ALERT: The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Meeting 20-22 April - USA to press for ban on all GM food labels? More News Stories on Genetically Engineered Foods From Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com
1. EU GM Labeling Rules Carry Risk of Trade Dispute With U.S. 2. US Agribusiness Fights Mexico Mandatory Labels for GE Foods 3. Genetic Engineering, Biotechnology and the FTAA / FTAA Report [Extracts]
EU Plans Tight Biotech Food Controls. Labeling Rules Carry Risk of Trade Dispute With U.S. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2430-2001Apr10.html
WASHINGTON POST. Special Report. By William Drozdiak, Washington Post Foreign Service, Wednesday, April 11, 2001. BRUSSELS -- The European Union is preparing to enact strict new controls on the sale of genetically engineered foods, which could trigger a major trade dispute with the United States and deal a serious setback to the booming biotech industry. Faced with growing public alarm about food safety, the European Parliament is expected to approve a resolution this month that will impose tough labeling and tracing requirements on genetically modified products. The 15 member governments will then be asked to make their national laws conform to the new rules by next year. -- For the past three years, the EU has banned new bioengineered seeds and crops while it writes laws to govern the sale and distribution of biotech products. As a result of the ban, U.S. corn growers have been shut out of markets worth about $200 million a year. U.S. soybean growers, on the other hand, have been allowed to keep selling a genetically modified variety that was previously approved and earns about $1.5 billion a year in European markets. While designed to end the moratorium, the EU's new laws may cause wider disruptions in transatlantic trade. Labels would be required for any food item that contains genetically modified substances, even when they cannot be detected because of processing. That means a candy bar would have to carry the special label if it contained sugar from genetically engineered beets or corn. -- With U.S. farmers and biotech advocates urging the Bush administration to take a tough stand against any damage to American exports, EU officials say they are aware of the danger of a trade conflict with the United States at a time when the global economy is threatened with recession and protectionist pressures are rising on both sides of the Atlantic. But they also insist that governments in Europe, which are struggling to surmount a crisis in confidence following several food-related scandals, cannot ignore public demands for health assurances, even at the risk of temporary trade disruptions. "There are deep fears among public opinion in Europe that are much more complex than in the United States," Romano Prodi, the president of the EU's executive commission, said in an interview. "This is why I am asking for a special panel of the best American and European scientists to gather all evidence on the quality and safety of genetically modified foods. We need a lot more physical evidence before making judgments." U.S. trade officials raised objections with....
US Agribusiness Fights Mexico Mandatory Labels for GE Foods IS MEXICO GETTING STRONG-ARMED ON BIOTECH LABELING?
(Exeprted From Rural UPdates! March 29, 2001)
The Mexican Senate has unanimously approved a bill calling for mandatory labeling of biotech foods and a cadre of US trade groups are trying to block final passage in the Mexican House of Deputies. On February 4th, the American Farm Bureau Federation and approximately 20 other groups sent a letter to US officials urging them to intervene "at the most senior levels" to "prevent this legislation from becoming Mexican law." The letter urged them to use President Bush's "upcoming visit to Mexico" and was sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoelick.
Moreover, the letter conveyed wording that could be interpreted as a threat to Mexico regarding their favorable trade status. "The ramifications (of mandatory labeling) to US farmers, grain handlers, food companies and biotechnology providers" said the letter, "would be enormous and threaten our favorable relations with Mexico as an ally and NAFTA trading partner." The letter also stated that labeling "would not only confuse and mislead Mexican consumers about the safety inherent in biotech foods but also create a negative precedent for NAFTA." With the upcoming Free Trade for the America's next month in Quebec, this development is sure to reverberate widely throughout the global trade and biotechnology communities. The Mexican House of Deputies is expected to vote on this bill soon. Karil L. Kochendorfer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America (202) 295 3927 was the contact person mentioned on the letter. Rural Updates! has obtained a copy and will be posting developments in future editions. To receive UPdates! email email@example.com with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. To learn more about Farm Bureau's vast insurance and agribusiness investments, go to: http://www.defenders.org/rural3.html
The following is a heavily edited-down version of an article on Genetic Engineering, Biotechnology and the FTAA by Dave Marshall of GENEaction, Canada and FTAA report from Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians.
It addresses all GMO issues from a Canadian perspective, but I have selected the food labelling and safety items that apply to the USA as well. It seems fairly clear (reading between the lines) that the USA may use the FTAA meeting in Quebec City (20-22 April) to press for a ban on statutory GM labelling as a 'meaningless obstacle to free trade' in nations in the Americas and in particular will target Mexico on this issue. I suspect that they will also try to challenge voluntary labels - but I'll let you interpret it yourself. You may want to take pre-emptive action by alerting members to this risk [and asking them to go to Quebec City/Montreal on 17th April onwards if possible - Action info from: firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone QPIRG (514) 398-7432.]
Best wishes, Robert
ROBERT VINT, National Co-ordinator GENETIC FOOD ALERT email@example.com www.geneticfoodalert.org.uk W: 01803 868523 4, Bertram House, Ticklemore Street, TOTNES, Devon TQ9 5EJ UK
Genetic Engineering, Biotechnology and the FTAA / FTAA Report [Extracts] http://interlog.com/~cja/action2.htm
The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) now being negotiated by 34 countries of North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean, and heavily promoted by the US and Canada, promises to impose upon the entire Western Hemisphere (excluding Cuba) a trade agreement that goes much further than NAFTA in enforcing corporate control over every aspect of life vital to our survival, up to, and including, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. The FTAA promises to disrupt, damage, and make illegal much of the ability of every nation, indigenous culture, and of every civil society to provide for themselves in ways that thousands of years of tradition, practice, and knowledge, have proven to be most effective and essential to their survival.
