NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

United Nations Groups in Biotech Food Fight

January 15, 2003

The de facto, four-year moratorium on new genetically modified crops in the European Union has discouraged African countries from adopting the disease resistant strains that have been developed. The United Nations has also weighed in against biotechnology, says Henry I. Miller.

  • Delegates to the U.N.-sponsored Convention on Biological Diversity negotiated a "biosafety protocol" for regulating international movement of gene-spliced organisms based on the "precautionary principle," which requires that new technology be proven safe -- even if it is beneficial and poses less risk than existing technology.
  • A task force of the 165-member Codex Alimentarius Commission -- the joint food standards program of the U.N.'s World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization -- is moving toward requiring extreme regulations for gene-spliced food products.
  • If such regulations are adopted, members of the World Trade Organization, including the United States, will, in principle, be required to follow them.

The United States claims EU countries are fighting genetically modified foods because they were developed in America. Therefore the ban on GM crops or foods is an unfair trade practice.

"The U.N.'s unscientific regulations and standards actually harm the environment and public health," says Miller, "stifling the development of environmentally friendly innovations that can increase agricultural productivity, help clean up toxic wastes, conserve water and supplant agricultural chemicals."

Source: Henry I. Miller (Hoover Institution), "U.N.'s Malign Effect on Agricultural Progress," Letters, Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2003; Roger Thurow, Brandon Mitchener And Scott Kilman, "As U.S., EU Clash on Biotech Crops, Africa Goes Hungry," Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2002.


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