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E.U. Ban on Genetically Modified Food Criticized

By ELIZABETH BECKER

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 The Bush administration's top trade official announced today that he wanted to file a case against the European Union for its ban on genetically modified food, calling the European position "Luddite" and "immoral" for leading to starvation in the developing world.

Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, said he lost his patience with the four-year-old feud about the safety of American biotechnology food last year when African nations with starving populations refused to accept American food aid because the grain was genetically modified.

"The European antiscientific policies are spreading to other corners of the world," Mr. Zoellick said at a meeting with reporters. "It has been used by political leaders in Africa to not eat the food that you and I eat and rather let their people starve. I think that is a rather serious development."

In the strongest statements made by an administration official, Mr. Zoellick said "I find it immoral that people are not being able to be supplied food to live in Africa because people have invented dangers about biotechnology. That puts it rather high on my scale to deal with."

Europeans have equally harsh views of the American position, which they believe are influenced as much by American agribusiness as by concerns about feeding the hungry of the world. British newspapers have called the crops "Frankenfoods," reflecting the deep suspicion of crops like corn and soybeans that through genetic modification have provided larger harvests and have proved less vulnerable to disease and drought.

The White House is expected to decide whether to bring a case to the World Trade Organization by the end of the month.

Hoping to defuse a possible trade crisis, Pascal Lamy, the European Commission's chief trade negotiator, said today in conference call with reporters that the new American position was neither helpful or productive.

Mr. Lamy said that bringing a case to the W.T.O. would "complicate" the situation in Europe where strict rules have been adopted for genetically modified food in advance of a gradual lift of the ban in the spring.

In a statement released earlier this month, the European Union noted that it had approved 18 genetically modified products and that while it was "aware of U.S. frustration," officials warned against any action at the W.T.O.

The Zambian government rejected shipments of genetically modified corn from the United States in August, despite severe food shortages.

The United Nations has warned that the debate over genetically modified food fails to take into account the needs of the developing countries for higher-yielding seeds with greater resistance to disease and drought seeds that could save lives.

Pedro Sanchez, chairman of the United Nations Task Force on World Hunger, said in an earlier interview that a general ban on genetically modified food was a luxury only wealthy nations can afford.

But consumers in the United States are undecided about genetically modified crops and several state legislatures have discussed a ban of their own.

The effect on world trade will be measured in the billions of dollars if the ban is lifted.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/09/bu...html?tntemail1
 

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U.S. Threatens to Act Against Europeans Over Modified Foods

By ELIZABETH BECKER

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 The Bush administration's top trade official announced today that he was weighing whether to approach the World Trade Organization with a case against the European Union for its ban on genetically modified food, asserting that the "Luddite" and "immoral" European position was leading to starvation in the developing world.

The official, Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, said that when famine-threatened African nations refused American genetically modified food last year, they were acting under the influence of the European position.

"The European antiscientific policies are spreading to other corners of the world," Mr. Zoellick told reporters, adding that African leaders seeking to avoid "the food that you and I eat" were letting their people starve.

"I think that is a rather serious development," Mr. Zoellick said, in the strongest statement yet made on the subject by an administration official. "I find it immoral that people are not being able to be supplied food to live in Africa because people have invented dangers about biotechnology. That puts it rather high on my scale to deal with."

European officials rejected Mr. Zoellick's assertions, saying they had never encouraged African nations to reject aid.

Moreover, Pascal Lamy, the European Commission's chief trade negotiator, said today that if Mr. Zoellick did approach the trade organization with such a case, it would only complicate Europe's plan for lifting its ban against the foods, which is expected to occur in the spring.

When that happens, products tested and deemed safe will be allowed into European markets with labels identifying them as genetically modified. The United States does not require such labeling.

Tony Van der haegen, the expert for food safety at the European Union delegation in Washington, noted that "in a democracy you have to take into account fears of the people, and the people in many European countries are concerned about genetically modified food."

European consumers have for years questioned the safety of genetically modified foods. Many object to what they consider aggressive American promotion of those foods, which is seen as influenced by American agribusiness.

British newspapers have coined the term "Frankenfoods," reflecting the deep suspicion of crops like corn and soybeans, when genetically modified to increase productivity and improve resistance to disease. Such modifications, many fear, may have unintended consequences for human health.

American consumers, though already exposed to modified foods, have expressed uncertainties about them; several state legislatures have discussed bans of their own.

If all goes as planned with the lifting of the European ban, the effect on world trade will be measured in the billions of dollars as American biotechnology is exported to new markets.

Last August, the argument over biotechnology caused an aid crisis in Zambia, which rejected genetically modified corn from the United States despite widespread hunger. What had been a trade and consumer issue became a matter of life or death.

Mr. Van der haegen asserted that Mr. Zoellick's statement today was made for the benefit of African leaders whom he will meet next week at a trade conference.

"Ambassador Zoellick was a bit unfair to whip Europeans when we did not block the food aid," he said.

The administration is expected to decide whether to bring a case before the World Trade Organization by the end of the month.

"We're reviewing our options to determine how to best resolve this issue," said Claire Buchan, a White House spokeswoman.
 

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 The Bush administration's top trade official announced today that he was weighing whether to approach the World Trade Organization with a case against the European Union for its ban on genetically modified food, asserting that the "Luddite" and "immoral" European position was leading to starvation in the developing world.

Yeah, right.

Glad we European that George is a intelligent man, that knows what he says and is not influenced by big companies.
 
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