The smaller, poorer countries of Central and South America, and the Caribbean promise to be most vulnerable to this unfair trade agreement. Many traditional and localized agrarian based societies and economies are already being severely disrupted by corporate powers poised and eager to legally plunder the abundantly rich and diverse resource base of all of the Western Hemisphere. These countries will be forced to relinquish public control over their land and water, food and medicine, in order to pay off national debts incurred through participation in the exploitive lending policies and structural adjustment programs of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Through these programs such countries will be forced into importing more food, such as genetically engineered corn, soybean, and canola from corporate farms in Canada and the US, and to turn more of their own variety-diverse traditional farming systems into Western-style, cash crop monocultures for export.
Since Mexico signed on to the North American Free Trade Agreement the poor of Mexico have paid dearly. The imposition of genetically engineered crops on the farmers of Mexico promises to further disrupt the agriculture, threaten the health, and create more hunger and suffering for the people of Mexico.
We never asked for genetically engineered food. We got it anyway. Now when we ask that it simply be labeled for the good of our health, we are told it is none of our business. We never asked for a trade agreement that threatens endangered ecologies and species, sustainable agricultural diversity, and exploits the poor. When we ask for details of a trade agreement that directly affects 800 million people, we are told it is none of our business.
The "Miami Group" - the U.S., Canada, Argentina and Chile (&Uruguay?) - are intent on forcing all countries of the Americas to accept biotechnology and genetically modified foods (GMOs), thereby promoting the interests of biotech companies such as Cargill, Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland over the survival needs of small farmers, peasants and communities throughout Latin America
The mandate of the Negotiating Group on Agriculture is to eliminate agricultural export subsidies affecting trade in the hemisphere, based on the WTO's Agreement on Agriculture (AOA); "discipline" other trade-distorting agricultural practices; and ensure that "sanitary and phytosanitary measures" are not used as a disguised restriction to trade, using the WTO agreement as a model.
The FTAA's AOA agriculture provisions set rules on the trade in food and restrict domestic agriculture policy, down to the level of support for farmers, the ability to maintain emergency food stocks, set food safety rules and ensure food supply.
The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) sets constraints of government policies relating to food safety and animal and plant health, from pesticides and biological contaminants to food inspection, product labelling and genetically engineered foods. As with TBTs [Technical Barriers to Trade] , the WTO SPS Agreement goes further than NAFTA. The NAFTA provisions do not in themselves impose any specific standards; they set out a general approach to ensure that SPS measures are used for genuine scientific reasons, not as disguised barriers to trade. Member countries are still allowed to take SPS measures to protect human, animal or plant life and health at the level they consider "appropriate." While NAFTA "encourages" the parties to harmonize their measures based on relevant international standards, the WTO seeks to remove decisions regarding health, food and safety from national governments and delegate them to international standard-setting bodies such as the Codex Alimentarius, an elite club of scientists located in Geneva, largely controlled by the big food and agribusiness corporations. The WTO SPS Agreement has been used to defeat the use of the "precautionary principle," which it held not to be a justifiable basis upon which to establish regulatory controls. (The precautionary principle allows regulatory action when there is risk of harm, even if there remains scientific uncertainty about the extent and nature of the potential impacts of a product or practice.) By choosing the WTO SPS Agreement over the NAFTA SPS provisions, the drafters of the FTAA are moving to totally remove the right of individual governments of the Americas to set standards in the crucial areas of health, food safety and the environment.
DFAIT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canada] strongly endorses the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) in the FTAA. Like TBTs, these rules are seen by many as a way to reduce or eliminate government regulations that protect human and animal health in favour of private interests.
By choosing the WTO agreements on standards (SPS and TBT), the FTAA negotiators plan to give new powers through this pact to downgrade Canada's food safety laws.
The WTO AOA assault on non-tariff measures, such as environmental standards and supply management programs, has been used to downgrade safeguards to public health and protection for farmers. For example, through the WTO, the U.S. has successfully challenged Japan's health-related pesticide residue testing requirements for agricultural imports.
The WTO SPS agreement has had a terrible impact on the right of the world's citizens to safe food. Canada and the United States successfully used the SPS agreement to strike down a European ban on North American beef containing harmful, possibly cancer-causing hormones. The EU, deeply sensitive to lingering concerns about mad-cow disease, implemented a ban on the non-therapeutic use of hormones in its food industry, citing many studies linking them to illness. The WTO panel demanded "scientific certainty" that these hormones cause cancer or other adverse health affects, thus eviscerating the precautionary principle as a basis for food safety regulations.
If the U.S. position wins out, FTAA will promote the interests of biotech and agribusiness giants like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill and Monsanto over the interests of the public.
Planning is happening for activities on April 17th (which will probably take place in Montreal) and for the Summit of the Americas (in Quebec City). Some activities will be a public statement/press conference denouncing the force-feeding of GMOs and an unfair intellectual property regime on the Americas, and a solidarity statement with the farmers and peasants who are most affected by these processes. We would like to get this signed by as many farmer's unions, peasant movements, anti-biotech activists, and other concerned people as possible. What we organize is totally dependent on the input and energy of those who want to get involved. Everyone is welcome... TO GET INVOLVED: firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone QPIRG (514) 398- 7432.
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