Health

US may provoke row over GM food labelling
Marie Woolf
Chief Political Correspondent The Independent

14 August 2001

America and Europe are heading for a damaging dispute over European Union plans to label imported food that has been contaminated by genetically modified crops. A leaked memo recording talks between British ministers and senior officials in the Bush administration shows America is furious at EU-wide plans to insist that all food containing more than 1 per cent GM ingredients be labelled with the fact. The memo shows that Washington, under pressure from GM crop growers, is considering challenging the EU plans under world trade law and wants Britain to make the US case in the EU.

A leaked record of discussions at the highest level of the Bush administration shows that the proposals for an EU directive on labelling GM food are causing concern in the President's inner circle of most trusted advisers.

The document records discussions involving Dylan Glenn, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and the White House. It shows that Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, encountered American opposition to the GM plans on her first trade visit to America shortly after taking office last month.

The leaked document records a conversation between Alan Larson, the US Undersecretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs, and Mrs Hewitt in late July. The memo shows that Ms Hewitt said Britain favours giving consumers the right to choose whether to buy GM crops through clear labelling. She told America that consumers had concerns over GM food.

"Larson told Mrs Hewitt on 24 July that he feared that the proposals on traceability and labelling would be inconsistent with WTO rules on national treatment and would establish a separate regime with no basis in science or fact," the memo says.

"This could effectively block $4bn [£2.8bn] of US exports to Europe and would undermine, not reinforce, efforts to restore public confidence in agricultural biotechnology. Mrs Hewitt explained the strength of public views and EU consumers' demand for the right to make their own decisions on the basis of labelling."

The rules will mean that conventional crops that become contaminated by neighbouring GM crops would have to be labelled.

Environmental groups seized on the memo, saying that it showed Britain was being pressured by America to water down the EU proposals. "This leak shows how much pressure the US is now putting on the British Government to back its move to force GM products into the European market," said Carol Kearney of Friends of the Earth.

"President Bush obviously hopes that Britain will play its usual role as a Trojan horse for US interests inside the EU."


Protesters Won't Stop Trade Efforts

MIKE GLOVER Associated Press Writer

August 13, 2001

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Protesters seeking to disrupt world trade negotiations won't win the political struggle in developing countries eager for outside help to fight hunger and improve living conditions, the nation's top trade official said Monday.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said his top goal is to reconvene talks aimed at a global easing of trade restrictions, and he won't be deterred by often-violent protests.

"The best choice for America's farmers is in global trade negotiations," Zoellick said at a news conference.

Protests have dogged each of the recent trade summits, with activists claiming that free markets exploit poor and developing countries. Zoellick said trade advocates are winning the political debate by arguing that trade can help developing countries raise their living standards.

"The countries that open their markets grow more," he said. "I don't find a lot of sympathy in developing countries for these protesters."

Zoellick also said the United States will continue to lobby for genetically modified crops to be allowed into the European market, a key sticking point between otherwise strong trade allies.

Resistance in Europe is understandable because those countries have suffered through Mad Cow disease and other agriculture disasters that make consumers -- and governments -- leery of changes in farming, Zoellick said.

"People in Europe are scared," he said. "They need to solve these problems on their own and not saddle us." While Zoellick is part of the international debate over trade issues, he came to friendly territory on Monday. He joined Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, at the Iowa State Fair to open Grassley's annual "Ambassador's Tour" around the state.

Each year, Grassley takes embassy officials from Washington on a tour of Iowa to tout trade opportunities in the state. This year's version of the trade tour -- launched with lunch at the State Fair _ includes representatives from 52 countries.

More genetically modified crops trashed in France

PARIS, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Activists opposed to genetically modified (GM) food have struck again in France, tearing up three plots of land where bio-engineered maize was being grown on a test basis, industry groups said on Tuesday.

Seed and plant protection industry organisations said they were "shocked" after the activists destroyed the GM maize tests in the Drome department in southeast France.

A group calling itself "Limes A Grain" -- a play on the name of French seed company Limagrain -- claimed responsibility for the attack that took place on Friday night, the plant organisations said.

It was at least the third such incident since late June, when the farm ministry was forced to publish the list of districts in France where GM crops were being tested.

Philippe Gracien, head of the French seed profession group GNIS, said he expected further attacks.

Gracien said he feared the left-wing Confederation Paysanne farmers' union, which has targeted GM crops in the past, was planning a new push to destroy test fields.

"Unfortunately, when one listens to the speeches of the Confederation Paysanne leaders, it's hard to remain calm," Gracien told Reuters.

Jose Bove, the fiery founder of the Confederation Paysanne, demanded on Saturday a complete ban on GM crops in France and threatened to begin uprooting test fields across the country if the government did not intervene.

In March, a French court gave Bove a 10-month suspended jail sentence and two years' probation for destroying GM rice plants at a research institute in June 1999.

Two months earlier, Bove and other anti-globalisation activists helped uproot some three hectares of GM soybeans at an experimental farm in Brazil operated by American life sciences firm Monsanto.

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