ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

11 January 2003


"If anything is "immoral", it is the status quo whereby desperately hungry poor countries are offered GM grain by the US which much of the developed world would not touch with a bargepole." (item 1)

1.Against the grain - Guardian article on U.S. bullying.
3.Which country really poses greatest danger to world peace in 2003?


1.Against the grain

(Brussels report)
US efforts to bully Europe into embracing genetically modified food are ill-judged and may well backfire, writes Andrew Osborn
The Guardian, January 10, 2003,7792,872515,00.html

Insulting and threatening someone is no way to go about winning over their heart let alone their mind, especially when they suspect that their own health and the environment may be at risk and that you, the supplicant, are motivated purely by commercial considerations.

Yet, bizarrely, America seems to think that just such behaviour is exactly what is needed to persuade a sceptical Europe that genetically modified (GM) food is 100% safe and that Europe should rescind a four-year ban on new GM products.

This week Robert Zoellick, the US administration's top trade official, lashed out at a "luddite" and "immoral" Europe. European "antiscientific" policies were, he claimed, spreading to the developing world and convincing famine-hit countries to refuse GM food aid.

Pushing his own country ever closer towards a trade dispute with the EU that would dwarf all past spats, he called for the nth time for Europe's ban on new GM product approvals to be lifted and said he favoured legal action against the EU in the World Trade Organisation to force Europe to do the  right thing.

The response from the EU was withering. Pascal Lamy, the EU's shaven-headed trade supremo and a  personal friend of Zoellick's, offered his US counterpart a reality check. Legal action to force open  Europe's markets would complicate and possibly even scupper the EU's own moves to lift the ban (something which could happen sometime later this year), and any legal challenge would be fiercely challenged and probably quashed.

Nor, he added, has the EU ever advised an African state to refuse GM aid - it has only shared its own sermon-free risk analyses and knowledge.

Mr Zoellick should listen to his old friend. Whatever the rights and wrongs of GM technology, the subject remains acutely controversial in Europe and GM products continue to be viewed with deep   suspicion.

While allegations that GM food may harm human health remain unsubstantiated, warnings about the dangers of cross-pollination and playing with nature are taken seriously.

Fed a steady diet of Frankenstein food stories and still reeling from a slew of health scares ranging from mad cow disease to dioxin poisoning, Europeans are certainly not crying out for GM food, and if and when they are offered new products they will want to know their origin.

The public's scepticism, which shows no signs of abating, is reflected in their governments' policies.   At least seven EU member states including France and Italy want the current moratorium on new GM products, which has been in place since 1998, to be maintained.

They have suggested, however, that they may be willing to lift the ban when the EU's own ultra-strict labelling and traceability rules enter into force - something which should happen later this year.

New rules to ensure that all GM food and crops undergo a series of rigorous risk assessment tests before they are authorised for sale, marketing, or even planting anywhere in the EU have already entered into force.

Whether the doubting member states actually do agree to lift the ban when the rest of the EU's GM legislation takes effect remains to be seen of course, but in the meantime Washington should pipe down.

Mr Zoellick's comments don't help. Taking such a heavy-handed approach will only alienate  countries such as France where anti-Americanism needs little encouragement and will cause resentment and ill-feeling. It certainly won't engender a spirit of cooperation.

Instead America should concentrate on trying to win the ongoing ethical and scientific debate about GM technology which remains wide open.

Biotechnology firms' sensational claims about the life-changing nature of their products may well all be true - perhaps GM technology will one day vanquish hunger and transform the developing world. But maybe it won't.

The fact is that anything new needs to be tried and tested, and that takes time. People should also have the right to know what they're eating, which means labelling and until the debate about GM food is settled once and for all African countries should be offered non-GM food aid.

If anything is "immoral", it is the status quo whereby desperately hungry poor countries are offered GM grain by the US which much of the developed world would not touch with a bargepole.



It was revealed by Consumer International in Brussels on Friday that the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never actually safety tested genetically engineered (GE) food for human consumption and that they have simply accepted what biotech companies tell them.(1) Consumer International research has also shown that the FDA does not even do a thorough review of the data provided to them by the biotech companies on their GE food and as such has never formally approved any GE corn (maize) varieties being grown in the United States. This is despite the FDA having also recently admitted that there is a fundamental difference between conventional breeding and the genetic engineering of foods and the risks it generates, for example, new allergens.

This latest news has confirmed what GE free activists have been saying all along about the lack of human food safety testing and the inherent risks posed by GE food. GE Free Canterbury spokesperson Tremane Barr has stated „The Emperors New GE Clothes have finally been revealed for what they are leaving the supporters of GE food looking largely naked and threadbare at best in the full light of the truth.‰

"The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification refused to see the truth, the Government has refused to see the truth and the new Food Standards Authority has simply carried on rubber stamping the biotech companies GE food applications with no independent testing required just like the FDA. Only independent scientists and consumers have been able to see through the whole charade and clearly chosen not to want to put themselves and their children at risk by trying to avoid buying food products that contain GE ingredients."

Consumer International found that the FDA simply accepted at face value Monsanto's own conclusions regarding the safety of their GE corn variety, and that anyway the US government does not even have rigorous standards for safety assessments on GE crops food safety for consumers.

"Recent claims by Tony Connor of Crop and Food Research that there are no health issues for GE foods have now been shown to be a sham. Clearly the public can now see that GE food has been foisted on them without adequate independent testing and that the biotech scientists and corporates have not only been playing God with the genetic enginnering of food, but also with the publics health as well. All of which makes the Government look like mindless servants to the greed of the biotech corporate sector." said Tremane Barr.

For further inofrmation contact:

Tremane Barr at (03) 981-5235

1. Consumers International is a federation of consumer organisations dedicated to the protection and promotion of consumers' rights worldwide through empowering national consumer groups and campaigning at the international level. It currently represents over 250 organisations in 115 countries. For more information, see:


3.TIME magazine poll: Which country really poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?

c/o "Paul Goettlich" <>

The Biggest Threat To Peace
Which country really poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?
TIME magazine asks for readers' views:
Who really poses the greatest danger to world peace? Iraq and North Korea are certainly high on President Bush's list though Iraq is still working hard to deny him a reason to attack. A 12,000-page report on its nuclear, chemical and biological programs has been given to the United Nations but Bush and his dependable friend Tony Blair say they have "solid evidence" that Saddam is lying and have called for weapons inspection teams to step up their work.
Meanwhile, as the fuel rods go in and UN inspectors go away, the specter of a nuclear-armed North Korea is keeping the reclusive regime on everybody's radar. Washington and Pyongyang are talking tough but is the biggest danger to peace closer to home? European antagonism towards Bush's robust stance is now being mirrored in the U.S., with even those he might normally consider his allies now urging caution.
So TIME asks you: which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?
Your choices are North Korea, Iraq, and The United States.
The results at 6:45pm Pacific Time:
16.4 %  North Korea
31.8 %  Iraq
51.8 %  The United States
Total Votes Cast: 27459

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