July 10, 2003
U.S., EU DUEL OVER GMOs
** New EU policy means now
"it's up to the consumer to decide" if they want GMO food.
** By taking GMO complaint
to WTO, U.S. has provoked a "fierce dispute" with Europe.
** Few support Bush's
contention that GMOs could help alleviate Third World hunger.
Clear labeling of GMO products is 'the right policy' for EU-- Stating that "transparency is more
important than the principle of free trade," European dailies praised the
recent EU decision "that makes possible free trade with genetically
modified food" by allowing their importation if food products containing
GMOs are labeled. By opting for
"the principle of precaution," the EU is giving consumers "the
clear information that they are entitled to about what they eat." Following mad-cow disease and other food
scares, the liberal Irish Times noted, European consumers "are
unwilling to accept hollow assurances on food safety." A left-of-center Finnish paper said that
"consumers ought to be allowed to choose" and held that within the
EU, "it seems absurd to go against public opinion to benefit American
producers." The U.S., by denying
that GMOs pose any danger, is "exporting its risk assessment to
Bush sparks 'new transatlantic quarrel' on behalf of 'GMO
multinationals'-- By choosing to take the
dispute over GMOs to the WTO and using "strong language" and
"bully-boy tactics" against the EU, the U.S. was showing that it
"is not seeking compromises." France's
left-of-center Liberation contended that "President Bush's sortie
as the crusader of GMOs is in line with" the trade policy of
"Washington's neo-conservatives" and showed that the president
"has definitively opted for the biotech industry and its lobbying." The U.S. opposes the labeling requirements,
analysts judged, because "U.S. companies fear that the European consumers
will not buy food with GMOs" and "GM food has become bad business for
American farmers." From the
distance of Singapore, the Straits Times argued that in pushing the EU
on GMOs, Bush "is doing no more than what he was elected to do--promote
Critics heap scorn on claim that GMOs will help the Third World's
hungry-- Conservative and center-right outlets in Australia
and Denmark agreed with President Bush that the EU's position on GMOs "is
acting as a hindrance to the Third World" and "keeping a large
section of the world's population in poverty." The Australian said NGOs "have
cynically undermined the war on starvation by spreading lies" about
GMOs. Other writers, though, held that
Bush's "improbable anxiety" over African hunger had less to do with
hunger than the "huge profits" agribusiness hoped to reap by
"opening new markets."
European editorialists pointed out that the EU contributes far more
development aid than the U.S. and asserted that African farmers would only
become "more dependent" if they had to purchase GMO seed. Germany's left-of-center Frankfurter
Rundschau offered this recipe for fighting poverty: "down with high
agricultural subsidies, which make it difficult for developing nations to enter
the U.S. market."
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis is based on 37 reports from 20 countries, May 17-July 9, 2003. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Are GM Crops
Safe? Who Can Say?"
Michael Meacher, until recently Minister of the Environment, wrote
in the center-left Independent (6/22):
"Contrary to the assurances of the biotech companies that genetic
engineering is precise and simply extends traditional breeding techniques, it
is actually quite different.... Given
that there is so much uncertainty, it might be expected that there would be
routine testing of GMOs for healthy effects as a legal requirement.... We are constantly told that there is no
evidence of any greater health risk from a GM crop than from its non-GM
counterpart. What is not added is that
there have been no health checks to find out.... Finally, it is often claimed by the biotech
companies that there have been millions of people consuming GM foods over
several years in the U.S., but without any ill-effects. However, there have actually been no
epidemiological studies to support this claim.
What is known is that coinciding with the introduction of GMOs in food
in the U.S., food-derived illnesses are believed...to have doubled over the
past seven years. And there are many
reports of a rise in allergies.... None
of this of course proves the connection with GM, but it certainly suggests an
urgent need for further investigation of this possible link. Typically, however, this has not been
forthcoming. As the Prime Minister said,
we should act on the basis of science, not prejudice. Quite so.
But since the science is still clouded with such deep uncertainty, that
means deferring decisions till the science is clear and reliable, not rushing
to desired conclusions which cannot be scientifically supported."
FRANCE: "GMOs: In Favor Of A European Oversight
Jean-Yves Nau took this view in left-of-center Le Monde
(Internet version) (7/5):
"Everything indicates today that the terms of the debate on GMOs
have advanced rapidly. The matter can no
longer be reduced to an equation of molecular biology and health concerns. Nor can it be boiled down to a battle between
the somewhat archaic initiatives carried out by, among others, the farmers'
confederation and the lobbies of the food-processing and pesticide
multinationals. From this point of view,
the EU possesses an essential trump card.
