4 December 1998

Dangers of UStrade backlash

EU FAILURE to create a clear, predictable, science-based process for regulating GM crops and their products is causing profound consternation within the US.

It is already hitting sales to the EU of GM crops, crop products and foods containing GM material.

Worse still, the protracted EU debate could cause a backlash against the technology by consumers elsewhere around the world. Japan is already reacting to uncertainty within the EU by insisting upon food labelling, notes Ken Hobbie of the US Feed Grains Council.

He fears even US consumers may start to react to what he considers are the irrational concerns of EU activists. US regulators and trade bodies are consequently more than keen to see the EU debate concluded. But apart from explaining their own approach to regulation they feel stymied.

"We certainly do not want to take it to a WTO panel as a trade issue," stresses Bernice Slutsky, one of the USDAs biotech experts. "We know WTO cases take a long time to resolve. Instead we hope the new Transatlantic Economic Partnership will help reinvigorate the dialogue.

"We have been dealing with the EU on this for 10 years and still we find new requirements being added to the process."

The biggest frustration is that so many hold-ups relate to perceived concerns rather than valid scientific worries, she notes. "There are not many technical differences in our positions. Compared with the problems we are having they just do not correspond."