Daily News Archive
Challenge Against Europe's Ban on GE Food
(from February 6, 2003)
The United States decided to temporarily withdraw from filing a case
against the European Union (EU) regarding the EU's four-year-old ban
on genetically modified food, according to the New York Times.
While the U.S. still disagrees with the ban, the challenge is being
delayed as the U.S. seeks European cooperation in the case against Iraq.
"There is no point in testing Europeans on food while they are
being tested on Iraq," said a senior White House official who asked
not to be identified.
Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, called the
ban on GE food "immoral," saying that it was leading to starvation
in the developing world. Officials claim the current ban on GE is affecting
developing nation's decision to accept such food from the U.S.
Europeans have generally been suspicious of genetically modified food,
and their suspicions are warranted. Over 70% of all genetically modified
organisms are altered to be herbicide-resistant, resulting in even greater
use of toxic chemicals on food. Other crops are engineered to produce
their own pesticide in the form of Bacillus thurengiensis (Bt). Organic
farmers use Bt sparingly and only as a last resort, but thousands of
acres of GE crops contain Bt. It's only a matter of time before insects
become resistant to Bt, some scientists say as little as 3-5 years.
Then organic farmers will be left without this important tool. Other
concerns with GE crops include the drift of genetically modified pollen
into inappropriate areas such as organic farms, worries about potential
allergens, soil damage and harm to wildlife.
Considering the potential dangers of GE crops and the pending lift of
the EU ban, many European consumers are demanding rigorous testing and
strict labeling of all food that has been genetically modified. The
U.S. is still in disagreement. In response to the demand for labeling,
the U.S. Agriculture Department's undersecretary for food safety Elsa
Murano said, "That implies that there is something wrong with genetically
modified food. It would be another kind of trade barrier." Other
critics argue that labeling is too expensive. "Labeling is a sham,"
said Mary Kay Thatcher, lobbyist for American Farm Bureau, a powerful
agricultural group. "It would be so expensive, it would shut down
For the time being, European consumers will not have to worry about
genetically modified organisms in their food supply. However, the U.S.
is still planning to bring a suit to the World Trade Organization against
the Europeans at a less conflicting time.
See Beyond Pesticides' Genetically
Engineered Food Program Page for more information.