Trade war over genetically modified food

Trade war over genetically modified food From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The European Union and the United States have strong disagreements over the EU’s regulation of genetically modified food. The US claims these regulations violate free trade agreements, the EU counter-position is that free trade is not truly free without informed consent.

In Europe, a series of unrelated food crises during the 1990s have created consumer apprehension about food safety in general, eroded public trust in government oversight of the food industry, and left some consumers unwilling to consider "science" to be a guarantee of quality.

This has further fueled widespread ([1] ( public concern about genetically modified organisms (GMO), in terms of potential environmental protection (in particular biodiversity), health and safety of consumers. Critics of GM foods contend that there is strong evidence that the cultivation of a genetically modified plant may lead to environmental changes. However, whether a genetically modified plant can itself harm the environment is a matter of controversy among scientists.

Although some claim genetically modified foods may even be safer than conventional products, many European consumers are nevertheless demanding the right to make an informed choice. Some polls indicate that Americans would also like labelling but it has not yet become a major issue. New EU regulations should require strict labelling and traceability of all food and animal feed containing more than 0.5 percent GM ingredients. Directives, such as directive 2001/18/EC, were designed to require authorisation for the placing on the market of GMO, in accordance with the precautionary principle. (see also Tax, tariff and trade).

Despite the fact that no scientific study has yet shown genetically modified food to be harmful to humans, a 2003 survey by the Pew Research Center found that a majority of people in all countries surveyed felt that GM foods were "bad". The lowest scores were in the US and Canada, where 55% and 63% (respectively) were against, while the highest were in Germany and France with 81% and 89% disapproving. The survey also showed a strong tendency for women to be more opposed to GM foods than men. [2] (

In 2002, Oregon Ballot measure 27 gave voters in that state one of the first opportunities in the United States to directly address the question. The measure, which would have required labeling of genetically engineered foods, failed to pass by a ratio of 7 to 3.

Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, member of the German Green Party and vice president of the Landwirtschaftsausschuss (committee of agriculture) of the European Commission said on the 1 July 2003: "In America 55% of the consumers are against GM food and 90% in favor of a clear labelling. The Bush government is ignoring the demand of his own people."

Contents [showhide]

European ban on genetically modified crops

In 1999, a 4 year ban was pronounced on new genetically modified crops. At the end of 2002, European Union environment ministers agreed new controls on GMOs that could eventually lead the then 15-members bloc to reopen its markets to GM foods. European Union ministers agreed to new labelling controls for genetically modified goods which will have to carry a special harmless DNA sequence (a DNA code bar) identifying the origin of the crops, making it easier for regulators to spot contaminated crops, feed, or food, and enabling products to be withdrawn from the food chain should problems arise. A series of additional sequences of DNA with encrypted information about the company or what was done to the product could also be added to provide more data. (see Mandatory labelling).

Agricultural trade market between USA and Europe

The European Union and United States are in strong disagreement over the EU’s ban on most genetically modified foods.

The value of agricultural trade between the US and the European is estimated at $57 billion at the beginning of the 21st Century, and some in the U.S., especially farmers and food manufacturers, are concerned that the new proposal by the European Union could be a barrier to much of that trade.

In 1998, the United States exported $63 million worth of corn to the EU, but the exports decreased down to $12.5 million in 2002.

The drop-off might also be due to falling commodities prices, less demand due to the recession, U.S. corn being priced out of foreign markets by a strong dollar, and importing countries reaction to the planned invasion in Iraq. But farm industry advocates blame the EU’s ban.

European proposal over genetically modified food

The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety[3] ( proposal, adopted in the summer of 2002 and expected to be implemented in 2003 has deep cultural roots, which are difficult to understand for the US agricultural community. It requires that all food/feed containing or derived from genetically modified organisms be labelled and any GM ingredients in food be traced. It would also require documentation tracing biotechnological products through each step of the grain handling and food production processes.