Just as it opposes, for reasons of health, the importing of U.S. beef
from hormone-treated cattle, the EU can today, in the name of science working
on behalf of health...establish on its own soil a mechanism for study and
monitoring that the United States has never known how to, been able to, or
wanted to implement in recent years....
Such a mechanism would have, among other virtues, that of providing all
the guarantees that citizen consumers now have the right to demand from public
authorities. Over the course of time,
such a mechanism would allow as quick as possible a response to several
essential questions that the health and scientific authorities across the Atlantic
obstinately refuse to ask. These include
questions of the spreading, controlled or not, of new transgenic tools within
the plant world, of contamination regarded as unpredictable between different
plants, or, conversely, the improvement of certain dietary or taste qualities
of the plants."
"Let The Eater Decide"
Gerard Dupuy wrote in left-of-center Liberation
(7/3): “The EU has opted in favor of the
principle of precaution. But clearly it
has done this with the intention of implementing a more detailed legislation
with intended protectionist effects. The
furious reaction from American lobbyists proves that they are not fooled by the
procedure. It is a way of opening the
door just a little in order to better close it later.... But the Americans will not give up the fight
and are sure to adapt their response before the WTO to the new
legislation.... Free trade cannot deny
consumers the freedom of choosing what they eat. The new labeling system puts the fate of GMOs
in the hands of the end-of-the-line decision-maker: the buyer. He will be the best judge. Time will tell, but for the time being
American cereal growers have no illusions about the popularity of their products.”
"Discord Over GMOs"
Pascal Aubert commented in centrist La Tribune (6/25): “The conflict over Saddam Hussein’s WMD has
barely disappeared into the background and President Bush is sparking a new
transatlantic quarrel over GMOs.... The
argument leaves one speechless, coming from a man who is hardly a champion of
development. President Bush claims that
if African nations are suffering from famine it is because Europe’s ban on GMOs
is hampering Africa’s development of biotechnological agriculture. This is a new argument in the set of American
reproaches which has plagued the transatlantic statement for years. How is one to explain this sudden interest
for Africa, a continent for which Washington usually reserves only polite
concern? President Bush is hoping his
remarks will influence positively the African nations he is getting ready to
visit. At the same time he is enjoying
giving a lesson in morality to his European partners, namely Jacques
Chirac.... This approach is of course
much more advantageous politically for Washington than its traditional
reference to America’s economic and trade interests. But these are far from forgotten. The lack of outside markets and the concern
from the American agribusiness industry is sounding the alarm in Washington and
forcing President Bush to try anything to open new markets.”
"Bush Wants To Convert The World To GMOs"
Christian Losson argued in left-of-center Liberation
(6/25): “Biotech companies have found in
President Bush one of the best possible salesmen.... But his attacks against Europe could well
poison the U.S.-EU summit.... President
Bush’s sortie as the crusader of GMOs is in line with the policy adopted by
Washington’s neo-conservatives in their defense of U.S. trade.... Washington has definitively opted for the
biotech industry and its lobbying.”
"Genetically Modified Organisms, Things Calming Down?"
Left-of-center Le Monde editorialized (5/24): "The moratorium that was adopted in June
1999 by 13 of the European Union's 15 countries, France among them, about
authorizing the sale of genetically modified organisms [GMOs] has every chance
of being lifted in October. Europeans
had adopted a policy that was dictated by the precautionary principle: at that
time, the effects of these GMOs on health, agriculture, or the environment were
unknown--and pretty much remain so....
Four years later, and seven years after the first large-scale planting
of GMOs in the United States, the Europeans are making their policy
evolve. Henceforth it will be possible
to import GMOs, grow them, and sell them in food products provided there is a
clear indication of their presence to consumers. It is up to them to choose whether they want
them or not. The new policy's principle
is that of enlightened freedom.... It is
in this climate of things calming down that George Bush's offensive against the
European moratorium is unhealthy. Mr.
Bush, looking for arguments, is accusing the EU of turning Africans away from
GMOs and thus starving them. He fails to
point out that American seed producers quite simply want to export en masse to
the Black Continent. In fact, Washington
is complicating an issue on which Europeans are exhibiting pragmatism."
Modified Food On The Menu"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg
argued (7/3): "Finally the EU
adopted a decision that makes possible free trade with genetically modified
food. The years of irrational
fear...have now come to an end. The
Europeans will speed up the approval of such products in the future and the
Americans will now get access to the EU market.
The United States could be satisfied.
