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Soft words, big stick

Soft words, big stick

作者:池衅佾  时间:2019-03-07 14:03:15  人气:

By Kurt Kleiner in Washington DC FOR the US Secretary of Agriculture to announce that genetically modified food may have to be labelled is like the Pope reviewing his stance on contraception, such has been the American insistence that no labels are necessary. So it is hardly surprising that last week’s speech by agriculture secretary Dan Glickman, which stressed the potential dangers of engineered crops as well as their benefits, is being hailed as a seismic shift in policy. Some observers, however, believe too much is being read into Glickman’s words. In a speech to the National Press Club in Washington DC, Glickman acknowledged that some of the concerns about agricultural biotechnology are genuine. “The promise and potential are enormous, but so too are the questions—many of which are completely legitimate,” he said. Glickman announced that he would commission an independent scientific review of the US Department of Agriculture’s procedures for approving engineered crops. He also proposed the establishment of regional centres to monitor the environmental impact of those that are already being grown. Glickman warned biotech companies to respect the concerns of farmers and consumers. “Consolidation, industrialisation and proprietary research can create pitfalls for farmers. It threatens to make them servants to bigger masters,” he said. Openness and consumer choice are important, he suggested, which could mean that genetically modified food must be labelled in the US. “At the end of the day, many observers, including me, believe some type of informational labelling is likely to happen,” he said. But it is the Food and Drug Administration, rather than the USDA, that is responsible for food labelling regulations. And the FDA does not require genetically modified food to be labelled unless it “differs significantly” from a non-engineered equivalent—for instance, if a gene for a substance that may provoke allergies has been added. “We are not anticipating any change in our policy,” says Judy Foulke, a spokeswoman for the FDA in Washington DC. That has led some people to question the significance of Glickman’s conciliatory remarks. “He may be isolated in the administration,” says Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in New York, which is worried about the environmental impact of modified crops. Glickman also renewed the threat of a trade war if the European Union continues to block the approval of genetically modified foods. “Both sides of the Atlantic must tone down the rhetoric, roll up our sleeves and work toward conflict resolution based on open trade, sound science and consumer involvement,” he said. “However, I should warn our friends across the Atlantic that, if these issues cannot be resolved in this manner,