The new European tax, tariff and trade proposal would particularly affect US maize gluten and soybean exports, as a high percentage of these crops are genetically modified in the USA (about 25 percent of US maize and 65 percent of soybeans are genetically modified in 2002).

The ultimate resolution of this case is widely thought to rest on labelling rather than food aid. Many European consumers are asking for food regulation (demanding labels that identify which food has been genetically modified), while the American agricultural industry is arguing for free trade (and is strongly opposed to labelling, saying it gives the food a negative connotation).

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Watch indicates that American agricultural industry is "using trade agreements to determine domestic health, safety and environmental rules" because they fear that "by starting to distinguish which food is genetically modified, then they will have to distinguish energy standards, toxic standards that are different than those the European promotes".

The American Agricultural Department officials answer that since the United States do not require labelling, Europe should not require labelling either. They claim mandatory labelling could imply there is something wrong with genetically modified food, which would be also a trade barrier. Current U.S. laws do not require GM crops to be labelled or traced because U.S. regulators do not believe that GM crops pose any unique risks over conventional food. Europe answers that the labelling and traceability requirements are not only limited to GM food, but will apply to any agricultural goods.

The American agricultural industry also complain about the costs implied by the labelling.

Official US complaint with the WTO

The ban over agricultural biotechnology commodities is said by some Americans to breach World Trade Organisation rules. Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, indicated the European position toward GMO was thought of as "immoral" since it could lead to starvation in the developing world, as seen in some famine-threatened African countries (eg, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique) refusing to accept US aid because it contains GM food.

Zoellick’s critics argue that US concern over Third World starvation is merely a cover for other issues. Some money for development aid is used by the American government via the World Food Program (WFP) to help their farmers by buying up overproduction and giving it to the UN organisation. GM-scepticism interferes with this program. American farmers lost marketshare in certain countries after changing to genetically modified food because of sceptical consumers.

Another European response to the claims of immorality is that the EU gives 7 times more in development aid than the US.

In May 2003, after initial delay due to the war against Iraq, the Bush administration officially accused the European Union of violating international trade agreements, in blocking imports of U.S. farm products through its long-standing ban on genetically modified food. Robert Zoellick announced the filing of a formal complaint with the WTO challenging the moratorium after months of negotiations trying to get it lifted voluntarily. The complaint was also filed by Argentina, Canada, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru and Uruguay. The formal WTO case challenging the EU’s regulatory system was in particular lobbied by U.S. biotechnology giants like Monsanto and Aventis and big agricultural groups such as the National Corn Growers Association.

EU officials questioned the action, saying it will further damage trade relations already strained by the U.S. decision to launch a war against Iraq despite opposition from members of the U.N. Security Council. The US move was also interpretated as a sanction against EU for requesting the end of illegal tax breaks for exporters or face up to $4 billion in trade sanctions in retaliation for Washington’s failure to change the tax law, which the WTO ruled illegal four years ago.

Ratification of the Biosafety Protocol by the EU parliament

In June 2003, the European Parliament ratified a three-year-old U.N. biosafety protocol regulating international trade in genetically modified food, expected to come into force in fall 2003 since the necessary number of ratification was reached in May 2003. The protocol lets countries ban imports of a genetically modified product if they feel there is not enough scientific evidence the product is safe and requires exporters to label shipments containing genetically altered commodities such as corn or cotton. It makes clear that products from new technologies must be based on the precautionary principle and allow developing nations to balance public health against economic benefits.

Jonas Sjoestedt, a Swedish Left member of the EU assembly, said that "this legislation should help the EU to counter recent accusations by the U.S administration that the EU is to blame for the African rejection of GM food aid last year".

The United States did not sign the protocol, saying it was opposed to labeling and fought import bans.

Lifting of the ban

On July 2, 2003, the European parliament approved two laws that will allow the EU to lift its controversial ban on GM food. The first law will require labelling for GMO-containing food above 0.9%. It will be applied for human food and animal feed as well. However, animals fed with transgenic cereals will not be included in the labelling. The second law will make mandatory labeling of any food contaminated by non-authorized GMO (in the Union) over 0.5%. This amount will be set for 3 years. After 3 years, all non-authorized GMO contaminated food will be banned. Traceability of GMO products will be mandatory, from sowing to final product. At that time, it was expected the ban would be lifted in the fall of 2003.

However, on the 8 December 2003, the European Commission rejected approval of a controversial genetically modified sweet corn.

Six countries were in favour (33 votes – Spain, UK, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Ireland) three abstained (25 votes – Germany, Belgium, Italy), while six countries voted against (29 votes – Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal, France).

That new GM sweet corn, BT-11, produced by Syngenta was modified to produce its own insecticide and is also resistant to a herbicide. It was rejected for the following reasons :

  • The new labelling and traceability regulations are still not in place
  • The proposal did not include post-approval monitoring of health effects.
  • Some safety questions have not been fully addressed.

Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "There is clearly no scientific consensus over the safety of this modified sweet corn. The decision not to approve it is a victory for public safety and common sense. The European Commission now has the opportunity to re-think its position. The public doesn’t want to eat GM foods and question marks remain over its safety. The Commission must put the well-being of European citizens and their environment before the business interests of the US Government and the biotech industry."

The approval of that gmo corn would have been de facto considered as a lift of the moratorium on new GMO foods. Decision to lift the moratorium might occur in spring 2004.


Effect of cultural differences between US and Europe

The U.S. population has, historically, placed a considerable degree of trust in the regulatory oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its agencies. There is little tradition of people having a close relationship with their food, with the overwhelming majority of people having bought their food in supermarkets for years. But the 2003 survey by the Pew Research Centrer showed that even in the U.S. 55% see GM food as "bad" food.

In Europe, and particularly in the U.K., there is less trust of regulatory oversight of the food chain. In many parts of Europe, a larger measure of food is produced by small, local growers using traditional (non-intensive & organic) methods (see local food).

See also: Trade war


External links

Talk:Trade war over genetically modified food

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Is Canada not involved in this mess? Rmhermen 22:36 30 Jun 2003 (UTC)

hum ? Which mess ? Rmhermen, since you are involved here…I wrote most of this article. Please, feel free to copy edit it strongly if you think it is necessary for fluidity of expression ; Thanks User:anthere

I wonder if the article as written doesn’t underplay the importance of agricultural protectionism. One of the advantages of forcing GM food labeling, I would think, is that it would give an advanatge to small "organic" farmers. This seems quite convenient, given that the EU countries consider preserving the "quaintness" of their countrysides a cultural priority, while the death of the family farm seems to be more generally accepted in North America. Europe certainly wouldn’t be alone in feigning concern over the supposed safety of foreign food in order to protect their own industries (look at what Japan is doing right now re: mad cow disease). — stewacide 23:21 30 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Sorry, but you hit with your "feigning" all the people that are worried. I am worried. So you directly hit me. You are right, agricultural protectionism is involved. But please take care when you just insult hundret of millions of people. (I could also use words on the same level of yours: In Europe we have still the culture to disagree on certain points and not to follow our leaders blindly… do you feel better now? 😉 Fantasy 05:39 1 Jul 2003 (UTC) the usage of "feigning" is totally out of line 🙂 We don’t feign. I would like to state that I wrote most of the initial article, and as such, it is only my perspective, and not enough to cover the topic by far. I tried to be far on both sides, but I am biased 🙂 In particular, it would be nice to have more on other countries positions on the matter. This is a planetary war, not to be reduced to US EU only. Yes, it would deserve much more on protectionism. Because this also very important. However, do not give too much importance in the topic to the advantage meant for the organic farmers. At least in my country (which is the first producer in the EU, so is of major importance in this trade war, since being the primary benefactor of protectionism), protectionism is meant to protect traditional agriculture, MUCH more than organic farming. We are first using traditional intensive technics, and the goal in requiring labels is to protect consumers, not organic farmers or organic consumers. Labels are envision for all food. There might be a different trend in other european countries, though I think generally not. ant