But the end of the trade conflict between the EU and the U.S. is not in
sight, since the Americans do not like the fact...that food with GMOs must be
clearly labeled. But with this view the
U.S. struggle for free trade is becoming not credible. Free trade requires transparency. Only if the people know what they buy, can
they make reasonable decisions. That is
why the share of food with GMOs and the country of origin should be clearly
labeled.... The reason for U.S.
resistance is simple. U.S. companies
fear that the European consumers will not buy food with GMOs. To condemn the labeling requirements
demonstrates a strange understanding of competition. Those who offer convincing products should
not be afraid of a clear labeling of ingredients and the country of
"Freedom For Consumers"
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine judged (7/3): "Now it is up to the consumer to
decide. With its decision...the European
Parliament removed an important obstacle for the marketing of food that
contains GMOs.... It is decisive that a
great majority of Europeans wants to know what they have on their plates and
how the product was produced. In this
question, the EU is right to accept another showdown with the United States,
which fears a stigmatization of its shipments to Europe. To lodge a complaint with the WTO is a bad
sales argument. The bio-tech sector will
have to use its imagination to convince skeptical consumers. Why should they buy genetically modified food
products if conventionally produced food has the same taste? But the fight for the shelves is likely to be
fought over the price. The only
advantage of genetically modified organisms in food is technical advantages and
reduced costs in agriculture. Time will
tell whether this will suffice for the consumers."
"Gene-Food A La Bush"
Florian Guessgen noted in an editorial in business daily Financial
Times Deutschland of Hamburg (6/26):
"But Bush is not only ranting in a frightening way, but this time
he also has the better arguments. The
dangers emanating from the nice new food is not so great that is justifies
trade barriers. Brussels will be
imposing its will on consumers if it wants to tell them what they have to
eat. It is high time that the EU gives
in to Washington's will and lifts its blockade against GMOs..... The EU must allow the import of GMOs, but at
the same time, it pursues the right policy when insisting on a clear labeling
of products that contain GMOs.
Independent consumers should know what products come onto their tables,
even if there is the danger that U.S. products are stigmatized. The principle of transparency is more
important than the imperative of free trade....
These laws must be pushed even against tough resistance of the U.S.
government.... The accusation of the U.S.
president that the EU ban increases the risk of famines in Africa is not very
useful.... This charge is also
hypocritical because U.S. companies need Africans as willing consumers for
their own surpluses and it is nonsensical because the approach behind it aims
at making the Africans dependent on imports.
A sustainable policy will enable African farmers to build up their own
regional agriculture, which produces seeds for plants that have adapted to
regional conditions. This requires
simple and comparably cheap support, but not the assistance of bio-tech
industry. And the EU policy orients to
"The American Genetic Risk"
Mark Hujer noted in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche
Zeitung of Munich (6/26): “The row
between America and Europe goes deeper--it touches the relationship between the
individual and the state and the questions how much risk a single human being
can endure and what risk actually means.
In Europe, unpredictability is counted as a risk; a risk man has to be
protected against. When science cannot
assess the risk of genetically manipulated food, why should the consumer be
expected to make this assessment? America,
on the other hand, does not want to wait and look for assurances first.... The costs for the individual can be high with
this kind of risk assessment. But this
too is part of America's way of life....
Risk is the prerequisite for economic success; and the willingness of
Americans to accept higher risks has certainly contributed to the fact that
more than hundred years ago, the country has overtaken the Europeans in per
capita income.... In the row about GM
food, the U.S. is also exporting its risk assessment to Europe, and it is doing
so with brutality and moral hypocrisy when President Bush laments the suffering
in Third World countries. The Europeans
have valid reasons to oppose GM food....
It is not only an economic question, it is about different mentalities,
and in the end it is all about Europe's identity. However, ailing Europe must ask itself how
long it can withstand America's pressure economically. And because it is becoming more and more
difficult to protect the individual from the risks of the world, Europe must
hasten to get used to the new risks.”
"Help From Self-Help"
Dagmar Behner commented in center-right Der Tagesspiegel of
Berlin (6/26): “Rapprochement was
supposed to be the order of the day at the EU-U.S. summit? If this were true, it would have already
failed. Before the welcome has even
started, President Bush blamed the Europeans for the thousands of starving
Africans. It is true that some African
heads of state are afraid that by accepting food aid they would bring genetic
manipulation onto their fields. If they
will ever become exporters again and nobody could prove whether their corn is
genetically manipulated or not, the European market would be closed to
them.... However, first of all, the
conflict is not about American welfare, which Africa rejects. The point is that GM food has become bad
business for American farmers.
Therefore, they are exerting pressure on their government. It is all about U.S. government aid to their
ailing farmers.... The U.S. is skillfully disguising its agricultural subsidies
as aid programs. The Europeans subsidize
their farmers directly. Therefore, they
are on the defensive in their dispute with the U.S. about WTO rules."
