On the basis of the documented cases and current gaps in knowledge regarding dispersal, interactions
with the environment and long-term ecological behaviour of genetically engineered plants, we recommend
strengthening the precautionary principle and prohibiting releases of genetically engineered
organisms ifa. they can persist and invade the environment if they unintentionally escape their containment.b. there are major doubts about whether they can be withdrawn from the environment within a
reasonable period of time if this is urgently required.
c. it is already known that they will persist or show invasive behaviour after release into the environment.
European Union leaders don’t want the negotiations to include discussions on their restrictions on genetically modified crops and other regulations that keep U.S. farm products out of Europe. But Obama says it’s hard to imagine an agreement that doesn’t address those issues. Powerful U.S. agricultural lobbies will do their best to make sure Congress rejects any pact that fails to address the restrictions.
Obama, in a talk with his export council this month, suggested this could be a deal-breaker.
“There are certain countries whose agricultural sector is very strong, who tended to block at critical junctures the kinds of broad-based trade agreements that would make it a good deal for us,” he said. “If one of the areas where we’ve got the greatest comparative advantage is cordoned off from an overall trade deal, it’s very hard to get something going.”
Of course, the rhetoric at the beginning of talks might not preclude compromise in the end. In his talk with the export council, Obama expressed optimism. He noted that austerity measures in response to the debt crisis in the EU have caused European countries to look to a free trade deal as a rare opportunity to boost the economy and improve competitiveness.
“I think they are hungrier for a deal than they have been in the past,” he said.
After decades of pushing nations to surrender more power to the European Union, the bloc is pulling back on efforts to assert its authority over one highly contentious issue, genetically modified foods.
The new policy is aimed at overcoming a stalemate that has severely curtailed the market for biotech seeds in Europe. Only two crops, produced by the agricultural giant Monsanto and the chemical company BASF, are sold for cultivation in Europe.
The new flexibility is aimed at opening up markets in countries like the Netherlands, where governments are favorable toward growing and trading biotech products, while countries like Austria, where the products are unpopular, can maintain a ban.
A critical factor behind the proposed change in Europe is a growing frustration with the current system, under which meetings between government officials and ministers often end in deadlock. That forces unelected officials at the European Commission to make the final decision on authorizing biotech products.
But far from celebrating the new approach, the growing global industry as well as some farmers themselves are extremely wary.
“So many different authorities suddenly doing so many different things risks sending a message to successful growers in Africa and Asia that authorities are unsure how to deal with biotech,” said Nathalie Moll, the secretary general of EuropaBio, an industry group.
She said it also remained to be seen whether the proposals would conform with World Trade Organization rules.
The United States and the European Union are still resolving a dispute over genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.’s, and related issues after the trade organization in 2006 ruled against Europe’s de facto ban. Washington could still retaliate in that case.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative declined to comment on the new approach but said it would be on the agenda at a meeting with European officials this month.
Despite “some progress” in recent months, the United States “still has a number of concerns,” said Nefeterius Akeli McPherson, a spokeswoman for the trade representative. They include “a substantial backlog of pending biotech applications, and bans adopted by individual E.U. member states on biotech products approved at the E.U. level.”
Other countries, though, have expressed concern about setting a precedent that could undermine European integration. The crisis this year over how to supervise the finances of the 16 nations that use the euro already has highlighted the limits to European cooperation.
“If the agricultural policy is common, why wouldn’t the policy of cultivation of G.M.O.’s be?” asked Elena Espinosa, the Spanish environment minister. Spain grew 80 percent of the biotech corn, intended to resist a pest called the corn borer, produced in Europe last year.
In addition, Belgium, which has just taken over the rotating European Union presidency, is concerned that a ban by a single country could put the entire bloc in danger of facing retaliatory trade sanctions.