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New GM Food Blocks

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 30 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Gm Genetically Modified Foods Blocks

The controversy around genetically modified (GM) foods doesn't seem to be fading anytime soon, particularly with new GM blocks that may be put into place. Ironically, the United States (US) is the newest region set to potentially block GM food imports.

Changes to US Policy

The irony mainly stems from the fact that the US is the biggest supporter of GM foods and has lobbied to have bans in other countries shot down. They have been extremely vocal about support for GM foods and even went to the World Trade Organisation in a feud with Europe over banned US imports of GM foods.

Threat to the US

Now, after more than ten years of providing regular GM exports around the world, the US is considering blocking any foreign GM foods from coming into the country. However, this is only if those foreign GM foods are considered to be a threat to US agriculture or to its environment and human health in the country.

The US Department of Agriculture

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) was responsible for providing the warning to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). It requested that any new developments in GM foods around the world be carefully watched.

If not, there could be a threat to the US, which may then harm the food supply, environment or agriculture in general. The USDA is the department that governs agricultural imports and has the responsibility to ensure they are safe.

Significant Increases in GM Crops

Predictions by the OIG showed that they expected the amount of GM crops and the countries participating in production of GM crops to be twice as high by the year 2015. Due to this significant increase in GM crops and production, the USDA believes the risks associated with importing these GM crops will similarly rise.

Better Links

The OIG released a report for the USDA to improve its connections with a number of countries where GM foods are in strong development. These include China and India. While some products are being approved and released locally within these countries, they have yet to be approved by the USDA.

A key concern is that GM foods such as China's new GM rice will enter the US but do so undeclared, which doesn't allow the US to perform tests on the product and proper identification. Still, the OIG did also cite warnings on blocking an import to the extent it would be viewed as a barrier to trade.

Previous feuds with Europe left the US putting forth complaints under the World Trade Organisation, who ended up ruling in favour of the US and citing Europe's strict GM laws and regulations as being unreasonable and against free trade. The US has to tread cautiously to ensure that it is not seen as hypocritical, given their intense dispute with Europe over previous GM imports.

Using Caution Within Reason

In some ways, the US caution can be seen as a positive step because it suggests that the US is taking public and environmental health and safety seriously. On the other hand, it hopefully will not become a barrier to free trade or ostracise those regions such as Europe who previously struggled with the US complaints about blocking GM imports.

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