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AGRICULTURE REPORT - March 11, 2003: Trade in Genetically Engineered Crops, Part 1 - 2003-03-10

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Genetic engineering of crops has spread quickly since the first products of the early nineteen-nineties. Different nations develop such crops to meet different needs. As a result, the policies of some countries conflict with the policies of others.

The International Food Policy Research Institute is a private organization in Washington. In January, the group released a report that discusses the policies many countries have put in place. The report also discusses the problems of international trade in genetically engineered crops.

It says nine international organizations are currently competing to set rules for different areas of food safety. These groups include agricultural and health agencies of the United Nations. The World Trade Organization is also among them.

Some countries are more likely than others to approve and market genetically changed foods. The report says Canada, Japan, Mexico and the United States approve most newly engineered crops. Australia, the European Union and New Zealand, however, have delayed approvals in recent years because of concerns among citizens.

One issue is the use of special markings to let people know that a product has been genetically engineered. Some countries permit manufacturers to decide. Other nations require all products that contain more than one to five percent of genetically changed material to say so.

The International Food Policy Research Institute says six nations have the most established policies. These are Australia, Britain, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

The differences in policies are a good example of how difficult it is to develop international rules for genetically changed crops. Countries that do not require special markings may suffer in markets where the public desires such information. Also, the process for approving new genetically engineered crops has increased the time it takes for these products to come to market.

The United States, for example, has lost almost all its market for corn exports to the European Union. E-U officials have not approved new crops of genetically changed corn since nineteen-ninety-seven. At the same time, Argentina has exported huge amounts of such corn that already has E-U approval.

Next week, we will continue to examine international trade in genetically changed crops.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter.