www.czu.cz/vyzkum/publikace/ Manfred G.Raupp; www.raupp.info
Genetically modified food; Terry Wolf and Dee Vaughan IHT July 2004.
WARSAW Soccer fans know the worst thing that can happen is an "own goal" -
a self-inflicted wound. Sadly, that is exactly what the European Union's
new regulations governing the approval, sale, labeling and importation of
food and feed derived from biotechnology will do. By putting political
pandering ahead of prudent policy and sound science, the regulations will
result in higher prices and fewer choices for European consumers, without
a single health or environmental benefit.
The most significant regulation requires the labeling of food products
made with genetically-modified ingredients. Though this sounds sensible,
it is anything but. Due to the misinformation about biotech foods that has
circulated through the EU, the real impact of the regulations will be to
remove from the market food products made with genetically modified corn
(maize), soy and canola.
This will leave consumers with fewer options, and the reduced competition
will raise prices.
The labeling requirements pose many other problems. First, they almost
certainly violate several World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements. They
will likely exacerbate distortions in trade between the EU and the United
States - and many other countries that produce biotech food and export it
Second, the labeling requirements are technologically unworkable. Once a
grain or oilseed has been converted into oil, there is no way to detect
whether the oil was made with genetically modified ingredients. Since much
of the corn, canola and soy sold in Europe for human consumption has
already been processed into oil, the regulations have a fairy-tale feel.
Third, the regulations are hypocritical. They require labeling of
vegetable oil made with genetically modified soy or canola grown in the
United States or Argentina, but not the labeling of cheese, wine or beer
produced in the EU using genetically modified enzymes - something which
occurs quite often. There is no logical reason for this disparity, other
than the arbitrary use of a politically charged issue to impose a form of
Biotechnology is not going away. The use of genetically modified corn,
soy, canola and cotton was up 15 percent in 2003 alone, with most of that
growth taking place outside the United States - in countries such as
Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China and South Africa. The reason is simple:
biotech crops boost yields while protecting plants from diseases and
pests, increasing tolerance to environmental stress and minimizing the
presence of harmful mycotoxins and aflatoxins. Because they require fewer
pesticides and other chemicals, and reduce energy use by farmers, they
improve the environment. And every scientific study has clearly
demonstrated that they are safe for our health.
The day will come when the technology becomes more attractive to consumers
also in Europe. When that day comes, Europeans will be better served by a
regulatory regime for agricultural biotechnology that is built for the
challenges of the future rather than the fears of the past.
Fixing this should not be difficult, because the technical and scientific
positions of the United States and the EU are actually very close. For
example, the technical annexes of the European regulations are almost
identical to those in the United States - both are based on guidelines of
the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which
were developed jointly by European and U.S. experts in collaboration with
experts from other OECD member countries. Likewise, a substantial number
of EU member states are investing billions of euros in the research and
development of various forms of biotechnology.
It is only the intrusion of politics - more precisely, the willingness of
public officials to spread myths and exploit the resulting public fear -
that accounts for the difference of positions.
The EU would do far better to think creatively about how to harness the
power of biotechnology than to kick an "own goal," which is most assuredly
the impact of the new labeling regulations.
Terry Wolf, a farmer from Homer, Illinois, is chairman of the U.S. Grains
Council. Dee Vaughan, a farmer from Dumas, Texas, is president of the
National Corn Growers Association. They are currently traveling through
Europe to discuss biotechnology issues with farmers and public officials,