerted effort by the administration to turn the American public against
France and its goods. Today the United States trade representative, Robert
B. Zoellick, wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal accusing
the European Union of disregarding scientific evidence and sending "a
devastating signal to developing countries that stand to benefit most from
innovative agricultural technologies."
He charged that some African countries were refusing American food aid
"because of fabricated fears stoked by irresponsible rhetoric about food
The European public has been highly reluctant to purchase any genetically
modified products, citing unknown long-term health and environmental
risks. European officials have said that the Bush administration can argue
over the openness of the European market but that they reject as
underhanded the implication that their stricter rules on genetically
modified food are somehow responsible for hunger in Africa.
Tony van der Haegen, the expert for food safety at the European Union,
said administration officials had been "a bit unfair to whip Europeans"
when they had never blocked food aid. Last week European officials charged
that the administration was manufacturing its claims.
"The U.S. claims that there is a so-called moratorium," Pascal Lamy, the
top European trade official, said last week, "but the fact is that the
E.U. has authorized G.M. varieties in the past and is currently processing
applications. So what is the real U.S. motive in bringing a case?" Yet as
a practical matter, the European Union had an unwritten moratorium on new
varieties of bio-crops until last year. Since then it has approved only
two applications for new imports.
Europeans have also demanded that any genetically modified foods be
labeled, a move that American farmers say would condemn the products to
the back shelves, where they would sit unsold. The United States suit has
been joined by a number of other nations, many of which are seeking free
trade agreements with the United States. Mr. Bush's speech here, delivered
in a drizzling rain as Coast Guard vessels bobbed in the waters behind
him, marked a return to the state where he was born - a native status that
the adopted Texan rarely talks about, identifying himself more with
Midland, the Texas town in which he grew up.
Bush Scolds Europe on Biotech Food, Global Aid
- Olivier Knox, Agence France Presse, May 21, 2003 (Via Agnet)
NEW LONDON, Connecticut - A week before he heads to Europe, US President
George W. Bush on Wednesday was cited as scolding allies there on aid to
poor nations, notably accusing them of hindering efforts to fight famine
Bush, who will see leading critics of the war in Iraq when the world's
wealthiest nations and Russia meet in France June 1-3, was cited as saying
the European ban on genetically modified foods was an obstacle to battling
widespread starvation, "Our partners in Europe are impeding this effort.
They have blocked all new biocrops because of unfounded, unscientific
fears," he said in a graduation-day speech to the US Coast Guard Academy.
This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in
biotechnologies, for fear that their products will be shut out of European
markets. European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause
of ending hunger in Africa. When I travel to Europe next week, I will
challenge our allies to make a similar commitment which will save even
more lives. I will remind them that the clock is ticking. I will urge our
European partners, and Japan and Canada to join a great mission of rescue
and to match their good intentions with real resources."
The story further says that Bush, who has made receiving US aid from a
special new account contingent on political and market reforms, also urged
Europe to end agricultural export subsidies -- an enduring thorn in the
side of US-Europe relations.
(From Prakash: Full transcript of Bush speech at
President Bush on Famine and Agricultural Productivity
- Whitehouse Fact Sheet, May 21, 2003
* President Bush today called for renewed efforts to combat famine and
hunger worldwide, as part of his
FY 2004 $1.4 billion commitment to fund emergency aid to alleviate world
* The President called upon Congress to provide $200 million for a new
Famine Fund to prevent famine in vulnerable developing countries, and
called on other nations to follow our lead by establishing their own
* President Bush also urged our partners in Europe to follow America's
lead and join us in widening the use of new, high-yield biotechnology
crops that will dramatically increase agricultural productivity throughout
* To give farmers in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere a fair
chance to compete in world markets, the President urged all developed
nations, including our European partners, to immediately eliminate
subsidies on agricultural exports to developing countries - so that they
can produce more food to export, and to feed their own people.
* The President's Initiative to End Hunger in Africa, announced by
Secretary of State Powell in Johannesburg, will increase agricultural
productivity through technological advances, widen trade opportunities,
and implement the right policies to prevent future famines. Today in
Africa, 38 million people are at risk of starvation or are facing severe
food shortages, including 14 million people in Ethiopia alone.