"Bush Working On The Wrong Field"
Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich editorialized
(6/25): "The U.S. president
presents himself in an unselfish manner....
He is mainly interested in 'Africa's well-being'...and rarely before has
a host welcomed his guests in such a reproachful manner as President Bush has
done with the Europeans. With his
polemics, the U.S. president will only add fuel to the transatlantic
controversy over genetic engineering.
Relevant famines can be alleviated with conventional crops, too. And the long-term development of
biotechnology cannot be implemented with a sledgehammer without showing
consideration for the real fears and risks.
The EU, too, pins its hopes on biotechnology, but does not want to give
up the implementation of laws that control and safeguard biotechnology. So much pluralism must be allowed in the
world. It may be possible that the
summiteers revive the U.S.-EU working group on biotechnology that was set up in
1999. Its focus was to settle
controversial questions and facilitate trade.
But since 2001, the United States seems to have lost interest in
"Sleepless In The White House"
Jochen Winter judged in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau
(6/25): "George W. Bush can hardly
sleep at night because the Africans have nothing to eat. And who is to blame? Of course, the old continent.... The logic of this reasoning is frighteningly
simple.... The UN reported that enough
food is produced in the world to feed even twelve instead of the six billion
people in the world. The reasons why 600
million are still hungry are multi-faceted and there are social and political
reasons. For instance: poverty, lack of
access to land, water, and seeds, unfair trade conditions, and wars. The availability of GMOs practically does not
play a role, even if their use does not pose a risk in the long run. We have a tip for the fighter against
poverty, George W. Bush: Act as the
spearhead of such an anti-poverty movement.
The recipe: down with high
agricultural subsidies, which make it difficult for developing nations to enter
the U.S. market. But with such a move,
he will be unable to score points among the voters and U.S. genetic
Center-right Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung noted (6/25): "It is really strange: George W. Bush
acts as advocate of the hungry African population; the president uses their
suffering to call upon the Europeans to import genetically modified
products. But it would be wrong to
rashly reject Bush's argument, as it would be wrong to insinuate that he has
only noble motives for his appeal.
Indeed, the revolution of the green gene technology promises some advantages. But most of the experts on development
assistance rightfully warn against this technology being a panacea for the
fight against hunger. The reasons must
be found elsewhere. If Bush would
intensely deal with these problems, his mission for the people in Africa would
be more credible. But his efforts beg
the suspicion that their fate was only used as a pretext."
ITALY: "Wars And Debts
Are Killing The Illusion Of A Rebirth"
Ugo Tramballi argued in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore
editorialized (7/6): "Even if
Western farm subsidies were to be eliminated, Africa's farmers would in any
case require assistance to improve their crops and to market them. But that idea seems to have headed off down
Sunset Boulevard, overshadowed as it now is by the new frontier of GMOs, the
genetically modified organisms that are in the hands of the multinational
biotech corporations. This is one of the
fiercest disputes in which the White House and the European Union are currently
involved, with the United States accusing the EU of bringing pressure to bear
on developing countries to reject GMOs (and consequently, of starving Africa)
after three countries--namely Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe--spurned U.S. food
aid comprising GMO produce at the end of last year. Thus what Bush is in effect conducting is a
business trip to Africa designed to counter the European lobby, especially in
his stops in South Africa and in Senegal."
"The EU Puts High-Quality Genetically
Modified Foods On The Table"
Stefano Valentino wrote in pro-government, leading center-right
daily Il Giornale (7/3): “The EU
says yes to GMOs, but with stricter regulations.... The end of the EU ban (promoted by some
countries including Italy) was based on the passing of the new norms, whose
objective is to offer more protection on the introduction of transgenic
substances in crops and foods.... In
recent months, Brussels and Washington have had a falling out. Last May 20, the U.S. had filed a complaint
with the WTO against EU procedures regarding GMOs. On the eve of the summit between EU and
U.S....President George W. Bush had reiterated his accusations against Europe
which according to him was guilty of ‘starving’ the world through an anti-GMO
propaganda that convinced many poor countries to refuse GMOs from the U.S.”
"Europe, Go Ahead To GMOs"
Left-leaning, influential La Repubblica commented
(7/3): “The European Parliament gave its
go ahead to GMOs, but with strict laws and restrictions that immediately caused
a U.S. protest. The norms, which are
defined as ‘safe for consumers,’ consist in the ability to trace the product
through its label that must contain the entire ‘life’ of the food.... Environmental organizations define the law
‘an historic victory for consumers.’ The
U.S., however, only accuses Europe....
