EU Lifts Ban on Genetically-Modified Foods
Move spurred by the approval of a license to import insect-resistant sweet corn
BRUSSELS, Belgium - 05/20/04 - The European Union has lifted its five-year ban on bio-engineered food.
The ban was effectively rendered moot when the EU'../eWebPhotos/gmocorn2.jpg" align=left vspace=15 border=0>BT-11, a strain of sweet corn that has been genetically modified to resist insects.
The company - Syngenta, a multinational with a US subsidiary in Wilmington, Delaware - was given approval to import the genetically-modified (GM) canned sweet corn into the 25-nation bloc for 10 years, provided the cans are clearly labeled as containing GM products.
EU Health Commissioner David Byrne told the press following the decision that EU food-safety scientists had conducted the "most rigorous pre-marketing assessment in the world" on the product.?
"Food safety," he said, "is therefore not an issue, it is a question of consumer choice," adding that the Commission is currently studying another 33 applications for the marketing or cultivation of GM agricultural products and foodstuffs in the recently expanded European Union.
The EU effectively imposed a moratorium on approving new GM products in 1999 in the face of rising public concern about their environmental impact and safety as food.
The decision on whether to lift the ban was passed back to the commission after EU member states failed last month to break a deadlock on the issue.
Italy, one of the countries that opposed ending the ban, said it was now up to market forces to decide the success of GM food in Europe.
Italian Agriculture Minister Gianni Alemanno promised his government would be "vigilant to ensure GM producers respect tough EU regulations that paved the way for the decision to lift the ban."
The development of GM food products has spread widely in recent years. It now accounts for almost 5% of the world's crop area and is increasing at a rate of 15% a year.
The decision to lift the EU ban comes just a few days after the release of new study by the Geneva-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) asserting that genetically modified crops are helping poor farmers and "have posed no adverse health or environmental effects so far."
According to the report, the biggest problem with GM technology is that "it has not spread fast enough to small farmers and has focused on crops mostly of use to big commercial interests."
The FAO report called for greater government regulation and monitoring of genetically modified, or transgenic, products "to ensure they are safely used and said more research is needed on their long-term health and environmental impacts."
U.N. officials stressed that GM products were only one tool to help poor farmers, who still need access to fair markets, credit and decent land. But they said transgenic technology has great potential for increasing crop yields, reducing costs to customers and improving the nutritional value of foods.
While proponents of GM foods say GM plants that can resist insects and be fortified with extra vitamins are a boon to farmers and consumers, opponents claim the crops pose unknown health and environmental risks, and the ones who benefit most are the multinational corporations that develop and sell GM seeds.
Yet the report found that while private companies have been largely responsible for selling the seeds, "it is the producers and consumers who are reaping the largest share of the economic benefits of transgenic crops."
The report also said no known adverse health or environmental effects have been recorded pointing out that there are tangible environmental and health benefits from using transgenic crops.
"Foods can be made with reduced allergens or improved nutritional qualities, and the reduction in pesticides has had demonstrable health benefits for farm workers in China," for example, it said.
However, the FAO report chided the private sector for "focusing too much on technology for crops that benefit big commercial interests, such as maize, soybean, canola and cotton.
Sales of those genetically-modified products accounted for 99% of the world's total GM agricultural output last year including cotton grown in Africa and corn and soybeans grown in the US.?
Basic food crops for the poor - including cassava, potatoes, rice, and wheat, for example - "have received little attention from scientists," it said.
back, or read the latest Front Page stories:
US Seeks Stronger Ties With Brazil
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/13/06 – Rebounding from the failure to craft a Free Trade Area of the Americas pact, the Bush Administration is aiming at strengthening trade ties with Brazil in an effort to counter China’s fast-growing economic influence in Latin America; China should not only be seen as an export market with 1.3 billion consumers, but also as a nation of 1.3 billion ''new competitors,'' says US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Guittierez.
US Threatens WTO Action Against China
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/10/06 – The White House is threatening to slap China with a World Trade Organization case unless Beijing responds quickly to US concerns over its lack of action on securing intellectual property rights for US products; talks on bringing the WTO case are at a ''very advanced stage,'' according to a high level official in the Office of the US trade Representative.
High Hopes for Central American Trade Pact
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/08/06 – The US -Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) still faces some hurdles, but could become a reality ''very soon,'' according to Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick; the issues relating to government procurement, intellectual property rights and agriculture still need to be worked through, says the former US Trade Representative following a session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.