- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

BRUSSELS The European Union is playing for time over a U.S. threat to protest its de facto moratorium on genetically modified foods.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said last week he wants to file a case with the World Trade Organization.
"I find it immoral that people are not being able to be supplied food to live in Africa because people have invented dangers about biotechnology," Mr. Zoellick said.
EU officials are stalling, apparently considering lifting the ban on genetically modified food by the end of this year.
"We are going to wait to see if the Americans actually take action, and to see what arguments they use," said Arancha Gonzalez, spokeswoman for EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.
"If the argument used, as Mr. Zoellick suggested, is to use the pretext of the recent refusal by African countries to accept American food aid containing [genetically modified organisms], Washington has no chance of winning, because [the European Union] has nothing to do with this refusal," she said.
Washington says the ban, applied since 1999 by seven EU states France, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Denmark, Luxembourg and Austria harms U.S. exports of corn, cotton and soy products.
Mr. Zoellick noted the refusal by Zambia in November to accept U.S. aid of 15,000 tons of genetically modified corn despite the threat of famine in the African country. Almost at the same time, the European Commission gave Zambia money to buy about 33,000 tons of food that had not been genetically modified.
Even environmentalists say the European Union would find it hard to defend the embargo on genetically modified foods before the WTO. Studies have failed to find any health risk associated with them. The French Medical Academy last month recommended lifting the ban.
The European Commission, meanwhile, hopes the moratorium will be lifted by the end of the year.
[In a related development, United Press International reported last week that U.S. Agriculture Department officials were helping to investigate reports that a shipment of corn from the United States to Japan contained some of the StarLink variety not intended for human consumption.
[The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration was cooperating with Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to determine if StarLink corn managed to get into a shipment that was intended for people.
[Late last year, Japanese officials said 1,200 tons of a 19,234-ton shipment of corn from the United States tested positive for StarLink, a type of corn grown for animal feed and industrial uses. It produces a toxin that kills insects that prey on the crop.
[That was the first U.S. corn shipment to test positive since a protocol was developed in 2000, when StarLink was discovered in a U.S. grain shipment.
[Japanese officials said they planned to increase their testing of future shipments. U.S. officials, however, did not concede that the recent shipment contained StarLink.]

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