Office of the Press Secretary
U.S.-EU Cooperation on Biotechnology
The U.S. and the EU today agreed to establish a Consultative Forum to review and assess the benefits and risks of biotechnology and prepare a report on these issues for the December 2000 U.S.-EU Summit. The Forum will include individuals from outside government covering a broad range of perspectives, expertise, and interests - people with backgrounds in labor, academia, and business, including scientists, ethicists, environmental interests, farmers, and consumers. They will look at factors such as the food security needs of developing countries, food safety, health and the environment. The forum will complement the existing bilateral dialogue, including the U.S.-EU transatlantic "dialogues" between sectors of our civil society (business, labor, consumer, environmental).
Lack of public confidence in the European food safety system has led to paralysis on approval of biotech foods. This is significantly undermining progress on food security in developing nations causing uncertainty in markets around the world and harming U.S. farm exports. The EU's prevention of U.S. corn exports to Spain and Portugal costs U.S. producers about $200 million per year in lost corn sales (since 1998). Two new EU labeling regulations came into effect in April, but have not been implemented because of the lack of testing methodologies, certifying labs and inspection procedures.
In October 1999, President Clinton and European Commission President Prodi agreed to take new steps to address differences over biotechnology, both through high-level government to government dialogue and with input from civil society. The leaders agreed to intensify U.S.-EU discussions on biotechnology in order to make progress on regulatory issues and to avoid and resolve trade problems.
In December, the U.S. and the EU adopted a two-track approach. First, they established government-to-government talks through a special session of the U.S.-EU Senior Level Group. While these talks began early in 2000, they have yet to achieve progress on market access issues. With today's announcement, the United States and EU have succeeded in launching the Consultative Forum to advise on these issues and have agreed to address practical steps to facilitate market access.
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