WASHINGTON -- Ken Hobbie, president and chief executive officer of the
U.S. Grains Council, was cited as saying today that Japan's proposal to
require mandatory testing of all corn imports for genetically modified
varieties could hurt U.S. exports to the country, adding that although
nearly all biotech and conventional varieties of corn grown in the U.S. are
approved for import by Japan, the country's particular proposal to keep
track of such varieties for certification purposes "defeats the purpose of
existing agricultural biotechnology approval systems in Japan, which mirror
the U.S. approval systems."
Hobbie was further cited as saying that Japan's proposal contains several
"disturbing" elements, including a "zero tolerance law" whereby if a
specified corn variety is detected in a shipment in any amount, the entire
grain shipment would be rejected.
The stories note that the proposal covers corn and corn product shipments
and would impose criminal penalties for customers in violation of the rules.
Hobbie was quoted as saying, "We're very concerned that there is a high
incidence of false positives possible in these tests, which means a very
real risk that shipments of U.S. grain would be rejected on this basis. ...
Obviously, putting a biotechnology testing system in place on this scale
will be extremely expensive, and with the available technology, it seems
like a folly."
He noted that no uniform test applicable to all the different transgenic
corn varieties on the market has been validated by any governmental or
independent standard-setting body.
Japan is the largest importer of U.S. farm products. The
U.S. Agriculture Department has estimated that Japanese buyers
will purchase $9 billion of U.S. farm goods in fiscal 2000,
which ends September 30, unchanged from the previous year.