NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Biotech Food Fight Follies

January 13, 2000

The protests and demonstrations against genetically modified (GM) agricultural products that have been taking place in Europe for a year -- and in Seattle, Wa., in connection with the meeting of the World Trade Organization recently -- are having an impact on U.S. producers, say observers.

  • In Congress, Rep Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) has introduced legislation requiring that GM products be labeled as such.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is holding a series of hearings on the labeling issue, while the European Union has approved legislation requiring its 15 member countries to begin labeling foods that have GM ingredients.
  • Archer Daniels Midland Co is asking farmers to identify GM products so that unmodified crops can be sold in Europe; likewise, Heinz and Gerber, two leading baby food makers, are trying to keep their products GM-free.

The resistance in Europe is making U.S. producers and suppliers wary of expanding the technology, say observers. Monsanto and Dupont, pioneers in this biotechnology, may fail to recoup their investment if their GM seeds cannot be sold.

Yet, the acreage devoted to herbicide-resistant crops has been expanding because planting them reduces the need to plow more ground, decreases the amount of herbicidal chemicals needed, produces higher yields, and can deliver a higher grade of grain and other products.

In 1998 in the United States, according to the Congressional Research Service, about 25 percent of planted corn was genetically modified, as was 38 percent of planted soybeans, 42 percent of canola, and 45 percent of cottonseed. And herbicide-tolerant soybeans have became the dominant bioengineered crop, with 4.1 million acres planted in the U.S.

Source: Charles Marwick, "Genetically Modified Crops Feed Ongoing Controversy," Medical News & Perspectives, Journal of the American Medical Association, January 12, 2000.


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