E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Are the Euros bluffing? Call them on it.

by Robert Schubert
CropChoice editor

(July 9, 2002 -- CropChoice commentary) -- People at the US Department of Agriculture, the National Corn Growers Association and the American Farm Bureau insist that the Europeans' concern over genetically engineered foods, which spurred their moratorium on such products almost four years ago, is really a ruse, an excuse for imposing trade restrictions on U.S. crops. In short, those Euros are out to get American farmers, say the apologists for corporate industrial agriculture.

It isn't about that at all. The European Parliamentarians showed last week that they'd been listening over the past few years to their constituents. Those consumers, who also vote, said repeatedly that they didn't want to eat genetically engineered foods. The politicians responded by approving draft legislation that would require, one, labels on foods if more than 0.5 percent of their ingredients were produced through biotechnology and, two, the traceability of foods throughout the production process. The draft proposals still require approval from each of the governments of the 15 EU member countries to become law.

Across the pond, U.S. agribusiness and politicians, on the other hand, haven't been listening.

Consider corn. Europe has never said it doesn't want to buy U.S. corn. What it has said is NO genetically engineered corn.

So why doesn't the USDA emphasize that some 70 percent of the corn that American farmers are growing is NOT bio-engineered? Instead, the powers that be over there and at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative seem bent on rattling the trade war sabers.

Here's an idea. Let's assume the Europeans concocted their biotech stance as a front for trade restrictions (thus depriving U.S. agribusiness monopolists of some hardly earned cash). If the Europeans are bluffing, call them on it. Send them certified non-genetically engineered corn. Were they to refuse it, then the USDA and the Farm Bureau would be right: The Europeans don't want to trade fair. But were they to buy the corn, an extreme likelihood given that they did so for years and years and years before a genetically modified kernel ever sprang from Nebraska soil or danced across the Rotterdam dock, then it would be time for American agribusiness to think again.

It's time to give consumers what they want -- food and crops that haven't been genetically engineered.