Pro-Safety Scientists Versus Corporate Lobbyists
Opposing Free Markets, the Bush Administration Fumbles in Food Safety Debate
Here are some excerpts from a news article that is being circulated by The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods; it originally appeared in the New York Times.
In the United States, most people are unknowingly eating untested genetically engineered foods every day. The producers of these foods refuse to label them. These biotech foods were never safety tested on humans before being sold to the public. U.S. adults and children are participating in the largest feeding experiment ever conducted on the planet and most people are not even aware of it. But European citizens and scientists are better informed about what is going on with these untested experimental foods.
Battle Over BiotechnologyA disagreement will be played out this week at the meeting in France of the leading industrial countries. It pits European leaders, who say they are worried about the safety of importing genetically altered crops from the United States, against the Bush administration, which insists that Europe's attempts to block the crops are an illegal trade tactic.
by Elizabeth Becker with David BarbozaThe Progress Report adds -- this disagreement also pits scientists, food safety groups, consumers, and free market advocates against lobbyists for agribusiness corporations. Guess which group the Bush administration cares most about?
The trade dispute heated up after an intense lobbying effort here in Washington, where giant biotechnology companies have been pressing the administration to take on their case at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Europe.
Some of the biggest agriculture and biotechnology companies have invested billions of dollars over the last decade to develop genetically altered crops. Nearly 100 million acres of farmland in the United States are now planted with genetically altered crops, and agriculture officials say farmers have lost at least $1 billion over the last five years because they have been unable to export some biotechnology crops to Europe.The Progress Report points out -- if you produce a product that buyers do not want, you should stop producing it. Switch to regular crops. There is a name for this process of switching to meet demand -- it's called the free market. Doesn't Europe have a right to say "no thanks" to products that it does not wish to buy?
Last week, the United States filed the equivalent of a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization, arguing that Europe's concern for safety violated international trade rules.The Progress Report asks -- do you see this hideous process? The big corporations make a product and fail to test it for safety. Then, when buyers say they want evidence of safety, instead of working on that the big corporations complain that safety concerns should be illegal!
At the Group of 8 summit in France this week, the Bush administration is expected to press its case that Europe accept genetically altered crops.
Backers of genetically altered crops say that they have been properly approved.The Progress Report says -- it is true that the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration, an agency of the US federal government) has approved some GM crops. But in each case, it approved them without testing! Instead of protecting American citizens, the FDA caved in to lobbyists from agribusiness corporations who did not want to bother with safety testing.
The current trade debate centers on the need to test a product before it is put on the grocery shelf. How this dispute is resolved could determine the future course of agriculture, according to many agriculture economists.
But consumers, food safety groups, citizens, scientists and regulators in Europe worry that the crops could pose a threat to humans or the environment.
Europe is planning to impose new rules and regulations to trace crops back to their origin and label all genetically modified products, a move that could make it more difficult for Americans to export their biotechnology crops to Europe.The Progress Report points out -- labelling is part of providing factual information to potential purchasers so that they can make informed decisions. Withholding that information is anti-free market. Full disclosure is a necessary ingredient of free markets. Transparency, not secrecy, is the path to fairness.
America's two biggest agricultural exports — corn and soybeans — could be greatly threatened by the new regulations to label the product, agribusiness corporation officials say.
"We think that's the equivalent of putting a skull and crossbones on the packages, saying these things are bad," said Bob Callanan, a spokesman for the American Soybean Association, a lobbying group for agribusiness corporations.The Progress Report says -- well, if telling the truth means that fewer people will want to buy your products, maybe you should switch to products that don't have anything to hide! Don't you understand how business operates? Make products that people want!
Be sure to see Fred Foldvary's editorial on Genetically Manipulated Food
Does the average US citizen deserve less food safety than the average European citizen? Why do Bush and the corporate lobbyists want to go against the free market and against science? What's your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
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