Genetically Modified Foods: The New Transatlantic Fight
- To the Point, National Public Radio, May 21, 2003
You can listen to this program at http://www.moretothepoint.com/
Genetically modified crops have been on American grocery store shelves for
years. Roughly three-quarters of all US soybeans, more than 70 percent of
US cotton and more than a third of all the maize produced in the United
States have been genetically modified. For nearly 5 years, the European
Union has placed a moratorium on such crops, prompting the US to threaten
to bring its case before the World Trade Organization to force the EU to
drop its ban. Is the move a case of consumer protection or mere
protectionism? Guest host Jim Moret joins an EU commissioner, a US trade
policy negotiator, a plant geneticist and a consumer advocate for a look
at the transatlantic battle over what we eat.
(Panelists: David Byrne - EU Commissioner, Allen Johnson, USTR Office, C.
S. Prakash, Kathleen Hart (writer) and Craig Winters - Campaign to Label
United States v. European Union
- Robert B. Zoellick, Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2003
The U.S. -- joined by Argentina, Canada and Egypt, and supported by nine
other countries -- last week asked the European Union to lift its
moratorium on approving agricultural biotech products, in accordance with
the rules of the World Trade Organization.
The world stands on the threshold of an agricultural revolution. The
science of biotechnology can make crops more resistant to disease, pests
and drought. By boosting yields, biotechnology can increase farmers'
productivity and lower the cost of food for consumers. It can help the
environment by reducing pesticide use and preventing soil erosion. And new
crops offer the promise of something greater still: foods fortified with
nutrients that could help stem disease -- including saving the eyesight of
over 500,000 children who go blind each year because they lack Vitamin A.
Where food is scarce, or climates harsh, increased agricultural
productivity could spell the difference between life and death, between
health and disease for millions. Biotech rice, for example, is twice as
resistant to drought and saltwater, while withstanding temperatures about
10 degrees lower than other varieties. For almost five years, the EU has
violated its own rules and procedures -- and disregarded the advice of its
scientific committees and commissioners by arresting action on
applications for biotech food products. This moratorium violates the EU's
basic WTO obligations to maintain a food approval process that is based on
"sufficient scientific evidence" and that acts without "undue delay."
Some Europeans have asked why the U.S. and its 12 partners would not wait
longer. Yet the European commissioners working to lift the moratorium are
the hostages of their member states. As Environment Commissioner Margot
Wallstrom concluded last October: "I have stopped guessing when the
moratorium would be lifted . . . . [S]ome member states are opposed . . .
and will try to move the goal posts." We stopped guessing, too.
As we have waited patiently for European leaders to step forward to deploy
reason and science, the EU moratorium has sent a devastating signal to
developing countries that stand to benefit most from innovative
agricultural technologies. This dangerous effect of the EU's moratorium
became evident last fall, when some famine-stricken African countries
refused U.S. food aid because of fabricated fears -- stoked by
irresponsible rhetoric -- about food safety.
As a major importer of food, Europe's decisions ripple far beyond its
borders. Uganda refused to plant a disease-resistant type of banana
because of fears it would jeopardize exports to Europe. Namibia will not
buy South Africa's biotech corn for cattle feed to avoid hurting its beef
exports to Europe. India, China and other countries in South America and
Africa have expressed the same trepidation. "Thirty-four percent of the
children [in Africa] are malnourished," says Dr. Diran Makinde of the
University of Venda in South Africa. Yet Africans are told of biotech
crops: "Don't touch them."
For five years, the world has waited patiently, assured by European
officials that a change in policy is "just around the corner." But around
every corner we have found a new roadblock. First, we were asked to wait
until new biotech approval regulations were drafted. Then it was to wait
for a labeling scheme, then for rules on legal liability, and then for new
regulations on where biotech crops can and cannot be planted. While Europe
has added barrier after barrier to fight fictions, biotechnology has
demonstrated benefit after benefit based on facts. "No till" biotech
farming has reduced soil erosion by one billion tons a year.
Over the past eight years, biotech cotton and corn have reduced pesticide
use by 46 million pounds of active ingredients. The Chinese Academy of
Science estimates biotech could reduce China's pesticide use by 80%.
Overwhelming scientific research shows that biotech foods are safe and
healthy -- a conclusion that the EU's own Directorate-General for Research
reached two years ago. The National Academies of Science and Medicine in
France concur. So do the Scientific Academies of Brazil, China, India,
Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S. Dr. C.S. Prakash of Tuskegee University
presented me with a statement signed by more than 3,200 scientists
world-wide, including 20 Nobel laureates, supporting agricultural
Some claim that we are "forcing" biotech foods on European consumers. Yet
all we ask is for consumers to have the right to make their own decisions,
a right they are now denied because the EU is blocking access to foods
that EU regulators and scientific associations acknowledge are safe. The
legal case for biotechnology is clear, the science overwhelming, and the
humanitarian call to action compelling. We hope this debate will lead the
EU to finally lift its moratorium without imposing new barriers. -- Mr.