American farmers, therefore, promise a battle and the dispute will be at
the center of the world summit of foreign trade ministers scheduled for
September in Cancun, Mexico, where participants will try to remove the
obstacles and vetoes on negotiations at the WTO for the liberalization of
trade. The law that was approved
yesterday on one hand opens the doors to the abolishment of the EU ban on GMOs,
which had been in place since 1999, and that represents the umpteenth contrast
between Brussels and Washington. On the
other hand, it risks worsening the conflict, given that the U.S. feels that the
labeling of products would be too costly for exporters, and would thereby
constitute an indirect barrier of protection.”
"Cultivators Of Selfishness"
Geminello Alvi took this view in centrist, top-circulation Corriere
della Sera (6/25): “Even Bush’s
improbable anxiety about hunger in Africa is a rhetorical signal that should be
taken seriously. We are headed for the
day of reckoning in a dispute in which the United States, as was the case with
the war in Iraq, is not seeking compromises.
It is obvious that the interests of large GMO multinationals influence
Bush’s statements. Yet it would be wrong
to consider just that aspect, as American environmentalists are doing. Bush is taking into consideration, as well,
the interests of U.S. farmers, whose exports are further hindered by the EU
moratorium.... The meeting with Bush
will not be banal at all for EU leaders.....
Behind the theses expressed by the various leaders, there is a
selfishness that re-dimensions Bush’s generosity towards Africa or Chirac’s
outburst of love for agriculture. The
only certain thing is that the two are, once again, one against the other.”
"Bush On The Attack On GMOs"
A report from Washington in leading business daily Il Sole-24
Ore noted (6/25): “Agreement on an all-out fight against terrorism and the
hunt on weapons of mass destruction, considerable progress towards the
liberalization of air transportation, but different views over Iraqi
reconstruction and, most of all, over GMOs.
A few hours before the beginning of the U.S.-EU summit, both the United
States and Europe insist on positive aspects and seem to minimize friction in
transatlantic relations, with a major exception--GMOs. President Bush again adopted a strong
language against the EU, accusing it without mincing words of starving Africa
by refusing to import biotech products from that continent, thus blocking de
facto genetically modified agriculture.
Before leaving for the U.S., European Commission President
Prodi...talked of the summit as ‘the summit of rapprochement’ after the break
RUSSIA: "The Greed
Reformist Izvestiya editorialized (6/25): "The United
States controls 70% of the market of transgenic products. Those products are cheap and plentiful to
feed hundreds of millions of people.
Most importantly, they bring fabulous profits to the producers. With big or super-big money at stake,
humanism, as Vladimir Lenin aptly remarked, becomes 'selective.' Scientists are divided on the fatal effects
of transgenic food for human health. We do not know whether it is bad or good
for humans. Under the current
international rules, before selling genetically engineered products, the
producer must prove that they are safe to eat.
In fact, the Americans are lobbying for the abolition of the
'presumption of guilt' with regard to their genetically modified soy and other
achievements in genetic engineering....
There is no stopping the production of transgenic products. If humankind is to protect itself from the
possible consequences of using transgenic foods, the world's scientists should
pool their efforts and study this phenomenon most carefully."
BELGIUM: "The End Of
Olivier Gosset observed in financial L’Echo (7/3): “In Europe, where the majority of public
opinion remains opposed to GMOs, it is NGOs that have always given the pitch on
this issue. That is too bad, not only
because, no matter how respectable they are, NGOs are not accountable to
anyone, but first and foremost because several of them have often used forceful
methods and even intellectual terrorism to impose their views. They predicted catastrophes without any
scientific backing. The result is that,
in spite of an obvious expertise in biotechnology, Europe is lagging behind in
the use of a technology that is largely being used throughout the world, and
not only in the United States.... In
some circles, especially political ones, people think that it would be suicidal
not to use what many consider the technology of the 21st century, a technology
that paves the way for huge possibilities, like the reduction of the use of
pesticides, better yields, and increased nutritional characteristics of some
plants. By adopting rules on GMO
labeling yesterday--thereby paving the way for the lifting of the European
moratorium--European Parliamentarians have at last symbolically taken over on
an issue that was neglected by politicians.
One can only regret that it took them so long to do so.”
