Unlike the United States, the European Union (EU) has, since 1997, labeled GMO foods. Beyond labeling, the EU mandates widespread testing and monitoring of any foods or ingredients with any sort of genetic manipulation.
In short, the EU has acknowledged a need for this sort of observation and labeling – reaching the EU’s progression on the matter leaps and bounds beyond the notion that GMO foods are “safe,” a commonly held perception in many other parts of the world (which is no wonder, read: a Monsanto description of how the company places “the highest priority on the safety of our products.” Um, tell that to the people whose health is forever impacted by your PCBs, guys! Or how about Agent Orange?).
Now, the EU has found itself in the middle of a debate about a free-trade agreement that would allow U.S.-made GMO foods and ingredients into the EU. For many years, companies from both the U.S. and Canada have exhibited “repeated efforts” to export GMO crops into the EU, always with “strong opposition.”
This summer, however, the U.S. and the EU began Washington negotiations for free trade that could allow genetically-modified soy, corn and sugar beets from the U.S. Now, of course, these foods would be subject to the same type of stringent labeling and tracking methods the EU already employs, but it seems many are adverse to the notion of GMO crops at all.
One study of the EU revealed that at 71 percent of EU citizens showed “outright rejection” to GMO foods. Thomas Schmidt, the U.S. German Embassy Minister Counselor for Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection explained it this way: “For the Europe side, this is a pretty sensitive issue because there are so many people in our countries who have an adverse opinion about genetically engineered crops and that of course is a political factor in this debate, no doubt about it.”
For those in favor of the free trade agreement opening between the U.S. and EU, it unsurprisingly seems to focus on money – without the free trade agreement, many critics have threatened that the EU may begin to “lag behind economically.”
The trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU will be decided by the end of 2014. Schmidt cautions that any sort of negotiation will be, in short, not easy.
Hold strong, EU! While exports are, of course, great for the U.S. economy, GMO foods are one area we shouldn’t go pollute the rest of the world with. The EU is already so much further along, and the U.S. would do better to embrace the EU’s position on GMO labeling: “Labeling provides information for consumers and users of the product and allows them to make an informed choice.” Instead of us contaminating their health and environment with more GMO crops, perhaps maybe they can export a little bit of knowledge to us in the U.S.
Image Source: Lindsay Eyink/Flickr