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AGRICULTURE REPORT - EU Lifts Ban on Genetically Modified Foods, but Adds Conditions - 2003-07-14

Broadcast: July 15, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

On July second, the European Parliament agreed to let new genetically changed products enter the European Union. Several E-U nations temporarily halted the import of new genetically changed foods five years ago. The law approved this month makes an end to this action possible. However, it creates new requirements.

Parliament voted in Brussels to expand the requirements to identify genetically changed products. Under the new rules, all foods that contain point-nine percent or more of genetically modified organisms must be labeled. Even foods produced with such material but without any in the final product must be labeled. So must all genetically changed animal feed.

The European Union approved a number of genetically changed products in the nineteen-nineties. But some countries put in place an unofficial ban in nineteen-ninety-eight.

The United States has repeatedly criticized the ban. On June twenty-sixth, Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman spoke to reporters. They said the United States would push forward with a case against the E-U in the World Trade Organization.

Mister Zoellick said the E-U ban has hurt not only American farmers but also hungry people in Africa. He said "irresponsible" statements about food safety have caused some African countries to refuse American food aid. Mister Zoellick said a number of countries are joining the effort to end the E-U policy. He also pointed to studies that show genetically changed foods to be safe.

The vote by the European Parliament has cleared the way to remove the ban. But this is not the end of the issue. The E-U is also requiring that full and complete records be kept on genetically changed products. The E-U calls this “traceablility.” It means that documents must show how genetically changed products moved through the food supply.

American suppliers say the new E-U requirements are too costly. They say they are also concerned that Europeans will not want to buy foods labeled as genetically changed. There are no such requirements in the United States.

European Union officials say the issue is not about safety. They say Europeans want to be able to choose what they eat.

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