Zoellick is the U.S. Trade Representative.
Trade War Looms as US Launches Challenge Over Transgenic Crops
- Jonathan Knight, Nature, May 22, 2003
The opening shots in a transgenic trade war were fired last week, as the
United States delivered a warning to Europe - and perhaps to developing
nations as well - that trade barriers to genetically modified crops are
not acceptable. But observers warn that the conflict is likely to be a
messy one, and that the outcome is far from certain.
The United States opened hostilities on 13 May by announcing that it will
ask the World Trade Organization (WTO) to declare that the de facto
moratorium on approving new transgenic crops in the European Union (EU) is
illegal. The EU's approval process stalled in 1998, when six member states
called for stricter laws on labelling genetically modified food. Joining
the United States in the suit are Canada, Argentina, Egypt, seven Latin
American countries, New Zealand and Australia.
Some researchers say that the EU is not the only target of the move.
"There is a component that is a message to the developing world," says
Alan McHughen, a plant-biotechnology researcher at the University of
California, Riverside. Last year, for example, Zambia rejected shipments
of US food aid containing transgenic corn. Officials there claimed they
were concerned that some of the corn might be planted, thereby
jeopardizing the country's export market to Europe (see Nature 418,
571-572; 2002). McHughen says the United States wants to show that it is
dedicated to opening up the European market, and that trade sanctions will
not be tolerated anywhere.
But the WTO case may not be enough to achieve that aim, say food-policy
experts. The EU is expected to pass new rules later this year requiring
stricter labelling and traceability of food containing genetically
modified ingredients. Currently, only products that contain detectable
amounts of transgenic DNA or protein must be labelled. The new rules would
extend the requirements to all food and animal feed derived from
genetically modified plants. 'Farm-to-fork' records of how all transgenic
components were used at each step of food production would also have to be
But these requirements could exclude many developing nations from selling
transgenic products to Europe, because such countries lack the
infrastructure to ensure the traceability of each boatload of grain and
rice. "With relatively poor countries such as Thailand and Kenya, you are
effectively shutting them out of the biotech market," says Gregory Conko,
director of food-safety policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a
think-tank based in Washington DC.
Whatever the effect on the developing world, US agribusinesses are
unlikely to be exporting transgenic crops to Europe in the near future.
The WTO case could take up to 18 months to resolve. And EU member states
that had been expected to lift the moratorium this autumn, once the
stricter labelling rules are in place, may choose to wait until the
dispute is resolved.
Even if the United States wins its case, the most that the WTO can do is
allow it to set up import tariffs as compensation for the US$300 million
it claims to be losing in farm exports to Europe every year. "It seems
likely that it will heighten rather than lessen the dispute between the
United States and Europe," says Gary Toenniessen, director of food
security at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York.
If the EU does lift the moratorium, many US exporters and European
retailers may still be deterred by the new rules. "If the labelling and
traceability requirements are the price we have to pay to get the
moratorium lifted, we are paying too much," says Robert Paarlberg, an
expert on international agricultural policy at Wellesley College near
To get transgenic crops into Europe, says Conko, the United States or one
of its allies will have to contest the new rules in another WTO challenge.
But Michael Hansen, a food-policy advocate with the Consumers Union in New
York, says that the WTO guidelines already back strict labelling, and that
the United States wouldn't win a WTO challenge on that issue.
Even when the trade wars are resolved, consumer opinion could still
scupper the entry of transgenic crops into the European market. Some
experts, such as Conko, say that the opposition to genetically modified
food seen in public-opinion surveys does not imply that consumers would
shun it. But many observers say that the surveys indicate real opposition
among Europeans. "Europe will not like being brought before the WTO at
this time," says Paarlberg. "The United States is not popular, the WTO is
not popular, and genetically modified foods are not popular."
Trade War: What is it Good For?
- Editorial, Nature, Nature, May 22, 2003
The United States' challenge to Europe's ban on approving new transgenic
foods could yield nothing but losers.
The transatlantic transgenic trade war has begun. Since 1998, when the
European Union (EU) stopped approving new transgenic food crops for sale,
US farmers have been seething. And last week, their government finally
moved to open EU markets to genetically modified (GM) food, mounting a
legal challenge to Europe's moratorium.
While few in US government or industry are happy about the EU's position,
even fewer believe there is much to gain from taking the case to the World
Trade Organization (WTO) at this late stage. The State Department, in
particular, is opposed to anything that would strain already fractious
US-European relations still further. Crop biotechnology companies would
also have preferred a diplomatic route.
There are various motivations for the WTO suit (see page 369). But in the
event, the action may have as much to do with domestic US politics as
anything else. Senator Chuck Grassley (Republican, Iowa) had warned that
he would speak out if the challenge were not filed soon. As chair of the
Senate Committee on Finance, responsible for pushing through the
administration's tax cuts, Grassley is not someone with whom President
George W. Bush wanted to fall out.
The problem is that the suit stands to do little good. The EU moratorium
had appeared likely to end later this year anyway, as soon as strict rules
requiring GM produce to be labelled are finalized. The danger now is that
EU member states might respond by continuing their moratorium for another
year or so, until the suit is resolved. Even if the WTO rules in favour of
the United States, an aggrieved Europe might defy the ruling and pay any
retaliatory import duties that the United States would then impose.
Such tit-for-tat measures are in no one's interest, however. Although it
might be seen as capitulation, the sensible response would be for the EU
to swallow its pride and lift its embargo, as soon as its labelling rules
are in place. So far, there is no scientific evidence suggesting that GM
crops pose a special risk to human health or the environment. Countries
may still reject any GM crop or product that is subsequently shown to pose
a demonstrable hazard. And once labelling is in place, consumers who
distrust the technology can simply reject GM food in the marketplace.
U.S. WTO Dispute Could Bend Poor Nations to GMOs - Groups
- Emad Mekay http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=18192
WASHINGTON, May 14 (IPS) - The U.S. decision to confront a European Union
(EU) de facto ban on genetically modified (GM) food might knock down the
world's main resistance to the controversial process and scare developing
countries into opening their doors to GM crops, say analysts here.
After five years of unsuccessful negotiations with the EU over its delay
on approving genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Bush
administration said Tuesday it was taking its case to the World Trade
Organization (WTO) to get the European block to relax its restrictions.
International consumer groups decried the decision, saying it could hurt
European consumers and open up markets in dozens of developing nations,
whose resistance to GMOs has so far largely hinged on European backing.
In its complaint, Washington argues that barring development of GM foods
in the wealthy economic block is an illegal trade barrier under WTO rules.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said Tuesday that the "EU's
persistent resistance" was actually impeding "global use of a technology
that could be of great benefit to farmers and consumers around the world".
The EU denies that it has enacted a moratorium and says it simply needs
more time to develop systems for tracing and labelling GM foods and feed.
U.S. biotech corporations, the Bush administration and conservative think
tanks here have been arguing that GMO products are safe for human
consumption and that they could alleviate hunger in poor and developing
''In developing countries, the deployment of plant biotechnology can spell
the difference between life and death and between health and disease for
hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people,'' said Ronald Bailey,
author of a pro-GMOs study at the conservative Washington-based Cato
There are one billion chronically poor and hungry people in the world, and
low crop yields and costly production technologies are partly to blame.
The use of plant biotechnology in many of those nations has been allegedly
been slowed because of EU resistance to GMOs.
Last year, Africa's famine-stricken nations of Zambia, Zimbabwe and
Mozambique turned down shipments of U.S. GMO aid because of health and
environmental concerns, despite enormous pressure and loud propaganda
campaigns from Washington.
The countries were also worried that they could lose their export markets
in the EU if their crops were contaminated by GMOs.
Consumer groups, charities and development organisations accuse the
biotech industry and the Bush administration of camouflaging their own
financial self-interest by pretending to argue for the welfare of the
"The Bush administration is catering to the interests of major biotech
corporations rather than human health," said Brent Blackwelder, president
of Friends of the Earth, a leading voice in the battle against GMOs. U.S.
biotechnology giants like Monsanto and Aventis and big agricultural groups
such as the National Corn Growers Association strenuously lobbied the
administration to bring a formal WTO case challenging the EU's regulatory
system for GMO products.
U.S. industry loses some 300 million dollars a year of possible GMO
exports to the EU, but the potential of exports to huge world markets,
like India, is far greater. The United States is the largest grower of
biotech crops in the world, with 96.3 million acres currently under
cultivation. Biotech crops represent about 75 percent of soy production,
34 percent of corn and 71 percent of cotton, while the worldwide rates are
45 percent for soy, 11 percent for corn and 20 percent for cotton.
Consumers groups that have been following the issue for years say that
even if the WTO rules in favour of Washington, European consumers, farmers
and producers have been educated enough to never want to use GM products.
