ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

15 January 2002


1. Croatia set to ban GM food production
2. China's New Labeling & Safety Rules on GE Crops Worry US Exporters


1. Croatia set to ban GM food production
CROATIA: January 15, 2002
ZAGREB - Croatia is drafting legislation to ban production and limit imports of food containing genetically modified organisms, despite lobbying from the United States, Environment Minister Bozo Kovacevic said yesterday.
The Croatian government, acting on a 1998 parliament resolution calling for a ban of GMO food, wants only to preserve national interests without looking for international confrontation, Kovacevic told a news conference.

"Considering that tourism is our strategic business and that we pride ourselves on organic farming, the government wants to stress the fact that we offer only GMO-free products as our comparative advantage. That is our national interest," he said.

"Therefore, we want to draft legislation that will make sure our interests are protected, without violating any of our international commitments," he said at the end of a roundtable meeting with several U.S. farmers, who talked about their experiences with GMO production.

In a letter published in Croatian newspapers earlier this month, the U.S. government asked the ministry to revise its course of action or face possible consequences within the World Trade Organisation, of which Croatia is a member.

America is home to most of the world's leading biotech firms and the letter claimed GMOs carried no proven health risks. U.S. embassy officials were not available for comment.

"The U.S. government is lobbying for the interests of U.S. companies, and that is their right. Our duty is to protect our interests and follow the legislation of the European Union," Kovacevic said, adding that Croatia wants to join the EU.

He said each WTO member could quote its "domestic reasons" to unilaterally ban certain products, even if there was no scientific evidence that they might be harmful.

EU countries have imposed a moratorium on imports of biotech food, tolerating only up to one percent level of GMOs in each product.

Austria has zero tolerance for such products, Deputy Agriculture Minister Miroslav Bozic told Reuters, but added a compromise was the most likely outcome for Croatia.

"We will definitely ban production, but may allow imports of food containing a small percentage of genetically manipulated ingredients. And we want it to be labelled - that is a minimum requirement we would settle for," Bozic said.

Kovacevic said he was sure international sanctions would not be imposed on Croatia for its decision: "We will not even get into a situation where sanctions would be on the agenda."

Story by Zoran Radosavljevic


2. China's New Labeling & Safety Rules on GE Crops Worry US Exporters
China Daily
January 10, 2002


China is putting the research, production and sale of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under strict scrutiny with the establishment of a safety certification process, a Ministry of Agriculture official said yesterday. The country has released the details for the implementation of its first statute on GMOs, which was enacted in June to protect people, animals and the environment while pushing agro-biotechnology research, said Fang Xiangdong of the ministry's newly created GMO safety office.

The implementing rules have raised concerns in the United States, a major GMO exporter to China. Washington is considering "the potential impact on US trade to China," US embassy officials said yesterday. The new rules require all GMOs entering China for research, production or processing to get safety certificates from the ministry to ensure that the goods are safe for people, animals and the environment.

Imports that lack safety certificates and relevant papers will be returned or destroyed.

The new rules also require all genetically altered soy beans, corn, rapeseed, cotton seed and tomatoes to be clearly labelled as GMO products when they hit the market after March 20.

"China's safety certification format is fair and in line with international practice," Fang said. "It conforms to the rules of the World Trade Organization." The United States agreed that the regulations are "very technical" and will analyze them very closely, said Joseph Bookbinder, a US Embassy spokesman.

The US shipped 1.9 million tons of soy beans to China between September 1 and December 6. Up to 70 per cent of them are genetically modified, according to Phillip Laney, chief representative of the American Soybean Association.

The shipments were possible thanks to an interim arrangement reached by the United States and China after China issued its first regulations on the import of GMOs in June, Laney said.

It was not clear how the regulations will influence trade in the coming months.

Hu Zanmin, director of the Genetic Engineering Lab of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the new rules will be instrumental in standardizing the scientific research, production and marketing of GMOs. "That is key to stopping potential hazards from entering China through GMO imports," he said.



The Times of India January 14, 2002

Nearly 80 per cent of genetic modification of crops worldwide is undertaken by four companies. And there is an increase in control over genetically modified products through patents - 13 companies own 80 per cent of the patents in GM crops. Such statistics raise questions of security of a very small group in the world, holding technology and power born of it in their hands. But Prof Sue Mayer, Director of Greenwatch UK, offered possible solutions: a democratic control of science and technology through public involvement in setting science agenda and establishing ethical boundaries. Prof Mayer is with a public interest science policy research group looking at implications of new genetic technologies. She spoke on Social and ethical issues in biotechnology research,' here on Sunday as part of the on-going Indo-UK Science Festival. Crops: The biggest problems these days in the field of biotechnology in UK was the question whether the two systems of organic farming and GM Food farming can co-exist. The other worry was the flow of foreign genes into the wild gene of related species; the damage that could be caused to the non-target species. For example, a dramatic decline in farmlife like birds was seen in GM fields where there were no weeds and pests. Then there is the question of how long will it take for pests to develop resistance to such GM crops like they have developed resistance to many pesticides? The future and third generation of GM crops would see industrial uses -- making oils and biofuels for industry from GM crops and drug production. Health: On the health front, the worry was of new toxins, new allergens, and antibiotic resistance genes that could increase problems with more drug-resistant diseases was greatest. Animals: The biggest area of benefit for GM animals was in the field of medicine. But there are always plant alternatives for drug production.

 Xenotransplantation where GM animal organs are transplanted into humans have an alternative in stem cell production. International tensions: Patenting life is creating international tensions because the developed world was pressing for globally homogenous Intellectual Property Laws, and developing countries were worried, among others, about royalty demands. The ethical issue is that a technical risk assessment conceals judgements informed by science but not science alone. "Science is necessary but not sufficient explanation alone," said Mayer.

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