North Americans claim Europes stance trade ploy

3 December 1999

North Americans claim Europes stance trade ploy

NORTH American traders and farmers believe the EUs on-going anti-GM stance is no more than a protectionist trade ploy.

When an EU trade adviser recently told a group of Ontario farmers and food executives that the moratorium on approving genetically modified foods was in response to public concerns, they flatly refused to believe it.

"The EU knows a good trade barrier when it sees one," says Terry Daynard of the Ontario Corn Producers Association. The status quo makes no sense when Roundup Ready soybeans are approved but Roundup Ready maize is not he says. "It is frustrating."

Mr Daynard holds little hope the WTO meetings in Seattle will improve the situation. "Why would they (the EU) try to straighten this mess out? It works for them."

US maize growers agree. "Savvy farmers know this is political games at the trade level," says Mark Lambert of Illinois Corn Growers Association. It is a big issue in Illinois with 40% of maize and more than 50% of soybeans export bound.

Approvals of GM crops should be made on the basis of science, and trade decisions on the basis of economics, asserts Mr Lambert.

Craig Lang who grows maize and soybean on 400ha (1000 acres) in Iowa is adamant market access for GM products be science based. "We cannot continue to be held hostage to the EUs discriminatory processes that deny market access to our corn and soybeans."

Further west, Jim Harmon, a North Dakota wheat, potato and bean grower and president of the 28,000-member North Dakota Farm Bureau, says Europeans ought to have the ability to purchase GM crops.

"If they choose not to, great. That is a personal decision." We want individuals around the world to have the choice to buy or not buy, Mr Harmon declares.

Most of Canadas oilseed rape is now genetically modified and that has meant no sales to the EU for the past two years, says Dale Adolphe, president of the Canadian Canola Council. That hasnt been a hardship, but he worries that Canadas main customers like Japan and Mexico may follow Europes lead.

Mr Adolphe says he used to believe Europe was using consumer concern as an excuse to delay science-based environmental reviews. Now he thinks it is a more complex issue with trade, anti-Americanism, anti-corporatism, environmental group fundraising, opposition to patents on lifeforms and more all rolled in. "No one here likes what is going on. You cant help but be suspicions about the EUs ulterior motives."

Marc Curtis, a Mississippi farmer and president of the American Soybean Association believes EU officials are not standing up for the science on the safety of GM crops.

Furthermore, he believes that EU rules are not being fairly applied. He wants the EU to test and label all food imports as soon as possible. "Our association knows for a fact that 10-20 % of the soybeans exported from Brazil are genetically modified."


&#8226 EU anti-GM stance motivated by trade concerns.

&#8226 Testing and labelling wanted to prevent other imports sneaking in.

&#8226 Science-based decisions demanded.

&#8226 Personal choice the key.

&#8226 No acceptance of EU environmental concerns.

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