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How the U.S. government makes genetic engineering acceptable

(Dec 8, 2001 CropChoice news) We have obtained a letter from the U.S. embassy in Croatia to represenatives of the Croatian government urging them to avoid banning transgenic crops or else possibly face WTO action.

Embassy of the United States of America - Zagreb

Date: November 29, 2001

To: Ms. Ivana Jelenicc and Ms. Jasminka Radovic, Department of Biodiversity and Leadership Protection, Ministry for Environmental Protection and Physical Planning

Tel: 6106-551
Fax: 6118-388

From: Jill F. Byrnoa, First Secretary, Political-Economic Section

Dear Ms. Jelenic and Ms. Radovic:

Attached please find a non paper outlining the concerns of the U.S. Government about Croatia's draft interim legislation on genetically modified organisms and products. As you will recall, this was the subject of a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture on September 19.

I have sent the non paper to Ms. Bozica Rukavina at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, with the request that she contact you and representatives of other ministries to organize a meeting so that I can learn the reactions of the Croatian government tot he non paper.

I am looking forward to hearing from Ms. Rukavina so that we can continue the dialogue on this important subject. I am also grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Ministry's upcoming Roundtable (December 10) as a chance to learn more about the Croatian Government's vies.

Jill F. Byrnoa

U.S. Embassy Zagreb November 28, 2001

United States Views on Croatian Interim Legislation On Genetically Modified Organisms and Products

We understand that Croatia is proposing to ban or restrict the importation, marketing, use, and production of genetically modified organisms and products until such time as specific legislation regulating the use of biotechnology has been finalized and adopted. Has Croatia notified this proposed action to the WTO?

When establishing any measure related to biotechnology, countries need to take into consideration the range of disciplines under existing agreements, including the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement, to ensure compliance with WTO measures. The United States Government is concerned that a ban will undermine the science-based, rules-based approach to food safety as agreed to under the WTO, as well as unfairly restrict trade.

Further, under Annex B of the SPS Agreement, members are obligated to notify the WTO if an SPS regulation is proposed that could affect trade of other members, and to consider comments submitted in response to the notification. Regulations related to food safety must also be based on science.

We wish to emphasize that the approach to the safety evaluation of biotech foods has been and continues to be examined by a number of international fora and scientific bodies. The FAO/WHO, OECD, the National Academies of Science of several countries (including the United States), and the American Medical Association have determined that there is no scientific evidence indicating that biotech products currently being marketed pose any threat to human or animal health.

We also wish to not that the U.S. Government has a well-coordinated interagency system to ensure that new agricultural biotechnology products are safe for human and animal consumption. All of the food products that are exported by the U.S. are the same as those present in the U.S. food supply.

"Roundup ready" soybeans and some varieties of biotech corn have been approved in several countries including the European Union. Biotech corn and soy ingredients are present in a wide range of food and feed products originating in the United States, Canada, and Argentina; as well a processed products from most other exporting countries.

With regard to trade, we would caution against implementing a ban without first considering the practical aspects that such a ban would severely disrupt Croatia's importation of food and feed, from all sources.

We would suggest that you use caution in implementing EU biotech directives, which require substantial infrastructure and institutional capacity to carry out. The EU's approval process has not been operational since 1999, and no new products have been approved since that time.

The United States is interested in working with Croatia to develop policies for biotech products, which would include both technical and trade considerations.

In conclusion, we formally request that the Government of Croatia not ban biotech food products that have been demonstrated to be as safe as conventional food products in the United States and elsewhere, unless Croatia can provide evidence indicating otherwise. If such a ban is implemented, the U.S. must consider its rights under the WTO.