Wikileaks: US Should Retaliate Against EU for Genetically Modified Resistance

IRT NEWS TEAM UPDATE: Jeffrey Smith talks to Democracy Now! about the U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks which reveals that the Bush administration drew up ways to retaliate against Europe for refusing to use genetically modified seeds. Watch the interview.

2010-12-20-wikileaks.jpg“Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU” [Emphasis added] –Recommendation by US Ambassador to France, Craig Stapleton.

Wikileaked cables released over the weekend revealed more about the US’ role as a global bully, trying to thrust unpopular genetically modified (GM) crops onto cautious governments and their citizens. In a 2007 cable from Craig Stapleton, then US Ambassador to France, he encouraged the US government to “reinforce our negotiating position with the EU on agricultural biotechnology by publishing a retaliation list.” A list, he added, that “causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility.”

The stated reason for their attack was that “Europe is moving backwards not forwards” on GMOs, with “France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the [EU] Commission.” The Ambassador was concerned that France and others would put a ban on the cultivation of Monsanto’s GM corn seeds called Mon 810, engineered with a gene that produces a toxic insect-killing pesticide in every cell. Mon 810 is the first GM crop approved for planting EU-wide and has been a test case for biotech expansionism into the continent.

According to the cable, the Ambassador also rejected the France’s new “Grenelle” environment process, which looks beyond just the science of new technologies to also take into account “common interest.” Evidently a government that looks out for common interest is just too much for Ambassador Stapleton. He wrote, “Combined with the precautionary principle, this is a precedent with implications far beyond MON-810 BT corn cultivation.”

He was also upset about France’s draft biotech law that “would make farmers and seed companies legally liable for pollen drift.” This concept that the “polluter pays” is a foundational principle of US law–except for GMOs. Here Stapleton also wants France to give a free pass for Monsanto and the other GM seed companies.

The French government and EU Commission tried to placate the US suggesting that the rejections of Mon 810 “are only cultivation rather than import bans.” But Stapleton says, “We see the cultivation ban as a first step, at least by anti-GMO advocates, who will move next to ban or further restrict imports.”

The ambassador fails to point out that a de facto ban of GM ingredients in food has been in place since 1999, not by the government, but by the food industry. They have kept GMOs out of their products due to widespread consumer concern about the health effects. Since foods containing GMOs must be labeled in Europe, companies always source non-GMO food to avoid that label.

The exception is animal feed. EU law does not require meat or other animal products to label whether GMOs were fed to the animals. This loophole has allowed lots of US- and Brazil-grown GMO animal feed to be shipped to Europe. According to the cable, “The [French] environment minister’s top aide told us that people have a right not to buy meat raised on biotech feed.” Offering consumers a choice on GMOs is not on the US government agenda.

Ambassador Stapleton had been a co-owner with George W. Bush of the Texas Rangers baseball team. Once Bush was in office, Stapleton became US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and then in France. His pro-GMO stance was in-line with the Bush administration, which used a WTO lawsuit to try to force Europe to accept GMOs.

Stapleton’s tone in the letter was insistent. “We should not be prepared to cede on cultivation because of our considerable planting seed business in Europe.”

He said, “Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices. In fact, the pro-biotech side in France — including within the farm union — have told us retaliation is the only way to begin to begin to turn this issue in France.”

Update:

  • France banned Mon 810 in early 2008. Several other EU nations have also banned it.
  • In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine stated that animal feeding studies on GMOs showed significant health disorders. They called on the US government to institute an immediate moratorium, and asked all doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets in the meantime.
  • This year, the major French retailer Carefour introduced a new “Reared without GMOs” label for meat raised on non-GMO feed.
  • The Non-GMO Shopping Guide released in the US lists thousands of products that do not use GM ingredients, either directly or via animal feed.

9 Comments

  1. According to information published online in July 2008 in the scientific journal Human Reproduction, after monitoring the diets of 99 men who were attending the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center, researchers found, “inverse association between the amount of soy food and isoflavones consumed and the quality of the men’s sperm; in other words, the men who ate the most soy had the lowest sperm quality, and this remained true even after allowing for weight, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption.”

    ie NOT ‘GM-soy’ that causes infertility – but just SOY……..

    • Consumers in the EU might be rejecting GM foods but that has not stopped Brussels from granting approval of the planting of a further 27 varieties of GM crops. What appears to be happening is any EU country that bans the planting of GM crops finds the financial rug pulled out from them. Greece was the first to go followed by Ireland. Rumours abound regarding Spain, maybe because many farmers who had been growing MOM 810 for some time are now reverting to the non GM varieties.

  2. Since the US Govt resists even the most innocuous action when it comes to GMO’s .. like the simple act of requiring a label stating GMO inclusion or not, you have to believe that they (Monsanto, et al) know that the public doesn’t want GMOs. This by it’s very nature is immoral (deception and lack of transparency) and some would go so far as to call it evil. I would be hard pressed to argue against such a claim.

    I think every person who dares to call themselves a “citizen” of the US needs to be pressing for Govt action — simply label the food for what it is, and then let the market place decide. Anything less is a cop out.

    It would be the ultimate food study in action.

  3. The same people who don’t want us to know what we are eating say they want “free markets.” Yet they know the free market would probably reject their GMO foods. They seem inconsistent, but really, they’re very consistent: they will say anything to get their way.

  4. Hi Jeffery
    Thanks for all your work. I sense a big push at the moment in “science-based” documentary filmaking to polarise the GMO debate into one of science, rationality and the (historical) enlightenment on one side and superstition, conspiracy-theory, organic farming, herbal remedies, anti-science on the other. This is of course what scientists have always done but it seems like they have the money behind a lot of BBC docos and the like atm.

    Even if resistance could turn the tide, what about non-western countries like China who placed the largest bulk gene-sequencing device order in history last year? They wont listen to anything outsider say and their people are feed BS everyday and seem to like it.

    Then what about the democratisation of this technology. High school kids do elementary gene identification now and the open-source sence is getting very excited about coding ‘biologically’ for wet-ware. The I am God notion is quite appealing in those circles I gather. I remember Drexler’s cautions about nano-tech going mainstream and set the bio-sphere as being under even greater threat from hipsters messing around with viral and organism genes if that actually becomes a possibility (the singularity spike suggests it will).

  5. And yet, Laura Bush stated they ate organic foods while in the White House… Seems she’s not a believer and doesn’t want her husband eating that crap he’s peddling on all of us.

    Maybe “Freedom” fries were not such a good idea after all George. :D

    Yay Europe!

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