What I meant was that the governments in European countries may be overplaying the risks of GM foods as a cover for protectionism. I have no doubt that many citizens are personally fearful.

well, if you can find relevant references of people supporting this view, that is just fine. Anthere

Also, I agree that this shouldn’t be characterized as just a US vs. EU thing. In fact, the US and EU are traditional allies on issues of agricultural trade in that they’re both strong protectionists. The alliance between the US and the pro-free-trade "Cairns Group" countries (Canada, Australia, and the developing world) is quite unusual. There are probably other countries (Japan?) that side with the EU for one reason or another.

Also, I wonder about strains within EU, such as between food exporters like France and food importers (Italy? Spain?).

Well, you can wonder of course 🙂 But this has nothing to do with this current discussion 🙂 It should belong to another article. Since there is a moratorium in Europe, exporting countries such as France do not export gmo toward food importers. Anthere

p.s. If that "follow our leaders blindly" thing was a jab at the US, no dice, I’m Canadian (Happy Canada Day to ya’ 🙂

Also, Europeans accusing North Americans of having a mob mentality is pretty ironic IMHO. When was the last time we had a war or genocide in North America? Europeans and your silly ethnic nationalism; when will you learn!?! 😉 — stewacide 07:00 1 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Stewacide, you did not get the point. I just tried to explain you (probably with the wrong example, but it seems that you got insulted, so the effect was right) that YOU ARE HURTING PEOPLE. If you want to discuss something, would it not be better to concentrate on the facts istead insulting people with a different opinion than yours with "feigning". Fantasy 11:57 1 Jul 2003 (UTC)

I think, it is better to restart the discussion:

agricultural protectionism versus food safety

  • stewacide thinks, that the EU is using worries about food safety to achieve agricultural protectionism.
  • Fantasy and Ant agree that this is involved. But the main goal in requiring labels is to protect consumers, not organic farmers or organic consumers. Let the consumer decide, if they want to buy modified food.

Perhaps "Genetic Engineering" should be added to the list of Demons and devils that someone is compiling, it certainly sounds very dangerous. Ping 07:11 1 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Despite the fact that no scientific study has yet shown genetically modified food to be unacceptably harmful to people

Has any study found GM foods to be acceptably harmful to people? Evercat 17:56 2 Jul 2003 (UTC)

That’s what I thought when I read it. I’m going to remove the "unacceptably" untill someone can show a study that indicated otherwise. — stewacide there were some "unacceptable" problems reported with severe cases of allergy. But the gmo have been removed. I am not aware of current relevant studies precisely on "acceptable" ones :-). However, I know of current environmental pbs which are considered acceptable. Fun 🙂

Despite the fact that no scientific study has yet shown genetically modified food to be harmful or harmless to humans

How can any study or any number of studies ever prove something to be entirely "harmless"? — stewacide

IT CANT – it is impossible to prove a lone hypothesis, one can only accumulate evidence that is consistent (or not) with a system of hypotheses that constitute a philosophy. There will always be room for your hypothesis to turn out false, because other assumptions may be violated. Add to this that (the departing agriculture minister indicated) British field trials and other government funded research has intentionally neglected any ‘indirect’ routes by which GMOs may cause harm to humans, such as damage to the ecosystem. So I am worried too (it’s not like you can take GM out of the ecosystem if you got it wrong, and it’s not as if Genetic Engineering is equivalent to the current system of genetic design).

