Cash call for delayed maize
US TRADE representatives are seeking compensation from the EU for interruptions to exports of genetically-modified maize.
According to Craig Thorn of the USDAs Foreign Agricultural Service, up to $250m of maize sales will be lost this season, due to EU delays in approving three GMO varieties.
"We were told last summer they would be approved by the end of the year (1997)," he told last weeks Agra-Europe GMO conference in Brussels. But then further regulatory controls were put in place and approval was delayed until April.
Normally, maize exports to the EU start in January. Delays had already caused considerable trade damage, said Mr Thorn. The US had missed out on reduced tariff quotas to Spain and Portugal (for 2.5m tonnes). And France is unlikely to give its final consents for GMO maize until late June.
US trade representative, Charlene Barchefski, recently wrote to EU trade commissioner Sir Leon Brittan demanding compensation.
Mr Thorn added that, while the US was sensitive to EU consumer concerns and wished to avoid a trade war, segregation of GMO and non-GMO crops on a large scale was logistically impossible. This year some 40% of the US soya crop, 20% of the maize crop and 50% of the cotton crop were down to GMO varieties. This would increase rapidly next year.
About 60% of all processed foods contained some soya, equivalent to 5000 products in the average supermarket. "It is not easy to get away from these (GMO) products," he said.
But segregation was possible on a smaller scale, he added, though consumers would have to pay a price premium for it. *