GMO question may mean rewritten US organic Bill

25 September 1998

GMO question may mean rewritten US organic Bill

By Jonathan Riley

AMERICAS draft organic standards bill may have to be rewritten after the US department of agriculture received about 200,000 responses calling for a ruling within the proposals on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

The USDAs UK minister counsellor for agricultural affairs Tom Hamby said: "We hadnt planned to include a ruling on GMOs but I guess now we are going to have to look again at the proposals."

The US government would revert to scientific safety studies on GM techniques to assure the public on both sides of the Atlantic that there were no problems. He added that the US had no plans to segregate GM from conventional products destined for Europe.

Mr Hamby was speaking on a farm visit organised by FPD Savills to the Mapledurham Estate, Berks, which formed part of a year-long tour of UK farms by the US ambassador Philip Lader.

"Biotechnology is a sensitive issue and we intend to work through the World Trade Organisation for a set of international standards on GMs based on science. We believe biotech offers the chance to create a more abundant and affordable food supply," said Mr Lader.

The USDA was also monitoring current EU debates over GM labelling and had listed the issue as one of its six objectives for the next round of world trade talks. Any unscientific import obstacles and overly rigid labelling requirements should be identified and eliminated, according to the US government.

Of the tour, Mr Lader said he had been surprised at how aware UK farmers were of the global market. "One of the farmers we met today had a small herd of pigs (150 sows). We asked what the main issue was facing his farm and he said the collapse of the Asian economy. I did not expect that answer. For a small unit to be so aware of the global market was a great surprise."

He said that the collapse of the Asian economy had also depressed prices in the US. "To help ease the cashflow situation, we have brought forward this years $5bn farm payments so the US farmers will be able to have all of the payments due to them in a lump sum at the start of our financial year, which begins in October." &#42

See more