20 August 1999
US attack on GM licensing
By Philip Clarke
EUROPEAN systems for licensing genetically modified crops are in disarray and the UK is largely to blame, according to the USs senior trade representative in Brussels.
Writing in his bi-annual Letter from Brussels – targeted at US civil servants and politicians, but also widely read by EU diplomats – US ambassador Richard Morningstar says science has gone out the window.
“Politics and demagoguery have completely taken over the regulatory process,” he claims.
“Approval of new (GM) products by the EU has come to a virtual halt and attempts to revise the basic law covering approvals have gone nowhere.”
In particular, he blames the UK where “the public debate is dominated by scare stories and nightmare scenarios without a scientific basis”.
The failure of the EU to approve new varieties, despite getting the all-clear from its own scientific advisers, will cost the US $200m (£124m) in lost corn sales this year, he claims.
Mr Morningstars comments come during the run-up to the next round of world trade talks and is another signal that the US wants to use the WTO process to prise open markets for its GM foods.
But such thinly-veiled threats have been dismissed this side of the Atlantic.
“We have some sympathy with the US in that we, too, are frustrated by dealing with reactions that are not scientifically based,” says NFU policy director Martin Haworth.
“But we are equally exasperated by their belief that it can easily be put right.
“They seem to think that, just by telling people GMOs are safe, they will be believed. In fact, if it is perceived as US bullying, it could make matters worse.”
US complaints about EU licensing are unjustified, he adds.