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Monday, February 14, 2011
US Forces GM Seeds Into The Hands Of European Farmers
By Theodora Filis
On February 10, 2011, Miriam E. Sapiro, Deputy US Trade Representative, urged the European Commission to break its longstanding impass blocking genetically modified foods. For the US, genetically modified (GM) seeds offer huge financial benefits over traditional seeds because GM seeds are patented, therefore, making it illegal for a farmer to retain seed from this year's crop to plant next year. "When Europeans come to the United States, they come and enjoy our cuisine with no concerns whatsoever," Sapiro said ahead of talks with European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht's. A key component of the US plan to dominate world agriculture with GM seeds is the absence of labeling of GM foods. All US foods must carry labels listing the ingredients: salt, sugar, water, vitamins, additives, etc. However, the FDA, USDA, and EPA, have ruled that GM foods deserve an exception. They can be sold without being labeled "genetically modified." No labeling means US consumers can not exercise informed choice in the marketplace, reducing the likelihood of a consumer revolt. "Why should we have different standards in Europe? said Sapiro. "We have very strict safety standards -- as do you -- and I think that alone is good reason to make sure that our products are able to be sold in Europe," insisted Sapiro. Earlier this year, opposition to genetically modified foods exploded in United Kingdom and quickly spread to the European continent. But, on Wednesday, Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith, announced Ireland would support a number of proposals allowing the marketing of food, food ingredients and feed, consisting of or produced from, genetically modified (GM) maize and cotton. “Applications for authorisation for the particular GM varieties have been made to the EU Commission and have been given a positive opinion by the European Food Safety Authority, a position with which the Food Safety Authority of Ireland concurs,” said Smith in his announcement. 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. In a confidential communication dated Dec. 14, 2007, released by WikiLeaks on Dec. 19th, 2010, the US Ambassador to France at that time, Craig Roberts Stapleton, recommended creating a list if France and the EU continued to ban biotech seeds. "Mission Paris recommends that that the [United States government] reinforce our negotiating position with the EU on agricultural biotechnology by publishing a retaliation list when the extend 'Reasonable Time Period' expires," Stapleton wrote. "Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the [European] Commission." Stapelton added that the US should create a list "that causes some pain across the EU, since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits." He continued: "The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory." Farmers costs have risen dramatically in the last six months. European countries that export are finding it increasingly difficult to segregate feed that contains GM varieties that have yet to be authorised and, where segregation is possible, this contributes to increased costs of feed. Farmers who use GM seeds are bound by the manufacturers of those seeds. Farmers who try to follow an alternative route find themselves being attacked from all sides. Monsanto's successful monetary suits against farmers whose non-GMO seed were polluted by GMO crops serves as a warning to farmers in the future. Farming has always been a hard life, but never more than right now.