Clinton Pressured U.K. Prime Minister Blair on GE Foods

Clinton leant on Blair to allow modified foods
The Independent - London

BILL CLINTON has personally intervened with Tony Blair to
stop Britain from halting the controversial production of
genetically engineered foods.

The US President telephoned the Prime Minister during the
summer to try to persuade him that genetically modified (GM) crops - worth
millions of pounds
to the US economy - would not be bad for Britain.

The two leaders also discussed the matter during Mr Clinton's visit to
Number 10 in May,
Foreign Office officials have confirmed.

Sources close to the Government say that the US President is pressing
Blair to support
commercial production of GM crops in Britain despite growing consumer
opposition.

Consumer and environmental groups including English Nature, the
Government's official
wildlife adviser, want the Government to introduce a moratorium on growing
such crops
commercially in the UK for at least three years.

France and Austria have temporarily banned the growth of GM food until
more is known about
its effects on the environment.

Clinton's intervention has outraged MPs and environmentalists. They accuse
the US President of
intruding in a sensitive domestic matter.

"It is quite wrong for the British Prime Minister to be conspiring behind
the back of the British
public about American business interests," said Norman Baker, Liberal
Democrat environment
spokesman.

The Clinton administration has close links with [ Monsanto ] , the
powerful biotechnology
conglomerate which develops the seeds for GM crops.

Monsanto, which made a profit of almost $300m (pounds 177m) in 1997, is
one of five
companies spearheading Clinton's welfare to work programme, and the
President singled out the
biotech company for praise during his State of the Nation address last year.

During the 1996 election, Monsanto was among those donating thousands of
dollars in "soft
money" (legal funds which are not included in the ban on corporate
donations) to the Clinton
camp.

MPs say Clinton's move is resonant of Tony Blair's telephone intervention
earlier this year on
behalf of media baron Rupert Murdoch. The Prime Minister sparked political
outrage when he
spoke to Italian premier Romano Prodi about Murdoch's bid to buy Mediaset,
an Italian television
company.

The first commercial GM crop, oil seed rape, is set to be sown in Britain
next year, following
Government approval. Hundreds of acres of trial crops have already been
planted throughout the
UK.

(Copyright 1998 Newspaper Publishing PLC)


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