ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

28 January 2003

"SMOKING GUNS" SOUGHT AS BUSH AIDES MEET ON EU BIOTECH CASE

Apparently it's not just in Iraq that the U.S. is looking for "smoking guns": "U.S. officials... have accused the EU of discouraging African countries from accepting biotech food aid from the United States. Rep. Bill Thomas... on Monday told reporters of "very subtle threats that have been carried out by the EU in the recent drought situation" in Africa. Thomas said he was trying to find "some smoking guns" to help substantiate those threats." (item 3)

for what's really happening in southern Africa:
http://ngin.tripod.com/forcefeed.htm

1.Bush aides meet on EU biotech case
2.EU's GMO approval process shows signs of life
3.Senator seeks US decision on EU biotech complaint
4.'Don't Make Europe Gag'

***

1.Bush aides meet on EU biotech case

http://money.cnn.com/2003/01/27/news/companies/biotech.reut/index.htm
Source says White House is not happy EU is blocking approval of new biotech products.
January 27, 2003: 11:56 AM EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top Bush administration aides will try to meet Tuesday to decide whether the United States will file a formal complaint against the European Union's refusal to approve new biotech products, an industry source said on Monday.

Craig Thorn of DTB Associates, a Washington-based agricultural consulting firm, said the Bush aides would make their decision Tuesday. Speaking at a meeting of U.S. corn growers, Thorn cautioned the travel schedules for some of the officials might delay the meeting at the last minute.

For the past four years, the EU has had a moratorium on approving new biotech goods, including food and pharmaceuticals. The U.S. corn industry complains it is losing at least $300 million annually in sales to the EU as about one-third of the U.S. corn crop is genetically modified.

The department heads expected to meet Tuesday include those of the Agriculture, State, and Commerce Departments, and the U.S. Trade Representative.

Mid-level Bush administration officials, according to government and industry sources, have recommended the United States file a WTO complaint. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has spoken forcefully in favor of a complaint. However, a range of issues, including the need for the United States to maintain strong ties with the EU before a possible war with Iraq, have been a factor in the decision-making process.

***

2.EU's GMO approval process shows signs of life

Environment Daily 1371, 27/01/03

Two EU governments have signalled a possible end to the bloc's moratorium on commercial approvals of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  The development has come just as transatlantic tensions over the moratorium are threatening to boil over into a full-scale trade war.

The EU approvals process for GMOs has been stalled since 1998. However the European Commission's joint research centre revealed last week that Spain and the Netherlands have forwarded favourable opinions on applications for commercial approval of GM crops.  In so doing they have triggered procedures for deciding applications specified in the EU's new deliberate release directive.

Under the directive, which took effect on 17 October last year, the European Commission must now decide whether to approve the three applications, taking into account the opinions of EU scientists and member states.  In theory the whole process could be completed in just 60 days.

In practice, debate is likely to continue for a year or more because those governments most opposed to new approvals will probably raise objections at least until draft EU legislation on GM food, GM feed and labelling and traceability of GM foods have all been finalised.  The significance of the notifications, though, is that EU governments will now be forced to take a stand on specific marketing proposals for the first time since 1998.

Whether the USA will be assuaged by the notifications remains to be seen.  US trade minister Robert Zoellick openly advocated legal action against the EU over the GMO approvals moratorium earlier this month sparking a war of words with senior EU representatives.  Political tensions over the issue had been rising for months as EU governments continued to show little sign of relinquishing the blockage (ED 16/12/02
http://www.environmentdaily.com/articles/index.cfm?action=article&ref=13511)

The two marketing applications both concern GM crops made resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) by biotechnology firm Monsanto:  an oilseed rape (GT73) notified by the Netherlands and a maize (NK603) notified by Spain.

A third notification is also listed by the joint research centre but in fact is at an earlier stage.  This is a hybrid maize exhibiting both glyphosate and insect resistance (NK603 x MON810) that has been notified to the UK, again by Monsanto.  The UK authorities have yet to make an assessment.

All three marketing applications are for import and use excluding cultivation in the EU.  A Monsanto spokesperson stressed that the company would like to win approval for cultivation too in due course.

Follow-up: European Commission's joint research centre http://www.jrc.it/,
tel: +39 0332 789 982, GMO information pages
http://gmoinfo.jrc.it/default.asp, and latest GMO commercialisation notifications http://gmoinfo.jrc.it/partc_browse.asp;  Europabio
http://www.europabio.org/pages/index.asp, tel: +32 2 735 0313; Monsanto http://www.monsanto.com/, tel: +32 2 776 4111

***

3.Senator seeks US decision on EU biotech complaint

Source - Reuters Securities News (Eng)
Tuesday, January 28, 2003  05:35
By Richard Cowan

    WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - The Bush administration should end weeks of speculation and announce it is filing a complaint against the European Union for prohibiting the import of new genetically modified goods, a key Senate Republican said on Monday.

    Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee overseeing U.S. trade policy, told reporters that it was now time for the group of federal agencies weighing the complaint "to get off its duff and make a decision."

    For the past four years, the EU has had a moratorium on approving new biotech goods, including foods and pharmaceuticals.

    The U.S. corn industry complains it is losing at least $300 million a year in sales to the EU as about one-third of the U.S. corn crop is genetically modified. Grassley is from a major corn-producing state.

    Although the U.S. government says approved biotech foods pose no risk to humans, EU consumer groups have expressed concern about long-term health and environmental issues.

    Craig Thorn, of DTB Associates, a Washington-based agricultural consulting firm, said he had been told that top Bush aides would try to meet Tuesday to decide whether the WTO complaint would be filed. Thorn made his remarks at a seminar for U.S. corn growers.

    But a U.S. Department of Agriculture official told Reuters he knew of no meetings planned for this week.

    RANGE OF ISSUES

    Mid-level Bush administration officials, according to government and industry sources, have recommended that the United States file a WTO complaint and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has spoken forcefully in favor of taking action.

    But a range of issues, including the need for the United States to maintain strong ties with the EU before a possible war with Iraq, have been a factor in the administration's decision-making, sources have said.     In his remarks to reporters, Grassley expressed concern that the administration's consideration of a trade case against the EU aspect could be taking a back seat to other issues.

    EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy has urged Washington not to file a WTO case, saying it would be counterproductive because the EU is already moving toward lifting its moratorium.

    But U.S. officials have questioned the EU's commitment to opening its market to new biotech goods. And recently, those officials have accused the EU of discouraging African countries from accepting biotech food aid from the United States.

    Rep. Bill Thomas, the California Republican who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, on Monday told reporters of "very subtle threats that have been carried out by the EU in the recent drought situation" in Africa.     Thomas said he was trying to find "some smoking guns" to help substantiate those threats.

    EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy has denied either the EU or individual member states have made their aid for African countries contingent on those nations banning genetically modified crops.

***

4.'Don't Make Europe Gag' - excerpt

Clyde Prestowitz, International Herald Tribune, Jan 27, 2003
http://www.iht.com/articles/84660.html

"For Americans to insist that the EU accept genetically modified products is bound to be felt in Europe as another exercise in American cultural and economic imperialism. Washington might win the case before the World Trade Organization, but that would be likely only to guarantee a hardening of resistance by The Bush administration will argue that it wants only to give the consumers a choice. But, as one who spent years selling to European supermarkets and consumers, I can say with confidence that such a move by the United States would very likely result in a European campaign against all American food."

ngin bulletin archive

INDEX