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Bravo to EU on the transgenic food rules

(July 26, 2001 – CropChoice opinion) – Bravo to the European Union for producing what is a fairly extensive set of rules on the labeling and traceability of transgenic foods. Predictably, U.S. grain industry chiefs and their buddies in the biotechnology bunch criticized the regulations. Representatives from such corporate groups as Farm Bureau, the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association charged that complying with the EU rules will be difficult, and that they reek of trade barriers; thankfully, no threats, yet, of a challenge at the World Trade Organization.

Alex Jackson, director of regulatory affairs at the American Farm Bureau Federation, told Reuters: "I don't think from what I have seen that this is workable. This concerns me a great deal. The United States has approved these products as being safe for humans and animals. These food products are one of the most reviewed and studied."

Beg your pardon, Mr. Jackson, but to what studies are you referring? The U.S. government approved these foods without any mandatory, independent, safety testing and labeling.

If an elaborate and expensive system to segregate transgenic crops from organic and conventional varieties must be built, fine, as long as the chemical-biotechnology-agriculture monopoly pays for it. If they’re unwilling to pony up the mula, then we might just need a moratorium on all transgenic food until independent parties can properly test their environmental, health, agronomic and market effects.

Please see the link to a European Union press release about the new rules and a release from the links to a piece from the European Union about the new rules and a press release from the Association of European Consumers.

-- Commission improves rules on labeling and tracing of GMOs in Europe to enable freedom of choice and ensure environmental safety;

European Commission split in important GMO decision

AEC - Association of European Consumers, socially and environmentally aware, reacts favorably to the fact that the European Union has not lifted the "de facto moratorium" on new GMOs. The new tough rules for genetically modified organisms and GMO foods in the European Union will be difficult for the food industry but they must learn to listen more to consumers. The new rules, presented yesterday, the 25th, include strict labeling and traceability requirements that are exactly what consumers have demanded.

- We are hopeful that these new GMO rules will become the world standard, says Bengt Ingerstam, president of AEC - Association of European Consumers, socially and environmentally aware. We cannot accept that our European legislation is seen as a "trade barrier" by World Trade Organisation. If our democratic European decisions do not suit the United States, then they will have to change the way of interpreting democracy and their way of doing business.

Apparently, the Commission was split in the decision to put forward these new rules. 10 commissioners were positive while 10, including Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, were worried about the WTO and relations to the United States. The United States have complained that the new rules could further complicate the relationship between Brussels and Washington because the United States refuse to regulate GMO foods.

- It is good news that the Commission decided to have European consumers' best interest in mind, says Bengt Ingerstam. However, it worries me that half of the Commission preferred to listen to the biotech industry, working hand in hand with U.S. food export groups and their massive financial interests. We also regret that there was a statement in Financial Times on July 23 from BEUC, the other European consumer organisation, claiming that this will be "an essential element in restoring consumer faith in GM foods". We do not agree with this at all, says Bengt Ingerstam. The rules will not matter if the industry refuses to accept them. It is up to each consumer to decide and we strongly support the consumers' right to organise and work together to strengthen consumers' influence.

AEC - Association of European Consumers, socially and environmentally aware represents 32 consumer organisations in 16 countries.

Responsible for this info is Bengt Ingerstam, president (tel. +46 495 49834) and Martin Frid, Food and Trade Policy officer (tel. +46 479 10713)