"Fear Prevailing Over Wisdom"
Tony Coenjaerts had this view in business weekly Trends/Tendances
(5/28): “The war in Iraq is hardly over,
but another war is beginning, with equally important economic consequences:
GMOs.... In this dispute where, clearly,
fear is prevailing over reason, the Europeans’ dossier is very light.... Mad cows and chickens containing dioxin have
ruined people’s confidence in the authorities’ ability to guarantee healthy
food.... In these conditions, the
Europeans’ almost unanimous refusal of GMOs is understandable.... But this refusal has an always increasing
price, which is currently estimated at over $4 billion per year, not including
potential retaliation. Such a situation
is even more absurd since, according to the EU Commissioner for Scientific Research,
four private or public institutions out of ten have canceled research projects
on GMOs during the last four years. As a
result, over 250,000 jobs in the research sector have reportedly been lost in
ten years. If one wanted to maintain our
dependency and our backwardness in all the sectors of life sciences, one would
not act otherwise! The precautionary
principle to which Europe is sticking is laudable, although it should be put in
perspective in light of the risk that people are facing, failing which that
principle will be internationally brushed aside. In the short term, there is not much doubt
that GMOs are harmless. In the long
term, a total absence of risk is, of course, impossible to prove
scientifically. Since it is almost
certain that the EU will be condemned, wouldn’t it be better to accept GMOs in
a cautious and controlled manner, giving consumers the clear information that
they are entitled to about what they eat?”
CZECH REPUBLIC: "The
Hypocrisy Of The Biotech-Warriors"
Ulli Sima, molecular biologist and spokesperson for the
environment of the Social Democratic Party, argued in liberal daily Der
Standard (7/9): "Even before
the war in Iraq, we knew that George W. Bush’s view of things differs from that
of the Europeans. In the 'biotech war,'
Bush now relies on two strategies in order to thrust U.S.-biotech food upon the
Europeans, 70% of whom categorically refuse biotech products on their fields
and plates. On the one hand, Bush is now
threatening to take the case to the World Trade Organization; on the other, he
uses the starving children in the Third World to get his point across--what
incredible cynicism.... Fact is: To feed
the world, we do not need genetically modified crops. The lack of food in the Third World is mainly
a problem of distribution, not of quantity or technology. The 'Green Revolution' has been promising to
solve the famine problem by using pesticides and fertilizers for over thirty
years--without success. Despite the
rapid growth of the world’s population, we have 15% more food at our disposal
than we had 20 years ago--but the surplus does not end up with the people who
need it. New technologies, such as
genetic technology, are not going to solve world hunger--on the contrary: They
will increase the dependency of farmers in the Third World even more. The biotech corporations are not going to
invest millions first, and then give away their products for free. They take out patent rights on their
expensive genetically modified crops, and then sell them for a lot of
"Let Us Tame Hunger Right Away"
Teodor Marjanovic wrote in independent, centrist Respekt
(6/30): "U.S. President George W
Bush...will visit Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, and Nigeria.... He is carrying a message to the black continent
that the United States will continue to endeavor 'to help Africans in their
search for peace, fight against diseases, and building of prosperity.' However, this is to include an initiative for
African nations to start growing genetically modified organisms with U.S.
assistance.... In brief, according to
Bush, the modified crops can contribute to eliminating famine in
Africa.... The European Commission
discarded Bush's view of its contribution to famine...and stressed that the EU
gives seven times more money for assistance to Third World countries than the
United States. European capitals said
that Bush did not care as much about fighting African hunger as he did about
promoting U.S. economic interests, considering that two-thirds of the world's
GMO output is produced in the United States....
There is a prevailing conviction in the United States that the GMO issue
is a historic improvement.... Against
this view, there is an argument that...there is enough food in the world, the
only problem being that it is not distributed based on where it is
needed.... Unfortunately, pushing for a
more just distribution of food is likely to be more difficult than launching in
Malawi or Ghana the production of GMO crops with the vision of huge
profits--especially if bans were lifted and Africans could compete with their
produce in Europe. Perhaps, a funny
aftertaste would linger on some people's tongues and the world would set out
for a risky journey, but eradication of such a scandalous matter as Africa's
hunger is worth trying."
Lobby Is Failing The Third World"
Center-right Berlingske Tidende stated (5/17): "Americans have eaten GMO-food for
years. There is nothing to suggest that
it is more dangerous than anything else we eat.
The case is not worth a trade war.
The EU's position is acting as a hindrance to the Third World. The people that are against GMOs are the same
folks who are often heard harping on about solidarity with the Third
World. [By opposing GMOs] we are, in
reality, keeping a large section of the world's population in poverty."
commented in left-of-center Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet
(6/26): “Should Europe fall into line
with President Bush's call to abandon all opposition to genetically modified
food (GMOs)? The answer is no. Within the EU it seems absurd to go against
public opinion to benefit American producers….
Bush expressed the view that Europe's restrictions prevent Africa from
investing in the production of genetically modified foodstuffs [and] appealed
to Europe to back the American line ‘for the sake of a continent threatened by
famine.’... A spokesman for the European
Commission pointed out that Europe spends seven times more on the poorest
countries than the United States.
