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USDA Ponders Segregation
for Frankencrop Exports

New Scientist (UK)
August 17, 2002
US May Set Up Certification Scheme for GM-free Products
By: Robin Orwant

In a bid to appease overseas buyers, maize and soybean exports from the US
may soon come with a government stamp verifying that they have been kept
separate from genetically modified products.

The US Department of Agriculture announced last week that it is considering
setting up a voluntary certification scheme to help exporters trade with the
European Union and other countries that oppose GM crops or require labelling
of GM products. Some suppliers already have segregation procedures in place,
but under the proposed system USDA officials would inspect suppliers to
guarantee they are meeting standards. "We're not going to say that the
product doesn't contain any GMO," says USDA spokesman Jerry Redding.
"We'll only be certifying the process."

The idea is that suppliers will be able to hire federal inspectors to review
their methods for excluding GM materials, a process which would go all the
way from planting through to harvesting, processing and transport. Earlier
this year, the European Parliament voted for a far stricter and more
elaborate system that would require suppliers to trace food from its source.
Attacked by many as costly and impractical, it won't become law unless it
passes a further vote.

Anti-GM activist Jeremy Rifkin believes the USDA's certification system will
be of little consequence to suppliers or European importers. But he sees the
move as the agency's first official admission that separating GM crops is
both feasible and worth doing. "The USDA has been fighting this idea of
segregation all along," he says. "It's a big concession. They're realising
that you can't force someone to eat something they don't want to eat."
Tom Slunecka, the director of development for the National Corn Growers
Association, believes suppliers will find a certification system useful,
though he's not convinced the USDA should get involved. "But the concept of
standardising, we believe, is a good way to go."

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