EU Theatrics Obscure Anti-Biotech Agenda

EU Theatrics Obscure Anti-Biotech Agenda

Conko/Miller Letter to the Editor in the Wall Street Journal
November 24, 2003

It's not surprising the EU is planning "to consider lifting a five-year ban on biotech products, in an effort to end a long-running trans-Atlantic trade spat over gene-modified crops" (Nov. 10). But lifting the moratorium on approvals will not end the row; nor should it. The European Parliament's vote in July to change the way it regulates gene-splicing, or genetic modification technology, made the EU an even less hospitable environment for gene-splicing, not a better one. It left in place the voting structure that allows a minority of European countries to refuse registration for new gene-spliced products, and it imposed Draconian, hugely expensive new requirements: a strict labeling regime that requires gene-spliced foods to be identified; the segregation of gene-spliced from conventional products; and "traceability," so that gene-spliced ingredients can be traced through every step of the food chain all the way back to the farm where they were grown.Even European officials acknowledge these rules have nothing to do with protecting consumer health or the environment. In fact, they have everything to do with making it prohibitively expensive and complicated for growers of gene-spliced crops to comply with the rules.Why should we be suspicious of European motives? Gene-splicing research and development in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Europe has virtually disappeared. Since 1998, 61 percent of the private-sector institutions surveyed by the European Commission's Joint Research Center have canceled research projects that involve gene-splicing technology, and there has been a near-meltdown of field trials of gene-spliced organisms. From an unimpressive peak of 264 field trials in Europe in 1997, there were only 35 in 2002. Thus, the EU's only viable strategy may be to poison the well—to make sure that the new biotechnology fails everywhere, and that no competitor remains standing.No one should be fooled by the EU's promises to lift the moratorium—or even by its doing so. These theatrics are a ruse to get the U.S. and other countries to end their WTO challenge to unscientific, antisocial EU policies.