Economic reasons lie behind the dispute…. There is therefore every reason to suspect
the agriculture lobbies in both the United States and Europe of using the
results of genetic research in a way that promotes their own cause…. There is no getting away from the fact that a
large majority in the biggest EU countries do not want genetically modified
food--or at least are demanding that this should be properly marked…. Regardless of the science, the consumers
ought to be allowed to choose what they want.”
editorial in top circulation, left-of-center, pro-GoG Ta Nea contended
(6/25): “The U.S. uses the rescue of
African peoples from famine as a pretense to achieve Europe’s agreement to
allow free circulation of GMO products, because this is in the interest of U.S.
companies. The U.S. rushes make this the
basic issue of today’s meeting between President Bush and PM Simitis in the
framework of the EU-U.S. summit!
However, this cannot happen without strict rules at least until
scientists reach indisputable conclusions.
As for Africa’s peoples, EU and U.S. have both the means and safe
technologies to help them out of poverty and underdevelopment. Profit, in such cases, is the worst advisor.”
IRELAND: "Europe Must
Face U.S. Down Over GM Foods"
Nuala Ahern, Green MEP for Wicklow, contended in the liberal Irish
Times (6/13): "Europe is at a
crossroads in dealing with genetically modified food. Following the BSE and other food scares,
consumers are unwilling to accept hollow assurances on food safety and want to
know what they are eating. Yet, new
European laws on GM foods have infuriated the U.S., which has responded by
bringing a case to the World Trade Organization. Washington will soon see, however, that it
has scored an own goal. Bully-boy
tactics are not the way to convince European consumers that GM food is
safe. America's complaint to the WTO
marks the opening shots of a trade war that has been simmering behind the
scenes for some time.... Currently most
major food producers are avoiding GM ingredients.... However, if GM crops are grown more widely in
Europe then it will become increasingly difficult to supply non-GM foods to
NORWAY: "Children In
Ole Kristian Strom commented in independent VG (6/26): “George W. Bush has suddenly become very
concerned about the hungry children in Africa.... Maybe it is a bit rude of us, but we perhaps
suspect George W. Bush for thinking of more than just the hungry children in
Africa when he speaks.... The EU has
already indicated that the American complaint to the WTO on GMO food might lead
to actions of revenge. It has to do with
American tax legislation that the WTO has declared illegal, and that gives
large American companies unreasonable advantages. While Bush is only thinking about the
children in Africa."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
Challenge Of Saving Africa"
The conservative Australian editorialized (7/9): “Just as multinational non-government
organizations have done Africa no economic favors by fostering a culture of
collectivism, they have cynically undermined the war on starvation by spreading
lies about GM agriculture, convincing African nations not to grow GM crops, and
to reject GM food aid. This must be
CHINA: "GM Food A Hot
Potato In Hungry Africa"
The official English-language newspaper China Daily
reported (6/26): “It is little surprise
the transatlantic battle over genetically modified (GM) food has come to be
fought on the scorched fields of Africa’s peasant farmers.... GM opponents also reject Bush’s contention
that new technology will feed the starving masses of Africa. They say lowering
North American and European agricultural subsidies would do far more for
Africa’s food supply.”
SINGAPORE: "Of GM Food
The pro-government Straits Times editorialized (6/25): "The long-term safety and benefits of
genetically modified (GM) food crops are important but infant issues, best left
to scientists to work through. But
governments just cannot leave the matter alone.
The larger an agrochemical industry or farm sector there is to promote,
the more extreme the positions they take....
Mr. Bush is doing no more than what he was elected to do--promote U.S.
interests--when he tries to prise open the European market. There should be no shame in acknowledging
that U.S. agrochemical and seed firms like Dow, Monsanto and DuPont need to
expand markets to make up for falling export revenues.... But lobbying should be honest and based on
good science. Citing the African famine
is cynical and dishonest. It would not
advance American credibility abroad. Both America and Europe have abundant food
surpluses, little of which have ever found their way to relieve starvation in
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "The Challenge
Biswaji Dhar and R.V. Anuradha of the Center for WTO Studies,
Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, wrote in the pro-economic-reforms Economic
Times (6/28): "The first major
international dispute on the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) was
initiated last month by the United States requesting WTO consultations with the
European Union and its member states on their approach towards regulating GM
products.... This dispute was waiting to
happen, given the polarized policies of the U.S. and the EU towards GM crops
and food products.... The ramifications
of the U.S.-EU dispute could be considerable for countries like India where the
debate on GM food and crops has been a contentious one. India has taken halting steps towards
adopting GM crops. Bt cotton, a GM
variety resistant to bollworm, is the only GM crop that has been given
conditional approval for cultivation in parts of western and southern India
after years of field trials.... Given
that the global regulations on GM crops and food would come under considerable
scrutiny following the U.S.-EU dispute before the WTO, India needs to evaluate
the strengths, weaknesses and the lacunae of its regulatory framework governing
GM products. In particular, the capacity
of the regulatory institutions in monitoring and implementing the law needs to
be strengthened.... Procedures for the
independent verification of risk assessment, clear labeling standards and
greater credibility of our regulatory framework."