"The European food industry will simply refuse to stock those products,"
said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the U.S.-based Organic Consumers
"It'll be a situation where in theory the WTO can enforce this. But in
practice the WTO would be on shaky grounds. There is no way in hell that
they can force the European consumers, supermarkets or farmers to stock
those GMO tainted crops."
Cummins says the real aim of the United States is to frighten poor
developing nations into complying and opening their markets for the
controversial products. "It's clear that the Europeans will not back
down," he said. "They (the U.S.) are trying to scare smaller countries
that are no match with the U.S."
Already Washington has lined up a dozen, mostly client countries, to sign
on to the WTO complaint. These include Egypt, a large African country of
71.5 people run by an undemocratic and authoritarian regime, but also
Canada, another agricultural exporter.
The United States also has a record of using food aid to force GM crops "
down peoples' throats", creating firestorms of resistance in receiving
nations that receive GM products masked as food relief, said Cummins.
Washington is also introducing GMOs to poor nations via training courses
at its Agriculture Department, where hundreds of agriculture officials
from the developing world are instructed in the WTO rules on GM products
and, along the way, about the benefits of biotechnology.
U.S. industry groups have also been using ''technical assistance'' to fund
initiatives that promote "science-based and transparent biotechnology
regulations" in lucrative markets like China, with the aim of preventing
the emergence of biotechnology regulations similar to those in the EU.
The U.S. industry was alarmed in March 2002 when China introduced bio
safety rules that demanded strict labelling, extensive documentation and
government approval for food shipments. The new rules immediately froze
all soybean shipments from Midwestern U.S. states.
Biotech-Food Fight - Trade Stoppers at Home
- Henry I. Miller, National Review Online, May 21, 2003
The United States, Canada, Argentina and Egypt, supported by nine other
countries, will file a World Trade Organization complaint in hopes of
getting the European Union to lift its five-year moratorium on new
gene-spliced, or genetically modified (GM), products, U.S. officials
announced on Tuesday.
Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative, complained that the
European ban was stifling biotechnology around the world and fueling
"fabricated fears stoked by irresponsible rhetoric about food safety."
"We've waited patiently for five years for the EU to follow the WTO rules
and the recommendations of the European Commission," which would permit
the EU to resume approval of new products, he said.
Science and common sense favor the U.S. position on the EU's moratorium.
Even the EU acknowledges that the ban is insupportable legally and
scientifically. Three years ago, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom
called it "illegal and not justified," and Health Commissioner David Byrne
has agreed. In response to fear mongering in the late 1990s by countries
like France, Germany, and Italy, the commission performed an exhaustive,
six-year study of the safety of gene-spliced foods, which concluded that
they are actually safer and more environmentally friendly than traditional
But even if the United States and its allies prevail at the WTO on the
issue of the ban on new approvals, it is unlikely that the EU would revise
the unscientific and discriminatory regulatory policies that underlie the
moratorium; they are too entrenched, and have fomented too much public
fear and antagonism towards gene-spliced foods.
The best-case scenario is probably that the WTO would find in favor of the
United States, and the EU would agree to lift the moratorium on approvals.
But even that outcome would be of only marginal benefit, leaving in place
the EU's unnecessary and excessive regulatory requirements for
gene-spliced crops and food. Plant breeders and farmers in exporting
countries, including the United States, would still be reluctant to
commercialize any new variety not approved in the EU.
Underscoring this point, in March the American Soybean Association, which
represents the nation's soybean farmers, called in testimony before the
House Committee on Agriculture for the administration to file WTO
complaints against the EU's regulations. The ASA noted that although the
EU did approve Roundup Ready® soybeans in 1996, the EU's mandatory
"labeling" law requires food manufacturers to attach a stigmatizing "GMO
[Genetically Modified Organisms] label" on any food products containing
more than one percent of Roundup Ready® soybeans. This has caused a large
number of food manufacturers who market their products in the EU to
abandon U.S.-origin commodity soy protein as an ingredient, or to
reformulate their products to exclude all soy ingredients. Thus, we now
permit the most averse and protectionist player in the game to set the
rules on international trade.
The most likely outcome of the U.S. filing is that the EU would simply
ignore a WTO ruling that the EU's moratorium on new gene-spliced product
approvals is illegal.
The WTO has no real enforcement power, but relies on member nations to
accept its decisions voluntarily. The WTO could, however, authorize the
United States and the other complainants to establish countervailing
import tariffs on goods from the transgressor nations in an amount equal
to the potential sales revenue lost by the exporters. For example,
following an adverse ruling from the WTO on a case that involved the
importation of American and Canadian beef from cattle given certain
hormones, the European Union accepted the countervailing tariffs rather
than change its policy. A successful WTO challenge to the EU's
biotechnology policies would likely have a similar result.
