ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

12 August 2002

GM TRADE WAR, OR HOW TO FOSTER THE SPREAD OF GM FOODS

Here's a couple of quotes from the National Post article below.

"What can Canada and the United States do to win this trade war and foster the spread of GM foods? Fortunately, North American negotiators can stop the Codex process. All Codex standards must be agreed to by consensus of all the parties. All Canada and the United States have to do is call a halt to the precautionary principle, biotech labelling, and traceability requirements, and they'll be taken out of Codex.'

"Furthermore, Canada and the United States must persuade all the chief food exporting countries, like Argentina, Australia and Brazil, to create a united front against the EU, leaving Europe with no sources for non-biotech feed grain imports."

If it's war, then the war monger is Ronald Bailey, science correspondent of the contrarian 'Reason Magazine' and an "expert@CEI"
[http://www.cei.org/dyn/view_expert.cfm?expert=65]

The CEI - the Competitive Enterprise Institute (http://www.cei.org) - is, according to PR Watch, "a well-funded front for corporations" that attacks environmental, health and safety regulations, even defending tobacco on the grounds that "some things are more important than health"!
[http://www.prwatch.org/improp/cei.html]

The CEI has also been a critical player in Prakash's AgBioWorld campaign from its inception.  [http://ngin.tripod.com/freesociety.htm ; http://ngin.tripod.com/060302d.htm]

You can get a flavour of Bailey's articles from their headings/sub-headings:

Organic farming could kill billions of people
http://www.reason.com/rb/rb060502.shtml

Is Biologist Barry Commoner a Mutant?
http://reason.com/rb/rb013002.shtml

Environmentalist Bio-fraud?
http://reason.com/rb/rb021202.shtml

The latter is probably Bailey's most quoted piece. This attack on Ignacio Chapela was pushed ad nauseam on Prakash's AgBioView during the campiagn to force Nature into retracting Chapela's Mexican maize paper. Predictably it concluded, "The least the editors of Nature can do now is withdraw the paper formally with apologies to the scientific community",

What is especially revealing is how closely the article followed the line of attack launched by Monsanto's PR operatives on the very day of publication of Chapela's Nature paper. As ever, the Monsanto attack was made via a "third party" posting on AgBioView - in this case using Bivings' "Mary Murphy" front e-mail.
[http://ngin.tripod.com/deceit_index.html]

It was the Murphy attack which first pointed to Chapela serving "on the Board of Directors of the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)" which Murphy labelled "an activist group". 'Murphy' went on to describe Chapela as, "Not exactly what you'd call an unbiased writer."
[http://ngin.tripod.com/deceit3.html]

Bailey's Reason piece, by contrast, describes Chapela as "a board member of the activist group Pesticide Action Network of North America" and goes on to describe him as, "not exactly the model of a dispassionate scientist"!! [http://reason.com/rb/rb021202.shtml]

This may help put into perspective where the following lines of argument are coming from.

***

GM trade war

http://www.lifesciencesnetwork.com/news-detail.asp?newsID=2191
By Ronald Bailey
National Post, Friday, August 9, 2002

The European Union has banned imports of GM foods since the mid-1990s. But it's clear the ban is not really a safety precaution - it's a barrier to trade

Millions of starving people in Zimbabwe have the European Union to thank for their hunger. In early July, Zimbabwe rejected food aid from Canada and the United States because the corn involved had been genetically enhanced to protect it against insects. The threat of mass starvation is the direct consequence of the trade war over genetically improved crops that is brewing between North America and Europe.

Zimbabwe has refused biotech corn because its government fears Europe would ban its agricultural exports once its farmers started growing genetically improved corn. After all, since the mid-1990s, the EU has banned imports of genetically enhanced crops from Canada and the United States on the specious grounds that they aren't safe, which is nonsense. One scientific panel after another has concluded that biotech foods are safe to eat. Even an EU review issued last fall of 81 separate European studies of genetically modified organisms found no evidence that genetically modified foods posed any new risks to human health or the environment.

It's clear that the EU ban is not a safety precaution, but a barrier to trade. The EU is citing phony safety concerns to protect its farmers from competition and to protect its system of bloated farm subsidies. For more than a decade, the EU has banned the importation of beef treated with growth hormones. The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the EU's ban was not based on scientific evidence, but was a trade barrier.

Fearing that the WTO would rule against their biotech crop ban, the Europeans are now trying to execute an end run around the WTO. Currently, under the trade organization, the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) requires that regulations be "based on scientific principles."

The European strategy to circumvent the language of the agreement is to get the "precautionary principle" accepted as an international food and health safety standard. The precautionary principle is an anti-science regulatory concept that allows regulators to ban new products on the barest suspicion that they might pose some unknown threat. In addition, the Europeans are trying to label all food products that contain ingredients made from biotech crops.

The Europeans are trying to smuggle the precautionary principle in via negotiations in two other international forums, the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the new Biosafety Protocol. In 1995, the SPS agreement conferred on the Codex the responsibility for setting international food safety standards that would be recognized by the WTO.

The EU has succeeded in getting the Codex Commission to incorporate the precautionary principle and traceability requirements into several draft documents on risk and biotechnology.

If the Codex adopts those rules, it would mean that the SPS must recognize them. That, in turn, would mean that the WTO must accept them. And that means if Canada and the United States ask the WTO to adjudicate their dispute with the EU over the banning of biotech crop imports, Canada and the United States would lose.

Meanwhile, the EU-backed Biosafety Protocol, which has incorporated the precautionary principle, requires that all international shipments of genetically modified crops be labelled "may contain living modified organisms." To achieve that requirement, biotech crops must be segregated from conventional crops.

That means duplicating the entire shipping infrastructure of grain silos, rail cars, ships and so forth at an estimated cost of at least $6-billion, raising the price of grain by 12%. The Biosafety Protocol, which becomes effective after ratification by 50 nations, has been ratified by 33 countries.

What can Canada and the United States do to win this trade war and foster the spread of GM foods? Fortunately, North American negotiators can stop the Codex process. All Codex standards must be agreed to by consensus of all the parties. All Canada and the United States have to do is call a halt to the precautionary principle, biotech labelling, and traceability requirements, and they'll be taken out of Codex.

Countering the Biosafety Protocol's absurd regulation is a thornier problem. Our trade officials need to make it clear that importing countries that also grow biotech crops, such as China and India, cannot set a double standard requiring traceability and labelling of North American imports while exempting their own crops.

Furthermore, Canada and the United States must persuade all the chief food exporting countries, like Argentina, Australia and Brazil, to create a united front against the EU, leaving Europe with no sources for non-biotech feed grain imports.

To protect their farmers from competition, the Eurocrats seem willing to wreck the WTO and incidentally starve millions in the developing world. Canada and the United States must prevent that.

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