David Mandl on 3 Aug 2000 14:32:30 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] GM trade war looms

Interesting, the way business works in the U.S.: Forcing the rest of
the world to accept toxic genetically modified "foods" isn't enough;
foreign governments (ostensibly sovereign states) also must be
forbidden at economic gunpoint to label them in any way.  The
Americans are aware that Europeans are too smart to knowingly buy GM
foods, so they've got to be sneaked into the fruit-and-veg pile
surreptitiously.  This is a lot like slipping LSD into random
containers of orange juice in the grocery store, except you won't know
that you've even been dosed until a couple of decades and thousands of
tabs later.

This is an important enough issue for the American GM-peddlers that
they're threatening a full-scale trade war, which they may well win,
in spite of clear and overwhelming rejection of GM technology by
Europeans.  Truly horrible.



New trade war looms over GM labelling

Special report: GM debate

Paul Brown in Washington
Monday July 31, 2000
The Guardian

Europe and the United States are on a collision course over the issue
of the labelling of genetically modified food which threatens to spark
a trade war.

Washington has warned the EU that it is considering making a formal
complaint to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva on the grounds
that labelling GM products is unfair discrimination against US goods
and therefore a restraint of trade. The US says it will ask the WTO to
impose sanctions against EU exports if GM labels are not removed from
supermarket shelves.

The row comes at a time when trade relations with the US are tense
over other disputes.

A spokeswoman for the US food and drug administration, which insists
that only nutritional information should be on the label, said: "This
is getting extremely serious. We regard requiring GM labelling as
economic fraud. Our view is that we would not have allowed these
products on the market if they were not safe, they are the same as
non-GM food, so they do not require a label. In fact, to label them is
trade discrimination and therefore wrong."

The agency confirmed there had been discussions with the European
commission over labelling and the restraint of trade issue, but the
two sides were "as far apart as ever".

Among those urging the US to take action is Senator Christopher Bond,
a Republican from Missouri and a leading advocate of US
bio-technology. He told the Guardian that the EU's insistence on
labelling was designed to lower consumer confidence in US goods and
was a barrier to trade. "I will be pushing for trade sanctions over
this hysteria," he said. "We are on a collision course, and our
government must go to the WTO if the EU does not give way."

In Brussels, Beate Kminde, speaking for the commission, said the EU
was aware of US threats but no formal complaint had been made. "We are
aware of our trade obligations but we also believe in consumer choice
so we require GM foods to be labelled. The Americans will not accept
this but we are determined. We will have to see what they do."

Unless the row is resolved, there could be a trade war that would make
present disputes seem very small.

The British government is already braced for heavy job losses in the
Scottish cashmere industry as a result of US retaliation in the
long-running US-EU banana dispute. US officials complain that
Caribbean producers in former colonies of EU members are getting
preferential treatment.

Britain has so far escaped sanctions in the row over the EU ban on the
use of hormones in beef, which has led to 12-year embargo on US
beef. Goods including French cheese and truffles and German and French
mustards have faced 100% US tariffs in tit-for-tat action but
Britain's support for the US position, even though it cannot opt out
of the EU ban, has meant British goods have not been targeted.

The EU meanwhile has complained about US export subsidies to huge
corporations such as Boeing, Exxon, Ford and Monsanto.

Regulators on opposite sides of the Atlantic disagree about the
purpose of food labels and the EU stance on consumer choice is
regarded as fundamentally wrong in Washington. The FDA believes that
GM foods are safe and the nutritional value is the same as non-GM
foods, so there should be no mention on the label of the "process" by
which the food was grown.

In Washington, Tom O'Connor, director of technical services for the
national grain and feed association, said the EU labelling system
would "kill GM technology in Europe".

"It looks like a warning, like putting a skull and crossbones on the
packet, a kiss of death in marketing terms," he said.

The FDA and other regulators decided in May to look again at the issue
after US organic and other food producers began to label food
GM-free. No final decision has been made but officials believe that to
conform with regulations the food would have to be 100% non-GM, a
difficult feat in a country where almost all processed food contains
some GM maize or soya.

                 Copyright Guardian Media Group plc. 2000


Dave Mandl

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