No outcome that permits restriction of trade is desirable, but the
imposition of punitive compensatory tariffs would be an acceptable result
if it took into account both the direct and indirect losses to American
seed producers, farmers and food processors, which have mounted into the
billions of dollars. A ruling in favor of the United States and its allies
would send a message to the world that the EU's arbitrary, scientifically
indefensible and protectionist policies are an unacceptable barrier to
Even before this battle can be joined, however, Zoellick and U.S. trade
interests are being outflanked by European and American yes, American
bureaucrats at the deliberations of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the
food standards program of the United Nations, whose ongoing task force on
gene-spliced foods is nearing the completion of preposterously
unscientific regulations that will provide cover for those who wish to
regulate agricultural biotechnology into oblivion.
During three years of negotiations by the task force, the Europeans and
NGOs (which are permitted full participation) have led the assault on
technological innovation and free trade. The participants including the
U.S. delegation, headed by senior FDA food regulator Robert Lake have
willfully ignored scientific principles and the basic axiom that the
degree of regulatory scrutiny should be proportionate to risk. They have
also disregarded the scientific consensus that gene-splicing is an
extension, or refinement, of older, traditional techniques of genetic
modification, and that it does not warrant discriminatory, excessive
regulation. They have overlooked the fact that during a decade of
widespread use, the performance of gene-spliced crops has been
spectacular, with farmers enjoying increased yields, decreased costs of
agricultural chemicals, and lower occupational exposures to pesticides.
The environmental benefits likewise have been stunning, with less chemical
runoff into waterways and greater availability of no-till farming
techniques that reduce soil erosion.
The task force has deliberately circumscribed only gene-spliced foods for
compulsory case by case "pre-market safety assessment of . . . both
intended and unintended effects, identifying new or altered hazards and
identifying changes relevant to human health."
These requirements are more appropriate to potentially dangerous
prescription drugs and pesticides than to improved varieties of tomatoes,
potatoes, and strawberries. No food modified by less precise, less
predictable traditional techniques that is to say, virtually the entire
diet of Europeans and Americans could (or should) meet these standards.
The Codex requirements for gene-spliced foods, which are both sweeping and
Draconian, will vastly increase the development costs of these products,
drastically impair their competitiveness in the marketplace, and limit
Derailing the development of gene-spliced foods is exactly the agenda of
many of those on the task force. For the Europeans, the reason is clear:
protectionism, pure and simple. As Wellesley College political scientist
Robert Paarlberg has observed, the products of agricultural biotechnology
have been "developed mostly in U.S. laboratories, widely adopted by U.S.
farmers, and pushed out onto the world market by U.S. companies (emphasis
In other words, agricultural biotechnology is an icon of American
technological success and supremacy, so naturally U.S. trading partners
intend to punish it.
Less obvious is why American regulators have been complicit. Milton
Friedman explained it with the observation that you can usually rely on
individuals and institutions (including regulatory agencies) to act in
their own self-interest. And that self-interest for regulators lies in
expanded responsibilities and larger budgets and bureaucratic empires. The
FDA is in the process of adopting regulations similar to those of its
European counterparts, that focus not on risk, but only on those products
made with the most precise and predictable techniques. The public interest
The prospect of unduly burdensome Codex standards for biotech foods is
ominous both for the prospects of the technology itself and for U.S. hopes
of WTO relief from protectionist European policies because members of the
WTO will, in principle, be required to abide by those standards. In other
words, the standards will provide cover for unfair trade practices,
because with these measures in place, a country that wishes to block trade
in gene-spliced foods for any reason can defend against charges of unfair
trade practices simply by remonstrating that it's deferring to Codex.
These unscientific standards will harm not only international trade, but
also the natural environment and public health. The greatest threats to
the planet's environment come from the world's burgeoning population and
its demands for water and for ever more land to be brought into food
production. Yet an important answer the development of higher-yielding,
drought-resistant plant varieties that grow with less agricultural
chemicals will be blocked by illogical, discriminatory, hugely expensive
Regulation should focus on real risks and should not be triggered by the
use of one technique or another. If the current Codex approach is adopted,
the costs of biotechnology R&D will skyrocket, and there will be
essentially irreversible constraints on innovation and trade. Even the
most favorable ruling from the WTO would be little more than a Pyrrhic
Zoellick and the Bush administration are right-minded to lead the charge
against illegal restraint of international trade, but they must recognize
that our enemies lie not only across the pond but inside the Beltway.
