8 May 2003
Swiss vote for moratorium till 2010/Help stop Monsanto wheat/EU health rules prove harmful to U.S. multinationals
* Swiss vote for moratorium till 2010
* Help stop Monsanto wheat
* EU health rules prove harmful to U.S. multinationals
* Organic Farmers Lobby Statehouse
* Zambia and America's GM 'Food Aid' - missing evidence
The Swiss House of Representatives has come out in favour of a temporary ban on genetically modified agricultural produce. The House voted to introduce a moratorium until 2010 despite opposition by the economics minister, Joseph Deiss. The decision has to be endorsed by the Senate before it can take effect. Consumer groups and farmers' organisations have threatened to force a nationwide vote if parliament fails to impose a moratorium.
Help stop Monsanto wheat
Wheat is the single biggest food source in the world -- and the oldest. Canada and the US sell one fifth of the world's wheat -- second only to China. Now Monsanto is asking for permission to sell genetically engineered wheat in North America. Take action today by signing this petition urging the Canadian government to ban GE wheat: http://www.greenpeace.ca/e/action/wheat/index.php
For more information, watch "Slice of Life", a 9-minute video documenting just how much is at stake, for our food supply and for our farmers. You can see the video on-line here: http://www.greenpeace.org/multimedia/
EU health rules prove harmful to U.S.
By Jeffrey Sparshott
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
European Union health, safety and consumer precautions are increasingly hindering U.S. goods from competing in the European market, according to a report released yesterday by a U.S. business group.
Trade in agricultural goods has drawn the most attention, with the United States winning a case at the World Trade Organization against EU restrictions on U.S.-produced beef and threatening another on genetically modified crops.
But in addition to food, consumer goods and high-tech products, other manufactured goods are increasingly affected by trade barriers that ignore "sound science," said the report, issued by the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based business group with about 400 members, including firms such as Dupont and the Gap.
"Sound science" should be based on clinical research, for example by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, rather than a "precautionary principle" that assumes a product is hazardous until proven safe, the report said.
"If you look only at one product or industry at a time, you miss the tremendous damage these barriers represent," said William Reinsch, the council's president.
The report looked at a worldwide trend in trade barriers, but focused largely on the 15-nation European Union, one of the United States' most important trading partners.
The United States exported $143.7 billion to European Union countries last year, and imported $226.1 billion, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
At a conference yesterday to introduce the report, an EU official defended the European system and criticized the report.
"The document a bit simplistically says that we in the U.S. use sound science and the Europeans don't," said Tony Vanderhaegen, a minister-counselor at the EU delegation in Washington.
Rather, EU precautions follow common sense, he said.
And Mr. Vanderhaegen warned that consumer regulations reflect consumer attitudes.
For example, if the United States were to win a WTO case against the European Union's moratorium on genetically modified crops, consumers would be likely to boycott U.S. food products, he said.
The genetically modified, or biotech, crop issue has been especially sensitive.
Citing health and consumer concerns about so-called "Frankenfoods," the European Union has blocked approval of new biotech crops since 1998. As a result, U.S. corn farmers claim they are losing a market worth at least $200 million per year.
Mr. Vanderhaegen noted that the EU's scientists had approved some of the genetically modified products that have since been blocked by the moratorium. The approval process was moving forward, he said.
The Bush administration has said that the EU policy violates international trade rules.
The administration, under pressure from farmers and legislators to file a case, has threatened to take action, but not gone ahead with it.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and a key legislator on trade issues, has been especially vocal in pressing the administration to file a WTO case against the European Union.
He met with White House officials yesterday to press the case and has written letters to top trade officials.
In addition to agricultural products, EU policy also affects autos, chemicals, cosmetics and high-tech, yesterday's report said.
EU decisions are "influenced not by scientific evidence of actual risk, but rather, by a fear of hypothetical hazards grounded in political, social and moral principles," the report said.
Organic Farmers Lobby Statehouse
Montpelier, Vermont - May 7, 2003
A group of organic farmers wants Vermont legislators to pass a law to label genetically engineered seeds. Last week, the Department of Agriculture found that 44% of the seeds sold in state are genetically engineered. Organic farmers say the seeds can contaminate their soil - and make them lose the organic certification. A bill that passed the senate would make it mandatory to label seeds. But the House is waiting to take up the bill because the Agriculture commissioner wants to put in a voluntary labeling program first. If it doesn't work, lawmakers can make changes next session....but these farmers say that's not soon enough. The group also brought about 100 letters to Governor Douglas, asking him to support the bill.
Letter in Western Morning News, 7th May 2003
Zambia and America's GM 'Food Aid'
In your article 'Food agency accused of bias in GM debate' on 7th April there is a misleading comment that 'Zambia refused to commercialise GM' on my advice. Zambia refused GM food aid from the USA in June 2002 because of safety questions and because adequate supplies of non-GM food were available more locally. Their scientists were then summoned to spend a week in the USA and a week in the UK meeting Government and Industry experts in order to persuade them to accept the GM shipment. I was one of a small group invited by Zambia's Chief Scientist, Dr Lewanika, to meet his team for one hour before the week-long tour organised by the UK Government. Dr Lewanika, who has a PhD in food and agriculture issues from Harvard in the USA, wanted suggestions of suitable questions to ask the Government. I suggested that he ask to see copies of the actual safety research into GM foods because I had been unable to obtain this information from the Government or the GM Industry. I expected that because he was a representative of a Commonwealth Government he might be more successful. For the rest of the week Dr Lewanika asked to see this research and it was the UK Government's refusal to provide it that led to Zambia finally rejecting the GM food aid. Adequate non-GM supplies were obtained from Kenya.
Whilst most nations offering aid provide cash for recipient nations to buy suitable food locally, the USA is alone in requiring that its food aid be purchased from US grain corporations. This policy has been condemned by African nations and citizens, the EU and the OECD - and was a major cause for anger against the USA at the Earth Summit. The US is now giving all hungry nations an ultimatum: 'GM food or no food' in order to get rid of its unsellable GM crops. I have documented the widespread use of this moral blackmail in a report 'Forcefeeding the World', (viewable at www.ukabc.org/forcefeeding.htm ).
Robert Vint, Totnes.
Director, Genetic Food Alert UK