UGANDA: "U.S., EU In
Arms Over GMOs"
Patrick luganda wrote from the U.S. in the government-owned daily The
New Vision (6/11): "Uganda's
declining banana industry has been listed by the United States as one of the
examples as it is seeking to overturn the European ban on agricultural
biotechnology products. President George
Bush and other top U.S. government officials are lending their weight to the
historic case that is intended to open up the European market.... Among the several reasons advanced for the
opening up of the European market was the threat to countries like Uganda which
hesitated to develop Genetically Modified bananas fearing that the European
Union would retaliate by not buying the country's agricultural products. Although the appropriate biotechnology
bananas have already been developed by Belgium, the parties in their case to
the WTO argued that the fear by Uganda of what action the EU would take has
made them shy away from the beneficial technology.... Several government officials interviewed by
the New Vision this week in the
U.S. capital say that the standoff over the biotechnology crops conflict
between the United States and Europe would eventually have a negative effect on
agriculture in Africa."
Debate On GMOs"
Privately owned independent weekly, The Monitor commented
(6/27): "President George W. Bush
has rekindled anew the debate on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) although
it probably never quite died down completely.... This week...the U.S. president opened a
biotechnology conference in Washington DC with a sharp criticism of the
15-member European Union (EU) moratorium on genetically altered foods.... All told, Africa seemed close to becoming a
pawn in the struggle to create a market for GMOs. Even so, some things are very clear. The first is that only in the U.S. is there
greater acceptance of GMOs and even there not totally. Elsewhere there are continuing doubts. It is clear also that the large U.S.
biotechnology industry is starved of an expanding market for its products and formulas.... The world has clearly not heard the last of
GMOs.... Europe and the U.S. could find
common ground but which will exclude the developing world. The question is whether the developing world
will benefit or be disadvantaged by such exclusion."
BRAZIL: "To Debate
GMOs Is Good For The Country"
José Maria da Silveira opined in right-of-center O Globo
(6/27): "Few subjects have been so
debated in the past few months in Brazil as improving techniques on
GMOs.... The debate on GMOs reminded us
of a fundamental lesson for any farmer: nothing can be learned without
practice. The idea that after six years
of the GMOs white moratorium in Brazil--broken by the curiosity of farmers and
interest to the south of the country--there may be another moratorium, is to
ignore the lesson that current reality has brought to us.... The prohibition of GMOs in Brazil means to
interrupt the flow of technologies still 'in the oven' and along with it the
possibility of spreading innovation capable of reducing the quantity of
agrochemicals used and of food lost in the commercialization process and that
may implement their nutritional qualities.
And what do we get in return? The
alleged advantage of joining without discussion the demand of certain rich
countries, its negotiators, and maybe, of certain consumer groups, whose
perception is changeable. Unfortunately
for some, the hymn 'the gift of being simple,' or simplistic, we should say, is
no longer sung."
"In Defense Of Genetically Modified Organisms"
Center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo contended (Internet
version) (6/10): "Despite the
fierce pressures from sectors that want to prevent Brazilian farmers from
having access to the resources of biotechnology--without offering a single
objective argument capable of supporting that stubborn rejection from the
scientific or economic standpoint--it would be a real shock if the standards
that are presumably being drafted the government ultimately amount to a 'hidden
prohibition' on genetically modified agriculture..... Unable to prove that the genetically modified
organisms are more dangerous to health and the environment than the
conventional products...the ecofundamentalists are appealing to economics:
being the only big producer in the world of non-genetically modified soybeans,
Brazil will have captive markets in those countries that reject GMOs,
especially Europe. That is false. Although genetically modified agriculture has
been suspended in the European Union, consumption of those foods is freely
allowed, and exports of soybeans from the United States and Argentina (in this
case, all of it GM) to the region increased 50 percent last year.... The Europeans will likely change their policy
on genetically modified organisms....
For all these reasons, release of genetically modified organisms, under
the control of the federal biosafety agency...is what should be expected from
the Lula government."