Yes! Irrational Greens screwed; Europe May Swallow GM Foods

jbone at jbone at
Sun Nov 9 21:21:07 PST 2003

Luddites defeated, +1.


Europe May Swallow GM Foods

Story location:,1286,61135,00.html

10:18 AM Nov. 07, 2003 PT

A bitter transatlantic trade row over gene-spliced crops may be nearing 
its end as the European Union considers ending a five-year ban on 
biotech products, starting with a type of sweetcorn.

Representatives of the bloc's 15 member states meet on Monday to 
discuss whether to approve a genetically modified sweetcorn variety, 
despite continued consumer skepticism about the technology.

If they vote "yes," the EU's unofficial blockade on new GM imports 
would end, clearing the way for a range of GM products and pleasing key 
EU trade partners like the pro-biotech United States.

But even if the EU lifts its ban next week, farmers have many months to 
wait before getting a green light to plant biotech crops, the acid test 
of whether the EU moratorium is over, diplomats say.

Farmers would then have to convince overwhelmingly skeptical consumers 
to buy their GM produce, taking the economic gamble of sowing some of 
their land with biotech, not conventional, seeds.

European consumer opposition to GM produce, estimated at more than 70 
percent, still deters many supermarkets from stocking gene-spliced 
foods. Many retailers say they have no reason to offer more for sale 
until they see a rise in demand.

While a "yes" vote would be a watershed for GM imports for use in food 
production, another battle lies ahead. That's when EU governments are 
asked to authorize live genetically modified organisms for planting and 
growing in Europe's fields.

"Given that this is a food that we are looking at, it is different," 
said one EU diplomat. "It's the least contentious. There isn't a direct 
crossover (with live GMOs). Some might say the moratorium is lifted 
(with an approval). But until we get a live GMO for planting, it will 
be difficult to draw anything from the debate. It's far from the 

The discussion to be held by one of the EU's myriad specialist 
committees will address Bt-11 maize, marketed by Syngenta, the Swiss 
agrochemicals giant. The maize would be imported into the EU as a food 
product to be eaten straight from the can, and not for planting.

The dossier has been ready for months, and the EU's executive 
commission has been waiting for the right moment to test its view of EU 
country voting loyalties. If approved, retailers would not be able to 
sell Bt-11 maize until mid-April.

Whether there is a vote on Monday depends on how the debate goes. If 
the commission senses opposition to approval, it is likely to postpone 
a vote until December or January. If there is a vote, the commission 
will need a "qualified majority" of member states under the EU's 
weighted voting system to approve or reject its draft decision to 
authorize Bt-11.

"I would say it's very unlikely we'll get a qualified majority," a 
senior commission official said. "If there is one on Monday, the 
commission can proceed with the application and you might have it 
before Christmas."

While states like Austria and Italy continue their hardline opposition 
to biotech foods, other GM-skeptic states like France may have softened 
their initial stance.

The United States, backed by Canada and Argentina, has challenged the 
EU's GMO ban at the World Trade Organization, saying the EU is acting 
illegally. The ban was triggered in 1998 when a handful of EU countries 
said they would refuse new GMO authorizations pending stricter laws on 
testing and labeling.

Farmers in the United States say the ban costs them millions of dollars 
a year in lost sales.

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