Henry I. Miller is a fellow at the <http://www-hoover.stanford.edu> Hoover
Institution and an adviser to
the U.S. delegation to the Codex Alimentarius Commission task force on
biotech foods. He was director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology from
Re: Public Versus Private Ownership of the World's Food Supply
- From: Jerry Cayford, Cayford@rff.org
In criticizing my letter to Nature Biotechnology, Dave Wood raises some
reasonable questions about defining the "public domain" (AgBioView, May
13th). He is on entirely the right track in raising such questions. As I
said in my letter, the issues of public versus private ownership of the
world's food supply are the heart of the debate over biotechnology. These
are the issues we need to be discussing.
As Wood says, "public domain and monopoly control are both highly grey and
fuzzy." There are many shades between an absolutely free public good and a
privately patented one. But this complexity in no way makes the concepts
unimportant. There is an enormous difference between the limits on freedom
placed by the benefit sharing requirements of the International Treaty on
Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and the limits placed by
ownership of a plant variety protection certificate. And there is an
equally enormous difference between the private rights granted by a plant
variety protection certificate and the near-total control conferred by a
patent. Likewise, ownership by a country (which we traditionally call
"public domain") is very different from patent ownership by a corporation.
These differences matter.
That patents differ importantly from other, more modest restrictions is
proven by the fact that patents on plants have brought about the wholesale
purchase of the seed industry by the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.
Where hundreds of small seed companies competed fifteen years ago, four or
five corporations now dominate the seed market. This is one of many new
features that came with GM patenting.
If we actually want to address the causes of resistance to GM food, we
must not trivialize the public domain versus private monopoly issue.
Despite acknowleging the gray, Wood seems to take a black and white view:
only goods that are absolutely free to everyone count as public domain;
and once something is not longer perfectly public, it makes no difference
whether it is patented or is non-public in some other way. But it does
make a difference, and we lose sight of the issue when we jumble together
plant variety rights and farmers' privileges and benefit sharing
agreements and patents.
And once we have lost sight of the issue, it becomes almost irresistible
to imagine that critics of biotechnology are just loonies with an aversion
to "ownership of life," rather than people raising serious concerns about
monopoly control of the world's food supply.
Philippines: Hunger Strike Against GM Food Ends Today
- Gulf News (Via Agnet) May 21, 2003
Manila - Three hunger strikers were cited as deciding to end their fast
today, but expressed happiness that 100 other hunger strikers joined them
overnight, to protest the proliferation of genetically modified corn in
Roberto Verzola, one of the three remaining hunger strikers who held
rallies in front of the agriculture department's office in suburban Quezon
City since April 22, was quoted as saying, "I lost 18 pounds. We have done
everything that is humanly possible to stop the poisoned seeds of
genetically modified corn from being planted in our farms."
Verzola was further cited as blaming President Gloria Arroyo and Luis
Lorenzo, the agriculture secretary, for not ordering a moratorium on the
planting of the genetically modified corn in Philippine farms. Last
December, Arroyo gave her approval to the proposal of Mosanto Corporation
of the United States to sell seeds of a genetically modified corn with
bacillus thuringienses which is meant to destroy corn borers.
Biotechnology, the Media, and Public Policy
June 12, 2003, American Enterprise Institute http://www.aei.org/event326
Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI 1150 Seventeenth Street,
N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
For more than two decades, scientists have been working to develop a range
of animal, agricultural, and industrial products (such as foods and
pharmaceuticals) made with the help of genetic modification. As has often
been the case with the introduction of new scientific methods, gene
manipulation has stirred intense and contentious debates. This
sometimes-confrontational atmosphere has limited the use of this new
technology by negatively shaping public attitudes and government policies
toward bioengineering around the world.
This conference will focus on the origins of this debate; how the dialogue
on genetic modification has shaped public policy around the world; how it
impacts the commercial realities of companies developing new products; how
it might alter the course of future research; and what strategies might be
formulated to develop a more rational public policy that would foster more
constructive discussion over the costs and benefits of genetic
Speaker and Moderators:
Keynote Speaker: Allen Johnson, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Jon Entine, AEI
Lester Crawford, Food and Drug Administration
Tim Friend, USA Today
Vivian Moses, King’s College, London
Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College
C. S. Prakash, Tuskegee University
Javier Verastegui, CamBio Tec-Canada
Justin Gillis, Washington Post
Rob Horsch, Monsanto
Joseph McGonigle, Aqua Bounty Farms
Patrick Moore, Greenspirit
Martina Newell-McGloughlin, University of California
Jay Byrne, v-Fluence, Inc.
