French Slam US Hormone-Tainted Beef and
US Food in General as "The Worst in the World"

Headline: U.S., French farm chiefs in heated food fight

By Barbara Hagenbaugh
WASHINGTON, July 20 (Reuters) - A transatlantic battle over
hormone-treated beef escalated on Tuesday with the United States blasting
as "intemperate and insulting" comments by the French that America has the
"worst food in the world."
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said the "inflammatory nature" of
the remarks about U.S. food by his French counterpart would worsen the
dispute that has erupted over beef hormones, bananas and biotechnology.
Earlier, French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany attacked a U.S.
decision to impose 100 percent tariffs on $116.8 million of European Union
goods, including French pate, chocolates, Roquefort cheese and other
gourmet foods.
The action is intended to punish the biggest members of the 15-nation
body for not dropping a ban on beef produced from cattle treated with
hormones, a common U.S. practice.
"(The United States) is the country that has the worst food in the
world," Glavany said, when asked by a reporter in Paris why Americans would
eat hormone-treated beef if it was so dangerous.
"One cannot say that the American food model is balanced and beyond
reproach," he added.
Glickman said Glavany went too far when he criticised the safety and
quality of U.S. food.
"If Glavany's remarks are being accurately reported, they are
intemperate and insulting and not supported by the facts," Glickman said in
a statement to Reuters. "In addition, their inflammatory nature does
nothing to further the progress of our ongoing trade dispute."
The unusually blunt exchange erupted less than a month after the two
agriculture ministers had what each described as a "friendly" meeting in
Paris to discuss farm trade issues, including brewing disputes over
Glavany said after the Paris meeting that he planned to visit
Washington to continue the discussions. On Tuesday, Glickman gave no
indication when such talks would be held.
The verbal skirmishing came amid angry French protests about the U.S.
decision to slap stiff tariffs on selected EU foods beginning July 29.
Two French farmers' unions urged consumers to boycott American goods.
Some farm groups even expressed pity for U.S. consumers.
"This American decision is all the more mean-spirited since it will
deprive the American consumer since there is no substitute product over
there," Erick Boutry, head of the Roquefort group, said in Toulouse.
But U.S. officials insisted Washington had little choice because the
EU refused to budge. Earlier this year, the United States imposed tariffs
on $191 million of EU handbags, bed linens and other luxury goods in a
separate fight over the EU's banana import rules.
"We intend to be vigorous in pursuing our rights," Glickman said in a
speech to a U.S. agricultural group on Tuesday.
U.S. farm groups have long complained that French farmers are some of
the most heavily subsidised in the world and should be weaned from the
support that gives them an unfair trade advantage.
Sen. Robert Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat, earlier this year visited
France and complained that small farmers there enjoyed a "luxurious
affluence" while American growers were tightening their belts because of
low commodity prices.
The United States has also expressed frustration with France's refusal
to back EU approval to import genetically modified crops, which are
becoming more and more common in the United States but have faced steady
opposition abroad.
The Clinton Administration said on Monday it would target France,
Germany, Denmark and Italy with the tariffs to put pressure on the EU to
lift the ban on hormone-treated beef.
The World Trade Organisation ruled last year that the EU had no
scientific grounds for the ban and ordered it to allow the imports. But EU
officials say not enough is known about the long-term effects of beef
hormones on consumers' health.