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January 14, 2002
Volume 80, Number 2
CENEAR 80 2 p. 5
ISSN 0009-2347
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Last week, the administration's frustration over Europe's continued refusal to approve planting or imports of new genetically engineered crops was evident.

The European Union has approved no new transgenic crops since 1998, when six European governments said rules on testing, labeling, and traceability had to be in place before new crops could be given a green light.

But at a meeting of the Washington International Trade Association on Jan. 8, Under Secretary of State Alan P. Larson expressed the hope that the impasse would be broken at the March meeting of EU leaders in Barcelona.

Larson believes the current state of affairs is bad for European competitiveness and bad for developing countries. "There's a competitiveness issue for Europe," he explained. The impasse "is causing biotech firms in Europe to flee. They don't see a future there." The current situation also is casting a pall on the development of biotech technologies for developing countries, he claimed.

"I would like to see the EU take member states to court on the issue of biotech approvals" because they are breaking the law, Larson said. He believes questions about the safety of biotech crops will be seen eventually as a smokescreen to protect European farmers.

An EU official who wants to remain anonymous said the European Commission also wants biotech crop approvals on the agenda in Barcelona as an issue of competitiveness.

Since 1998, approvals of 14 crops have been put on hold even though most of them have gotten the green light from the EC scientific committee, the EU official said. However, even if authorizations resume, it doesn't mean Europeans will buy the crops. The crops will have to have real advantages for consumers before they will find a market, he said.

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