US trade chief urges Europe to open market to GM foods
BRUSSELS – A top US trade official said she will bang down the door of the European Commission Thursday in a bid to break a long-standing impasse blocking the march of genetically-modified foods.
“When Europeans come to the United States, they come and enjoy our cuisine without any fears,” Deputy US Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro told an audience of policymakers in Brussels ahead of talks with European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht’s senior officials.
“Why should we have different standards in Europe? That alone is a reason to change position.
“I will be raising that issue today — it is important to address, and to continue to press the commission to go the right way. Decisions on GM foods need to be science-based,” she insisted, underlining her confidence in US safety standards.
A day earlier, a committee of experts from the 27 EU states pushed back a commission proposal to lift import restrictions on animal foodstuffs containing traces of GM crops, up to a certain threshold, due to opposition from France and Poland.
Similarly, intra-EU divisions meant authorisation for growing was not granted for three new strains of GM maize and one of GM cotton, marketed by Syngenta and US giant Dow AgroSciences, although the commission will try again on March 1.
“Hopefully these products can be approved, even though we recognise concerns among some consumers,” Sapiro added.
“Hopefully, it will come out the right way… We hope it’s not insoluble.”
Europe has got itself into a bind on GM, with two crops currently authorised — a maize strain for animal feed and a potato for paper-making — but a spate of requests for authorisation caught up in deadlock.
The EU stands accused of “flouting” WTO rules, with some member states and regions having banned cultivation unilaterally, or declared themselves GM-free, and products containing traces blocked at ports.
The commission wants a compromise that would allow states to block crop production on their territory, using religious, cultural or other non-scientific objections — while allowing the free movement of GM goods, food and feed, on their territories.
The best-known GM producer, another US giant Monsanto, is at the forefront of legal moves to open up the European single market, home to half a billion people and 20 million companies.
A petition signed by a million EU citizens seeking a moratorium on all GM crop production is currently gathering dust in a commission drawer.