I was pointing out why the addition of the word "harmless" was meaningless and lacking in NPOV. It gives the reader the impression that insuffecient research has been carried out, when in fact no ammount of research could ever be suffeceient to make such a claim (I’m sure there’s a fancy latin name for this type of rhetorical falacy). Would anyone object to me changing it back to "Despite the fact that no scientific study has yet shown genetically modified food to be harmful to humans…" ? — stewacide 07:19 4 Jul 2003 (UTC) I don’t think your proposed wording is true – IIRC some researchers added genes for manufacturing toxins to some previously edible food organism, then demonstrated that it did indeed become toxic… So we need to restrict the statement to stuff actually intended for human consumption (and to avoid giving a misleading impression, to indicate the extent to which people have looked – of course they wont have found a mechanism if they haven’t looked at all – the amount of information in the statement is proportional to the amount of research done.).

I wonder if Trade in genetically modified food wouldn’t be a better title? Calling it a "trade war" may have NPOV problems. — stewacide 18:56 2 Jul 2003 (UTC)

But If you say "trade war" every one knows what we are talking about. Wikipedia uses many times the "used" words, not necessarely the "correct" word. Bush is going to court against EU, and if he does not win, I don’t want to know what is next. (By the way: was the "cold war" a war?)Fantasy 21:10 2 Jul 2003 (UTC) it might be different another day. But currently, the trade is a war. An economical war. And that is what the article is talking about. Just talking about trade of a specific product would not perhaps justify an article. In all honestly, I think it would be prudery (politically correct) to rename an article without the "war" word, just to talk about "trade war" in it. And yes, it would be misleading on the topic indeed 🙂 ant (the cold war was a war imho)

of course, you are all welcome to move that to the best host article  🙂 But…if we start saying GMO plants have not been scientifically been proved to be dangerous, it is just fair that information is *really* added on the topic, yes ? User:anthere

I think that most of this information on Roundup should be moved to its page, not here. Rmhermen 19:27 3 Jul 2003 (UTC)

I see no pb with that. But, I mostly wrote this because it was added there were no credible scientific proofs GMO could be bad for the environment 🙂 I think I even forgot to look for RoundUp article. The only thing important imho is

  • a high number of currently cultivated gmo are those resistant to glyphosate
  • Round up sales have skyrocketted since GMO surfaces increased, and farmers cultivating gmos tend to use much more than before. Round up herbicide active ingredient is glyphosate
  • Glyphosate (also cancerogenous- should I also add it ?) and other Round up ingredients have been proved (relevant scientific studies) dangerous at high quantities, safety issue for farmers, toxic for fauna, less degradable than claimed by Monsanto (even if it is *far* less toxic than plenty other herbicides)

Consequently -> use of GMO -> use of round up -> more glyphosate -> pb for humans, fauna, water quality…

Add cases of allergies, increase resistance, bt issues, studies showing diffusion of genes from one species to another (I have some virus diffusion at hand), I think that ultimately, the sentence "no credible studies have shown that some gmo have proven dangerous for the environment" should…just perhaps…be rephrased a bit ?

When done, we could perhaps explain why Gmos are good for a change ?


141, though I agree we should avoid to repeat unduly similar linkages in articles, I also think your way to hunt any double link is not a very good practice sometimes. When an article is – at two different places – referring to two different aspects of another article, it makes sens to orient the reader to this article again, not to let him search several paragraphs above the reference of this article he has maybe not focused on. This is very common practice in numerous articles.User:anthere

Polls done in 2000, (Libération), 73% of French people worried by presence of GMO in food (77% for women)

polls done end of 2002 show (libération)

  • French people totally opposed 48%, opposed 24 %

polls in april 2002 (eurobarometre)

  • Only 31% of europeans would encourage GMO in food.
  • Spain, favorable 35%
  • Germany 52% strongly opposed
  • England, 25% favorable

Basically, 3 persons among 4 opposed and worried, that does not mean "some" but "widespread". Imho. User:Anthere

Yknow, I coulda sworn waaay more countries than the US were fighting the EU in the WTO over this. — Penta.

It seems to me that this article has a lot of irrelevant references to the Iraq war. Jtrainor 18:06, 6 Dec 2004 (UTC)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.