Organic Consumers Association

European Union Blasts U.S. Lies on GE Foods

EU's Nielson blasts U.S. "lies" in GM food row
Reuters, 01.20.03

BRUSSELS, Jan 20 (Reuters) - The European Union's overseas aid chief
accused the United States on Monday of spreading lies about the
EU's stance on genetically modified (GM) food.

European Development Commissioner Poul Nielson said U.S. Trade
Representative Robert Zoellick lied when, earlier this month, he said
some EU governments had threatened to withdraw aid from poor countries
that used biotechnology food products.

"This very negative lie has been circulated and repeated recently by
Robert Zoellick," Nielson said at a press briefing ahead of a visit to
southern Africa later this month.

Washington is frustrated with the EU's four-year moratorium on new
biotech products, a policy U.S. farmers say costs them hundreds of
millions of dollars in sales each year.

Only a handful of GM crops are allowed to be imported or grown in the EU
where there is widespread consumer concern about possible risks to
health or the environment.

Some African countries have been reluctant to accept GM food aid from
the United States, fearing grain could be used as seed and affect future
exports. EU officials have rejected U.S. demands that they allay the
African countries' fears.

On January 9, Zoellick called the European view "Luddite". He said he
found it immoral that Africans were not supplied with food because
people had invented fears about biotechnology.

He also said he favoured bringing a World Trade Organisation case
against the EU for blocking imports of U.S. GM crops.

Nielson said Zoellick had gone too far.

"This is a strange discussion. Very strange," Nielson told reporters.
"We are approaching a point where I would be tempted to say I would be
proposing a deal to the Americans which would create a more normal

"The deal would be this: if the Americans would stop lying about us, we
would stop telling the truth about them. This is a proposal for
normalising the discussion."

It was time for a more civilised exchange of views, he said.

Nielson was one of six EU commissioners who wrote to the Wall Street
Journal last week, attacking a pro-Zoellick editorial and accusing U.S.
officials of peddling rumours.

A European Commission official said the EU executive had decided it was
time to go on the offensive.

"I'm not convinced the future lies in pursuing a slanging match but at
some point we have to draw the line and put the record straight," the
official said.

Later this month, the Commission will host a conference to discuss the
use of biotechnology in developing countries.

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