Carol Tucker Foreman, Consumer Federation of America
Tony Gilland, British Institute of Ideas
Thomas Hoban, North Carolina State University
Doug Powell, University of Guelph, Ontario
When Media, Science and Public Policy Collide: The Case of Food and
The proceedings of this Pew Initiative/Harvard Media conference
proceedings can be accessed at
Best regards, Dan DiFonzo
Scolding for Andrew Apel
- Francois Pythoud
Dear Editor, As a European not member of a European Union country, I have
been deeply chocked by the response from Andrew Apel who remind me the pro
war propaganda and hysteria. If the ojective of Ag Biotech is not only pro
biotech propaganda but to support the development and the acceptance of
biotechnology, collaboration with such fundamentalist ignorant of the
Europena situation should be dismissed.
My more than 10 years experience in biotech regulation in Switzerland has
show me he debate listice Such intervention coming more over from an
"AgBiotech Reporter" demonstrate a total ignorance of the situation in
Europe and are totally counterproductive in terms of development and
acceptance of biotechnology.
GM Crops Useful but Eating Them Uneasy - Japan Survey
- Japan Chemical Week, May 22, 2003
The Society for Techno-innovation of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
(STAFF) has compiled the results of the awareness survey it conducted on
genetically modified (GM) crops and foodstuffs. This was part of public
awareness (PA) activities in connection with GM foods, which are coming
into wider and wider use worldwide, and is the first full-scale survey to
be conducted addressing the Japanese consumer.
This revealed that more than 70% of consumers have a strong awareness that
recombinant technology is 'useful' to facilitate farming in inhospitable
environments and remedy food shortages. On the other hand, it became clear
that concerns over the effects of farming on local environments and
uneasiness towards eating GM foods remain strong.
One factor mentioned is that half or more of consumers do not know that
the Ministries of Health, Labour and Welfare and Agriculture, Forestry &
Fisheries carry out safety verification evaluations. It suggested that if
permeation of information on `'safety' were stepped up, consumer
purchasing motivation towards and acceptance of GM foods would be
Specifically, 62% of respondents were familiar with 'labeling' of GM
foods, and 51% said purchase is conditional. A high 89% of these gave
confirmed 'safety' as a condition, while the responses giving price as
their condition said they would buy if the price is lower by 25% or more
than non-GM produce.
Shining a light on Monsanto's shadowy lobbying: GE-giant targeted at
headquarters in Brussels
http://www.greenpeace.org/ May 22, 2003
BELGIUM/Brussels - Monsanto's European/African Headquarters in Brussels
were occupied by activists who want the world's leading producer of
genetically modified crops held responsible for spreading genetic
"We challenge Monsanto to step out of the shadows from where it is calling
the shots. Monsanto's crops are the major source of genetic contamination
in conventional and organic crops not only in Europe but also in Brazil,
Canada and India. With the WTO, the US administration is now openly
fighting for Monsanto's interest," said Eric Gall, GMO Policy Advisor for
the Greenpeace European Unit.
The EU agriculture ministers are set to meet in Brussels next week to
discuss genetic contamination on conventional and organic crops, the
so-called "co-existence" issue. The current proposal from the European
Commission fails to protect both the environment and the interests of
non-GM farmers and consumers. The EU commission proposal is at odds with
both the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle."
"It must be the GMO producers such as Monsanto, not organic and
conventional farmers or the European taxpayers, that should bear the
economic burden of genetic pollution and measures required to prevent it."
Germans Banned from Killing Ants
Germany has introduced new laws making it illegal to kill ants and
appointed 85 ant protection officers to protect the insects. Homeowners
and gardeners who attempt to destroy an anthill or underground nest will
face hefty fines if caught.
They must now apply for a permit from their local forestry office to have
the ants carefully moved to local woods. "People with an ant hill in their
garden must under no circumstances resort to the use of poison," said
senior ant protection officer Dieter Kraemer.
"This is a violation of federal nature protection laws and punishable with
hefty fines." He added that ants were highly valued by German foresters
for eating insects which attack trees.
A high ant population can prevent costly and environmentally unfriendly
woodland spraying aimed at pests such as the Nun moth which attacks pines
and other conifers.
(From Prakash: This is so crazy it sounds like a hoax, but if it is a hoax
it's a damn good one. It was picked up by two publications: