GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 19th January 2004

GM Contamination a threat to Regulation- NZ needs to back EU

GM Contamination in two major crops is threatening to make regulation of GM crops impossible but New Zealand is opposing better regulation despite the alarm amongst officials around the world.

New rules developed in the EU set standards that try to prevent further contamination and New Zealand must adopt similar quality control measures.

However, despite their claims the New Zealand government is actually fighting proper international regulation of GM crops and is instead backing the US at the WTO aimed at undermining regulation. Maize, soy, and canola have become a problem internationally as contamination of conventional and organic crops has resulted.

Despite a slowdown in the growth rate for GE crops in the US as markets have closed to such products, the acreage of GE corn and soy crops being planted in USA has already reached 60 %. Many US farmers are believed have chosen to go into other types of crops to secure GE-free status and meet the needs of the global market.

However, it is not just contamination that is presenting problems for regulation that needs to be addressed internationally. The issues have prompted many scientists and government advisors to back a global moratorium on sale of new crops like GE wheat.

There has been a documented rise in food allergies by 70%. There is proof of pesticide overuse and also price fixing allegations by some of the big GE companies. There is the failure of GE Cotton crops in India and the looming trade war over stringent EU laws passed on sourcing and labelling.

The concern about uncontrollable GE contamination is voiced by the comment from trade and biotech counsellor, for the USDA David Hegwood, who said that compliance with the regulations may be impossible.

Pharmaceutical crops have been developed and already caused contamination highlighting a requirement for systems of complete separation is paramount.

"What's not clear about this regulation is whether it's going to require exporters to identify the specific (biotech traits) in a corn shipment," Hegwood said. "We've got no way of knowing. We don't know how we're going to deal with that," said Mr Hegwood. The American food associations are also considering a second appeal on the new EU laws.

"New Zealand should be joining with the EU in maintaining and improving regulatory standards not joining with the US to help weaken them," says Ms. Bleakley.

GE Free (NZ) in food and environment asks that the Government adopt similarly stringent standards on traceability and labelling in line with our biggest trading partners Japan and the EU.

The New Zealand government has a responsibility to protect GE Free production for New Zealand and other countries through international regulation.

Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842
Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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U.S. Expects New EU Biotech Laws To Further Dampen Ag Trade Jan. 16, 2004

As the European Union prepares to launch new laws in April to label and track all genetically modified food, U.S. farmers and government officials are warning they may turn out to be stronger trade barriers than the biotech approval ban they are intended to replace.

Only nine biotech agriculture commod it varieties had been cleared for consumption by the EU when it shut down the approval process in 1998. That, according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, has cost U.S. exporters "a few hundred million dollars...a year" in corn sales alone.

The U.S., in comparison, has approved more than 50, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization. The EU has promised the U.S. for years it would lift its ban on new
biotech crops so long as labeling and record-keeping regulations could be implemented. 

But trade and biotech counselor for the USDA David Hegwood said the regulations may be impossible to comply with. "What's not clear about this regulation is whether it's going to require exporters to identify the specific (biotech traits) in a corn shipment," Hegwood said. "We've got know way of knowing. We don't know how we're going to deal with that." 
USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins said he expects the impact on U.S. agriculture to be "significant," but declined to make a precise forecast. "No one knows how the E.U.'s regulations will be implemented and enforced, thus estimates of economic impacts (on U.S. exports) are not possible at this point," he said.

Craig Ratajczyk, director of trade analysis for the American Soybean Association, said ef! fects are already being felt because European food companies are replacing traditional U.S. ingredients such as soyoil or crn oil with alternatives such as palm oil from Malaysia to avoid labeling problems.

Tony Van der Hagen, minister counselor for the European Commission in the U.S. said he expects sales of the biotech corn-containing food products, allowed into the EU because of their pre-moratorium approval, will likely suffer when they are forced to bear GMO labels. 

The labels, he said, will be necessary to maintain European consumer confidence in the food they eat, especially in the years to come as companies produce pharmaceuticals through genetic manipulation of plants.
In the event that pharmaceutical-growing plants ever got mixed with food or feed varieties, the ability to trace back the origin of those crops will be even more critical, Van der hagen said. 
U.S. farm groups say they would like to see the U.S. file suit in the World Trade Organization against the new EU biotech regulations, but Hegwood said the USDA and USTR are still do not know if they should. 

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said he has no doubt that a WTO suit is needed. In a letter to President George Bush, Stallman complained, "Replacing one non-WTO compliant action with another non-WTO compliant solution is not acceptable."

If indeed the decision is made to challenge the new E.U. laws, USDA's Hegwood said the U.S. will move much quicker than the five years it took to dispute the approval moratorium. The U.S. continued to hold off on challenging the moratorium, Hegwood said, because of repeated EU promises to begin approving new biotech commodities again. He said that mistake will not be made again.

"We always accepted ... that the moratorium was temporary, it just gone on way too long," he said. "They always said it was temporary, but (the new laws) are permanent."

Source: OsterDowJones Commodity News

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